Wellington College is delighted to have recently added to its historical collections this metal badge, believed to be the first cap badge worn by the College’s Rifle Volunteer Corps, now the CCF.
Volunteer Forces are as old as the College itself, having been first set up in 1859. The Crimean War had highlighted the difficulty of finding enough trained men to send an effective expeditionary force to a new area of conflict quickly, and the Force was founded as a solution to this problem, at a time of increased tensions with France. The following year, the scheme was extended to school-age boys with the formation of the Cadet Corps. Leading schools such as Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Marlborough and Winchester responded immediately by forming their own corps, but surprisingly Wellington, with the strongest military connections, did not follow suit. Throughout the 1870s the Wellingtonian carried regular letters urging the idea, but Wellington’s Rifle Volunteer Corps was not founded until 1882.
By this time, the volunteer units had come more under the control of the regular Army, as battalions of the new ‘county’ infantry regiments. Wellington’s Corps was attached to the Berkshire Regiment. The cadets wore a uniform of light grey with dark blue facings. As rifle and artillery units, the volunteer corps preferred grey or green uniforms, as used by their regular Army counterparts, rather than the scarlet of the infantry. They also wore the spiked ‘Home Service helmet’ bearing a badge like our new acquisition, as seen on this photo from the 1880s:
By 1894, the Berkshire volunteers had changed to scarlet uniforms, and the College Corps did likewise. Around this time they also adopted a simpler cap badge, as the Home Service helmet fell out of use. Like the first badge, the new one was based on the ducal crest of the Duke of Wellington, a lion brandishing a pennant flag in its paws. This was used for around a hundred years, until 1996 when the College CCF was granted the honour of using the cap badge of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Both old and new versions of the badge are shown below:
The location of the Corps’ first physical HQ is not known, but in 1892 a Drill Shed was built on the site of what is now the Hopetoun. For obvious reasons, it was known to generations of Wellingtonians as ‘the Upturned Boat’. In 1893 a new Armoury was built as an extension on the Gymnasium (now the Old Gym), and the present Armoury was completed in 1937.