1. BBCotaku

    BBCotaku Member

    Jun 13, 2015
    Likes Received:

    Victorian Army Training

    Discussion in 'Research' started by BBCotaku, Jun 8, 2018.

    I'm currently writing a steampunk story that follows an arrogant noble being drafted into the royal army and I've ran into a big ol' issue. I cannot find anything on army training in the Victorian era, no documentaries, no books, no websites. I've found a bunch of interesting stuff on the role of the army and the improvements implemented during the late 1800s, but no training.

    Does anyone know a place where I can find info (no matter how little)? Or is it too specific a topic?
  2. FifthofAscalante

    FifthofAscalante Member

    May 16, 2017
    Likes Received:
    I’m interested to see if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s comparable to today’s standards where soldiers work in incomparably smaller groups, and they receive a lot of specialist training. That’s to say, Victorian soldiers received no theoretical education. That’s why up until The Great War you can find a lot of praise relating exceptionally experienced units. Experience made a colossal difference. Naturally, it still does, but since then we’ve developed training methods to target that gap. Even during the Second World War, only some soldiers were taught how to swim, an ability which seems childishly basic today. Until then, independent thought amongst non officers was considered detrimental. Not to mention terrain training, many soldiers have never seen the sea, mountains, or snow before fighting in them. Similarly, operating artillery was a mixture of luck and experience.

    They mostly drilled marching in fornations, target shooting, and horse combat training. Marching involved formation wheeling, adjusting to terrain, and swift regrouping. Not as much horse training because only those who knew how to ride prior to draft or enrolment would end up as cavalry, and horses are very expensive, and have many more uses besides charging to battle. The most theoretical soldiers would receive was on how to aim, shoot and reload, and how to react to commands. I even doubt if they did running as a training rather than to keep soldiers under control. They probably did some hand to hand practice, too, but I doubt it was much. Everyone knows to stab the enemy with the sharp point, besides that hand to hand is difficult and takes time to learn, and considering how quickly soldiers died back then, it was hard to justify.

    Soldiers would end up doing fighting, or depart to station in some place where fighting was likely pretty much the day after joining the military, and drilling would be done onsite. It’s becuse in that period professional military was in it’s infancy, so the moment fighting is over, most soldiers would go back to their farms or factories. It wasn’t corruption or nepotism that caused all officers to be from the nobility. Pretty much every noble received some form of basic officer’s training, besides horse riding, reading and basic mathematics.

    Edit: I’m writing this on my phone and the sun glare is killing me... It’s important to mention that I assumed half of it based what I do know about the period. The lack of professional armies and illiteracy don’t leave much space for any sort of training.
    Edit2: Actually, in his period they did have officer’s school. Perhaps try googling just that, Victorian officer school.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018
    matwoolf likes this.
  3. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

    Dec 14, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Lots and lots and lots of drill. Target practice and weapon maintenance.

    The army still fought chiefly in large formations at that point, so foot drill wasn't about looking pretty on the parade ground; it was about getting your unit facing the right way at the right time and putting the maximum amount of fire on the enemy.

    Soldiers did not, at that point, generally fight or operate on their own and the kind of small unit tactics prevalent today saw only very limited use, so the training was much simpler than it is now.

    Cavalry units were- and are- posh sorts. Their troopers generally come from parts of the country where riding is common and the officers are usually the chaps who own those bits of the country. I looked into joining a mob of Donkey-Wallopers early on, but their mess fees are more than the salary, so it's just not practical if you don't own most of Norfolk, even now.

    The artillery were kind of odd. Still are. Anyone willing to set off a huge explosion in a big tube while standing next to it has to be. In the Victorian era some of the more high-tech artillery was actually borrowed from ships and manned by Royal Navy shore parties.

    There were two main reasons why the British Army, specifically, had its officer cadre almost entirely composed of gentry:

    1) Education: The kind of education required to serve as an army officer simply wasn't available to most people at the time. Other Ranks who displayed exceptional leadership could be granted commissions, but it wasn't the norm. Perhaps it's worth pointing out here that 'officer' and 'soldier' are two distinct career paths with different entry requirements, selection processes, training and duties. An officer will normally join as such from the start.

    2) Wealth: Commissions were not simply granted on merit; they were usually bought. That was partly how the army was funded. It often led to lacklustre officers achieving high rank simply because they could afford it. That was abolished in 1871.

    The Navy were a much more egalitarian bunch than the army back then. Still had an awful lot of nobility at the top end, but command is pretty much what the gentry are supposed to be for in the first place.

    There wasn't conscription back then, but it was never required as there was never a shortage of normal folks looking to make a bit of money, get out of some god-awful situation or just keep out of sight of a magistrate for a few years or nobility looking for a bit of glory.
  4. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

    Mar 18, 2012
    Likes Received:
    There's a youtube channel called 'British Muzzleloaders' where a guy in a kilt demonstrates Victorian rifle drills, if that's any help.
  5. @theunheardwriter21

    @theunheardwriter21 Member

    Nov 15, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Texas , USA
    It's a fictional idea but how about burying them? Full body with only face exposed.
  6. Maresuke_Nogi

    Maresuke_Nogi New Member

    Mar 23, 2018
    Likes Received:
    You can probably find a lot of documents on google for free. Here are a few I found within ten minutes which might be useful to your cause

    Here is "A soldier's handbook" written in 1874

    This might yield some physical training notes if you search for keywords

    The British army from within, by E. C. Vivians who served in the Boer war. He writes in the 20th century but he served during the 19th.

    God Speed!

Share This Page