The inaugural meeting on Friday 14 August was chaired by Henry Batty-Smith, editor of The Sportsman, and a four-page recruiting leaflet was printed the following day. In its appeal to cricketers, cyclists, football players, rowing men, athletes, golfers and swimmers, it clearly states that it is for men not eligible for the regular army, the territorials or any other recognised force; the AVF was never designed for active service, but for home defence, hence its emphasis on drill and rifle shooting.
The initiative quickly gained nationwide support, with several hundred branches formed throughout the country, and was amalgamated in 1916 into the Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps.
The AVF organisers mentioned inside have strong sporting credentials. Its President was the Earl of Lonsdale, Hugh Cecil Lowther (1857-1944), a well-known aristocrat, founder of the National Sporting Club and later a director of Arsenal.
National Honorary Organising Secretary was Thomas Albert Edge (1863-1929), a racehorse owner and cyclist, while the organising secretary for London and the Home Counties was Samuel Robert Noble (1861-1921) who has been General Secretary of the National Cyclists Union since 1896. A section on drill was written by retired Brigadier-General Noel Lake (1852-1932) of the Royal Engineers.
Members of the AVF could wear its distinctive enamel badge which is now an affordable collectible, and can be picked up for around £15 on ebay. The one illustrated here, still with its original box, was made by WJ Carroll of Fenchurch Street, London, and there are other versions by makers such as Fattorini.
Manhood of Britain, our country is calling
Put by your toys, for no longer ‘tis play
Ours will be no shirking while comrades are falling
Rally we now, and let ours be “the day”.
Prove we the lessons our clean sports have taught us,
The pluck that endures and the scorning to yield,
No matter the strength of the foemen who fought us –
That was the spirit that won us the field.
That was the object of sport as a training,
Each for his side, none for personal fame.
Prove now its value, give all uncomplaining,
Give for your country, though sterner the game.