It is 170 years ago this week that the Shanghai Volunteer Corps was first established. The SVC, as it was known, became a fixture of life in the International Settlement in the city from 1870-1942, and I have blogged a little about this on my own site. We have just received some albums with a wealth of SVC photographs, and will get them online in due course. In the meantime I thought it might be worthwhile to draw attention to the lesser-known, but nicely-uniformed, Tientsin British Volunteers. They can be seen drilling below, possibly in the winter of 1900.
Such volunteer militia were an important component in the defence schemes guarding foreign concessions in times of war or civil conflict, or anti-imperialist mobilisation. While they were a source of good outdoor exercise for young men, and represent also the wider (in particular) British enthusiasm for volunteering, they were not simply toy soliders. Those guns were real, and they were sometimes used to devasting and bloody effect.