Wiltshire Militia Courts Martial 1759 to 1770: From Lord Bruce’s Papers in the Ailesbury Collection at Wiltshire Record Office edited by Jean A. Cole. Published by Wiltshire Family History Society, 10 Castle Lane, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 1HU, England. 1997. 75 pp. Introduction. £6 plus £2.20 p& h. surface.

The first item to catch your eye about this book is the inserted warning - “some of the language in this book is of an explicit nature,” and it is in places. The book contains extracts from court martials. Each entry provides: the name, rank and company name of the offender; place of court martial with names and ranks of presiding officers; a description of the events leading to the offence; guilty verdict citing the appropriate article of war; description of the punishment. People mentioned within the text of a case are listed separately within the index and cross-referenced to the appropriate case. The introduction explains that many of the men were in the militia against their will, having left their homes for three years. This is the context for the many cases of being absent without permission, drunkenness, and fighting. The punishment by our standards seems hard with three days and nights in the black hole, fines and more commonly 50 to 200 lashes with the cat with nine tails.

In addition to the court martial extracts other useful documents have been included in the book. These include: Articles of War 1748-9; Formation of the Wiltshire Regiments Companies of Militia; 1757 Militia Act and the division of the county into ten areas; Movement of the Wiltshire Regiment of Militia 1759 to 1765; Miscellaneous information relating to the Wiltshire Regiment of Militia; and, 1761 Militia Act (extracts).

The introduction to the book points out that this is a companion volume to the Wiltshire Militia Orders 1759-1770, edited by Jean Cole and published by the Wiltshire FHS in 1994. Both books need to be used together. These books are a must for anyone with ancestors in the Wiltshire Militia. It is also a valuable tool because of the supporting regulation documents provided for those seeking ancestors in other county militia units.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.6 no.2, 1999