In this post of District Mumbai: We visit the period in history of Mumbai city, when the first Volunteer Corps called the “Bombay Volunteer Rifles” was set-up in then Island of Bombay. After 2 failed attempts to do so, the Britishers eventually succeeded in their 3rd attempt in setting-up a voluntary regiment in the city, with names of over 300 men willing to become members of the unit. It is to be noted that the membership of Bombay Volunteer Rifle Corps was open to only Europeans & Eurasians.
The Bombay Volunteer Rifles unit was established on 15th August, 1877. At that time, the uniform of the unit was red tunics and dark blue trousers; later on, the unit adopted the khaki in the early 1900’s.
The Indian volunteer units of the colonial era are comparatively not as well known as those from Africa and other parts of world, during the same era. This could well be because the volunteer units in India were never called upon by then Government of India to serve on-filed, maybe because the need was never there.
The Bombay Rifle Volunteers apparently never saw any active service on-field in India, although some members of the Bombay Battalion had served in East Africa during World War One.
Back then, the Government of India believed that India was well shielded by the British Troops and the Indian Army; as such the need for volunteer units to serve actively on field was never considered. It is also to be noted that the scope of services of the Bombay Rifles Unit were limited to then island of Bombay only and not Pan-India. Much later in the period between 1910-1920, the unit was systematically merged into the Indian Army.
The Bombay Volunteer Rifles had prepared an annual report at the end of their first year, the report contains a lot of interesting information. The report is in public domain and is available to read online; for your convenience we’ve made it available for downloading through this page itself. The information contained within this report includes:
- Details of shooting competition organised by the unit in Bombay (Mumbai), and their winners.
- Details of the shooting range established in Coorla (Kurla)
- Charter of the Bombay Volunteer Rifles, their services were limited to then Island Of Bombay
- The Government’s offer of the “Old Sailors’ Home” as the Headquarters of the unit in Bombay
- The shortage in issuance of the Henry-Martini Rifles to the unit and the Snider Rifles being issued instead, on temporary basis
- Details of the first meeting of the committee which took place on 2nd October, 1878; and the resolutions passed therein
- Details of the 1st Brigade Parade
- Formation of the Rifle Association
- Description of the official band of the regiment
- Statement of accounts of the regiment
- Description of Poona Volunteers becoming a company of the Bombay Volunteer Rifles
- Detailed description of the uniform of the Bombay Volunteer Rifle Corps
- Rules, Timetable, Bye-Laws, Code Of Conduct and other such important aspects of the regiment
Here’s the link to read & download the First Annual Report of the Bombay Volunteer Rifles for Season 1877-78
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