Rifle Clubs


Dorking Rifle Club
Dorking Rifle Club © Dorking Museum

Rifle clubs were encouraged in the town and villages in the years before 1914. Awareness of the ominous political situation in Europe saw the authorities considering the need for the citizenry to defend the country.

A small rifle range at the Drill Hall on West Street enabled townsmen to practice. Landowners such as Cuthbert Heath and Lord Ashcombe of Denbies kept their own ranges at Anstie Grange near Coldharbour and on Ranmore.

When war broke out the High Sheriff of Surrey, Loe Strachey, encouraged rifle clubs to recruit and train and suggested that they be used to form guards in the villages in the event of invasion. Cuthbert Heath immediately provided his local Holmwood Rifle Club with the ammunition to practice.

By the end of 1914 parishes and councils were setting up volunteer corps to drill and train men unfit for service, or too old or young for the army, for the defence of their homes. Newdigate’s ‘Useful Service Brigade’ was one of the first of these. It drilled twice a week and was proclaimed ‘a fine body of men that any town might be proud of’ by the parish magazine. But it came in for criticism for training all village men, including fit men of military age. It was argued that those with no inclination to enlist should not to be allowed to participate but should be excluded and encouraged to enlist.

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