THE MITCHAM TOWN GUARD.
[To THE EDITOR Or THE " SNECTAT OR:* ] Sin,—At the moment when there are signs and tokens that the War Office are beginning to realize there are more English- men on earth capable of bearing arms than were dreamt of in their philosophy, it is with much interest that I have read the article on " Civilians and Invasion " in last week's Spedo tor. That interest, too, is a personal one, for I am a member of the Mitcham Town Guard, whose existence to-day is undoubtedly due to the impetus you have given to this most important factor in home defence throughout England generally, and the county of Surrey in particular.
At a public meeting held here on August 12th last a sug- gestion made by me on the subject was received chiefly with that good-natured apathy which is so akin to being " damned with faint praise " that I looked on it as lost, and therefore it was with no little satisfaction a few days later that I learnt a well-considered scheme bearing the shrieval imprimatur had been propounded to the Rifle Clubs of Surrey, and a few days later my resolution adopting it was passed unanimously at a meeting of the Mitcham Rifle Club, whose cordial and loyal support of the movement has been consistent throughout. Within a very short time, owing to the Club's help, drills and rifle practice were progressing briskly towards that satisfactory result which you have alluded to in terms we much appreciate, though it is a matter of regret to learn that the Mitcham Rifle Club stands almost alone in its response to your appeal to the county. The movement here has been supported by men of all ranks and conditions, for I am glad to say character and not class is the only social qualification insisted on amongst those who wish to serve their King and country in this hour of need, and who from some good and sufficient cause are enable to enlist in any branch of our armies.
Under the constant personal supervision of our leader, Captain Williams Till (late of the Cape Mounted Rifles), whose energy and tactful discipline are deserving of the highest commendation, drills, parades, and instruction classes are held almost every evening in the week, whilst Saturday afternoons are devoted to route marches, field tactics, etc., whilst the rifle butts are open daily with honorary instructors in attendance. All this is carried out with an energy that I can assure you would be a considerable surprise to some of those who still cherish the illusion that unless a man gives up the whole of his time to the profession of arms he is quite incapable of acquiring any useful notion of military discipline. Whence in days of old came many a company of longbow men and the trainbands that were the backbone of our armies in more than one bard-fought battle at home and abroad, whence came the watchers whose beacon fires blazed defiance to the Great Armada, whence came all these men, but from the towns and fields of England in answer to the bidding of the High Sheriffs of their counties P And now the men who fill their places in the peaceful paths of life and cannot enlist are asked for a season to find their recreation in the ranks of
the Town Guards, even although it is not so restful as the contemplation of a football match or a visit to a picture palace As I look at the indifference to our country's call which still exists, I am reminded of an incident of long ago, when, I must own, patriotism in Mitcham was not apparently quite as keen as it is to-day, if one may believe what an aged but intelligent woman repeated to me many years ago as she bad received it from her mother, who was an eyewitness. It was in the year 1745, and the dire news came to the village that the Pretender had defeated the King's forces and was marching with his wild Highlanders by way of Mitcham to the sacking of London. A forebear of mine, she continued, thereupon assembled all the able-bodied men of the parish and, after arming them with flails, scythes, and pitchforks, proceeded to deliver a patriotic harangue, finishing up with a
call for three cheers for the King. But, alas ! either my ancestor was no Demosthenes and his discourse was too dry, or fear of the "Hieland men" had struck his audience dumb, for not until three barrels of strong ale had been broached at his expense could he get them to shout "Long live King George !" It is, however, of some consolation to know that sixty
years later a silver medal was struck bearing the inscription, "Mitcham Volunteers ; for skill at the target. The reward of merit, the gift of James Moore, Esq., Major. March, 1605." The
real Napoleon, whose skill in strategy caused English civilians to arm in 1805, has passed away, and a tinsel one is seeking to
terrify us now by the sheer weight of his thousands of troops. Let all of us who cannot enlist show our readiness to receive them by our " skill at the target" and our merit in drill, always remembering that a state of preparation is the best preventive of invasion, and that without organization resist- ance is futile. And then, even if the foe does overwhelm by weight of numbers-
" How can man die better
Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers And the Temples of his Gods."
But let him fall holding a rifle he has learnt to use, the badge of his Guard upon his breast.—I am, Sir, &c.,
The Hall Place, T. CATO WORSFOLD, LL.D.