Volunteer army units and militias had often been formed in England in times of need when the country was under the threat of attack or needed extra troops to fight overseas.  These units usually disbanded quickly once the threat faded away.  Following the Crimean War, it was clear to the Government that our military forces were spread too thinly around the globe and it was difficult to ensure the country could fulfil our military commitments overseas and at home.

In 1859 Secretary of State for War, Jonathan Peel, authorised the formation of volunteer rifle corps and artillery corps.  According to Ray Westlake’s book “Tracing the Rifle Volunteers 1859-1908: a Guide of Military and Family Historians” it seems that the 1st Gloucestershire (City of Bristol) Rifle Volunteers was set up in 1859.  It is possible that Thornbury men served in that unit in the early days but it was not until 1886 that Thornbury had its own detachment.  The full title was 1st (City of Bristol) Volunteer Battalion G Company Detachment at Thornbury.  It was formed on 30th May 1886 when the first batch of volunteers made their oaths.

The formation of the Thornbury Detachment seems to have been as a result of the efforts of Henry Privett Thurston who became the Detachment’s first Lieutenant.  Henry was a solicitor by profession, but he seemed to excel in the role of running the volunteers.  In the Regimental Orders dated 1888 the Battalion’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Jones specifically reported that ‘again I have to remark on the zeal and ability of Lieutenant Thurston in his command of the Thornbury detachment which has increased in numbers during the past year’.

From the battalion’s early records we were able to compile lists of the volunteers in 1886.  Some of these names have links to other pages because we know a little more about the men and their families.  Please click on the links where applicable to read more about an individual.

H J Abbotts H Harvey H G Phipps E C Trayhurn
Henry W Bendall J ? T? Knapp E J Ponting Frank Tucker
J Bennett J Lewis Sydney J Ponting Charles Turner
Horace Boulton Edward Liddiatt Arthur Prewett Ernest James Underhill
James Buck F Liddiatt E Purnell Thomas Virgo
J T Chambers  J Luce E Reeves Charles W Wells
George Eli Clay Ernest Mainstone George Reeves J White
William Cornock Henry Maslen Henry Robbins