When the Ulster Volunteer Force was organising and drilling throughout 1914, across the Irish Sea its friends in the British League for the Support of Ulster was nurturing a similar movement. The main body was the ‘British Volunteer Force’ with an estimated 13,000+ members (almost all with military pedigree), who were pledging to travel to Ireland to fight for the Union in the event of hostilities.
Along with the B.V.F. however were dozens of other independently organised organisations across England, Wales and Scotland. In Birmingham no less than three different pro-Ulster groups were formed. The one pictured was called the ‘Ulster Athletic Club and Defence Association’, sometimes referred to as the Ulster Defence Association! Under the leadership of a W.H. Nightingale; a South Birmingham company drilled at Lime Grove, Mosley Road; while another drilled at Cromwell Hall, Heath Green Lane.
The Mosley Road contingent had 40 men plus leaders, with 50 rifles available supplied by the British League. The men of the U.A.C.& D.A. took the following carefully written (to avoid any illegality) pledge:- “In order that my assistance to the cause of peace and government by consent may be more effective, and that the rights of British citizenship generally by such means as lie in my power be maintained, I hereby pledge myself to undergo such course of physical training with my comrades of the Ulster Athletic Club as shall conduce to my ability to act promptly and orderly in any emergency calling for patriotic or humane action in the district in which I reside, or in any other part of the United Kingdom for which I may volunteer.”
The anti-Home Rule movement in the Midlands was championed by Wolverhamton MP Thomas Hickman. Hickman was the ‘Inspector General’ of the U.V.F. and later a joint organiser of the 36th Ulster Division with James Craig. Hickman believed that there would be 300 Birmingham ‘Ulster Volunteers’ available where and when needed.