The Ulster Volunteer Force was founded in 1913 by merging various Ulster Volunteers groups to prevent Home Rule. Among those who started the original militias were Sir Edward Carson and James Craig, who, along with the Orange Order, had started drilling and by the spring were ready to present 100,000 men marching in columns to Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law. That September 237,368 men signed the Ulster Covenant where they agreed to defeat Home Rule “using all means which may be found necessary” – a figure that shows how potentially strong the Ulster Volunteers were.
On the 13th of January 1913 the Ulster Unionist Council fused these groups into the Ulster Volunteer Force which was to be limited to 100,000 men who had signed the covenant and were aged between 17 and 65. These were placed under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Sir George Richardson KCB. This organisation was given full support of the Conservative Party, even when threatening rebellion.
Later on 23rd September 1913, 500 delegates of the Ulster Unionist Council met to decide how a Ulster Provincial Government would be set up if Home Rule was implemented. Both Carson and Craig threatened this, and some Conservative politicans supported them.
The UVF then attempted to import 30,000 German rifles with 3,000,000 rounds of ammunition in April 1914 in what became known as the Larne Gun Running. Furthermore, it had support from British Officers in Ulster, who on July 20, 1914 57 of the 70 officers at Curragh threatened to resign their commissions if they were forced to implement Home Rule – this became known as the Curragh Mutiny.
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