Young Citizen Volunteers
The Ulster Volunteer Force was an adverse and complex organisation spanning rural and urban protestant Ulster, stretching from the shipyard communities of East Belfast in the Unionist heartland to isolated loyalist outposts on the Atlantic coast of Donegal.
One of the most dedicated groups of men, at first quite separate from the UVF, was the Young Citizen Volunteers of Ireland (YCV). The inaugural meeting of this organisation had been held in Belfast City Hall on 10 September 1912, just prior to the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant.
Each member was to pay 2s.6d on joining the YCVs and a further 6d each month; he was to attend weekly drills to learn ‘modified military and police drill, single stick, rifle and baton exercises, signalling, knot-tying and other such exercises”. If possible he was also to gain some knowledge of ‘life-saving and ambulance work’.
The constitution of the YCVs insisted that members should not take part in any political meeting or demonstration. They were stated as being ‘non-sectarian and non-political’ and their objectives were considered to be :
“..... to develop the spirit of responsible citizenship and municipal patriotism by means of lectures and discussions on civic matters.... to cultivate, by means of modified military and police drill, a manly physique, with habits of self control, self-respect and chivalry....to assist as an organisation, when called upon, the civil power in the maintenance of peace”.
Regimental Band YCV 1914
Membership was open to anyone aged between eighteen and thirty-five who was over five feet in height and could present ‘credentials of good character’.
Where as the UVF was totally made up of Protestants, some catholics did join the YCVs, but recruitment was overwhelmingly protestant.
The YCVs had planned to extend their membership further afield than Belfast, but growth was limited as a result of the membership fee and costly uniform which meant that most of the young men who made up the YCV came from fairly comfortable backgrounds. An application was made for financial assistance in return for the placing of the YCV at the governments disposal, but the YCVs were not recognised as a ‘territorial’ unit the application was refused. So by May 1914 with the gathering momentum of the Home Rule crisis and with many Young Citizens feeling betrayed by the government the YCVs applied for membership of the UVF and became a battalion of the Belfast regiment.
On Saturday 6 june the Young Citizens marched to the Bamoral showgrounds with their new comrades, to be reviewed by Sir Edward Carson. A stream of people who had been thronging the Lisburn Road poured into the grounds when the gates opened at four o’clock and at 4.45 when the YCVs marched past a roar went up from the 25.000 strong crowd.
Despite the addition of the Young Citizens to the UVF and all the organisation of back-up facilities and despite it modernity, the UVF would pose an empty threat without guns and ammunition for the 90,000-100,000 men who had enrolled by the time entry was closed on the last day of February 1914.
Having dropped their 'non-political' image - The Young Citizen Volunteers parade for
Sir Edward Carson at Balmoral on 6 June 1914