The Royal Defence Corps of 1916-1918


The Royal Defence Corps was introduced by a Royal Warrant of 17 March 1916 and promulgated by Army Order 115 of 19 March 1916.

The Warrant deemed the RDC to be  Corps for the purposes of the Army Act and that the rates of pay should be those for the infantry of the line as laid down in the pay warrant of 1 December 1914.

The RDC was defined in further detail in Army Council Instruction (ACI) 841 of 19 April 1916. It had been created “To carry out duties connected with the local defence of the United Kingdom, including those hitherto performed by the Supernumerary Territorial Force Companies, as well as those allotted to the Observer Companies now in process of formation“.

The Supernumerary Territorial Force Companies had previously been known as Protection Companies of the National Reserve.

Administration of the RDC for the whole country was to be carried out by the City of London TF Association. A pay office for the Corps was established at 91 York Street in Westminster. The regimental paymaster also became responsible for the issue of separation allowances for wives, children and other dependents of men of the RDC.

Transfer of officers and men who were already serving

Officers would be commissioned into the Territorial Force and posted to units of the RDC for duty. Those officers already serving with Supernumerary Territorial Force Companies would be transferred on 1 May 1916.

In the case of the “other ranks” serving in the Supernumerary Territorial Force Companies on Territorial attestations, it would (because of the terms of their engagement) be necessary to obtain their consent to transfer to the RDC. Any men who were unwilling to transfer would, for the present time, be attached to the RDC.

Men serving in the existing Observer Companies were generally of the regular army. They would be transferred to the RDC from their existing regiments.

The units of the RDC

The RDC would consist of two types of unit:

  1. Protection Companies. They would take over the duties of the Supernumerary Territorial Force Companies and would come into existence on 29 April 1916. While it was expected that the number of such units would vary across the army’s geographical command areas, company numbers were issued in blocks of 50.
    1. Protection Companies 1-50 would be for Lines of Communication Companies.
    2. Protection Companies 51-100 would be for Eastern Command.
    3. Protection Companies 101-150 would be for London District
    4. Protection Companies 151-200 would be for Northern Command
    5. Protection Companies 201-250 would be for Scottish Command
    6. Protection Companies 251-300 would be for Southern Command
    7. Protection Companies 301-350 would be for Western Command.
    8. Any Protection Companies required that were outside this structure would be numbered 351 and upwards
  2. Observer Companies. They would be numbered consecutively in their own sequence, starting from 1.

The establishments of Protection Companies was defined in ACI 1373 of 10 July 1916. This shows that the establishment was not fixed, but varied by company. They would typically have 1 Major in command; 1 Captain; 4-5 subalterns; 1 Company Sergeant Major; 1 Company Quartermaster Sergeant; 35-48 NCOs; and 150-290 Privates.

In April 1918 some 27,000 men were serving in the RDC. Of these, 14,000 were employed at prisoner of war camps.

Uniform distinctions

The men would wear a brass “RDC” shoulder title, with a cap badge of the royal cipher and crown.


The regiments and corps of the British Army

The various types of reserve and reservist