The National Volunteers were formed from a split in the Irish Volunteer Force following a speech given by John Redmond at Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow on the 20th September, 1914, in which he encouraged Volunteers to enlist in the British Army and fight in World War I in the hope that it might persuade the British government to act upon their promise to grant Ireland Home Rule once hostilities had ceased.  This followed the example of the Ulster Volunteer Force, whose members had enlisted en masse with the outbreak of hostilities, expecting their loyalty to be repaid with the maintenance of the Union.
Of the approximately 190,000 members of the IVF, some 175,000 joined Redmond in establishing the National Volunteers and enlisting in Ulster regiments, many of whom were subsequently killed. The remaining 13,000 or so grouped under the name of the Irish Volunteers and believed that Britain could not be trusted to abide by her promise, and that the Volunteers' presence in Ireland remained necessary. Following the war where many members of the national volunteers died, appetite for peaceful progress towards Home Rule dimmed, as can be seen in the great victory the Republicans won under the Sinn Fein party in the 1918 elections.
- Johnson, Nuala Christina; Ireland, the Great War and the Geography of Remembrance - Page 23