Pro-Am Army

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Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller in the Pro-Am Revolution:

"For most of modern history the British army was a Pro-Am organisation. It was only in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that it became professional. Before that, lords, lairds, nobles and monarchs raised armies from among the local community. Even when the regular army became professionalised the amateur tradition remained important, for instance in the role of the Home Guard during the Second World War and more recently the Territorial Army (TA).

Some historians trace the roots of the auxiliary, volunteer and militia to Anglo-Saxon traditions of communal military obligation that became transformed into medieval law and then into the statutes that set up the people’s militia in 1558. The obligation to serve in the militia was imposed upon owners of property in 1757 and it then became a tax on employer manpower in 1831. By the early twentieth century the militia, imperial yeomanry and auxiliary forces were merged to form the territorial forces, the precursor to today’s TA.

From the sixteenth century onwards a large standing army was discouraged, as a military despotism was feared. In the Second World War illustrious members of the Home Guard, among them JB Priestley and George Orwell, stressed the democratic and egalitarian nature of the auxiliary forces that embraced a far wider cross-section of society than the regular army.

In The Amateur Military Tradition, Ian Beckett describes the definitive history of the auxiliaries: ‘Auxiliary forces have been the real point of contact between army and society in Britain. Auxiliaries provided opportunity. This might be the opportunity of experiencing something different or of enjoying recreational facilities or comradeship, which might not otherwise have been enjoyed.’30 It was also, he noted, a route for social advancement and acceptance into society.

Much of this is still echoed in the way the TA presents itself: as an organisation that provides challenge and comradeship, as well as the opportunity to learn skills that will stand people in good stead in their working lives. At their peak in the late nineteenth century the auxiliary forces accounted for perhaps 6 per cent of the male population aged between 15 and 35. Close to two million men passed through the voluntary forces and militia during the last decades of the nineteenth century. The TA has just 40,000 members. For most of its members, the TA is a parallel career. Every TA member has 8–10 weeks’ training, with officers going on a two- week programme at Sandhurst. Most members devote at least 28 days a year to the TA and for that they get a £1,500 ‘bounty’. Most TA members give up weekends and holidays for training in excess of the standard 28 days. Local TA branches are supported by members of the regular, professional army.

The Territorial Army is a hybrid, Pro-Am organisation: a local, largely volunteer force, supported by professional soldiers and tightly linked with the professional army. The TA provides one model for how the state and professionals can foster Pro-Am forms of organisation that create public value." (