12 January 2020

Royal West Kent Regiment - 4th Battalion

This post will look at regimental numbering in the 4th Royal West Kent Battalion (TF) between 1908 and 1914.

The 4th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908 and prior to this had been the 1st Volunteer Battalion, the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). In 1907, prior to the advent of the Territorial Force, the 1st Volunteer Battalion had a strength of 869 out of an establishment of 1,280. The following year, in 1908, as The Territorial Year Book for 1909 records, the battalion strength comprised 18 officers and 508 men. 179 men attended camp at Walmer in 1908 for 8 days and 250 attended for 15 days.

The following year, The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength of the battalion in 1909 stood at 22 officers and 766 men. At the annual camp at Dover that year, 305 officers and men attended for eight days whilst 388 officers and men attended for 15 days. Camp in 1910 was scheduled to take place from the 23rd July at Dover.

By August 1914 the battalion was headquartered at Tonbridge, and recruiting in the following parts of the county:  


A Company: Maidstone
B Company: Maidstone, with a drill station at West Malling
C Company: Tonbridge, with a drill station at Hadlow
D Company: Tunbridge Wells
E Company: Tunbridge Wells
F Company: Orpington
G Company: Sevenoaks
H Company: Westerham, with drill stations at Edenbridge

The above information about company distribution is particularly useful if your ancestor enlisted with the 4th Royal West Kent Regiment prior to August 1914. For argument's sake, if he lived in Orpington he would have been most likely to have joined F Company; if he was in the immediate vicinity of Sevenoaks, G Company would have been the most likely company he served with.

Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the the 4th Royal West Kent Regiment.

61 joined from the 1st Volunteer Force Battalion on the 6th April 1908
549 joined on the 4th February 1909
974 joined on the 21st March 1910
1174 joined on the 2nd May 1911
1293 joined on the 1st April 1912
1461 joined on the 26th February 1913
1720 joined on the 21st May 1914
1981 joined on the 14th August 1914

Use the regimental numbers above to estimate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 1000 and he lived in Westerham, he would have joined the battalion some time after 21st March 1910 but before May 1911. Furthermore, he probably served with H Company.


Remember. I research soldiers!


To search for photos of your Buffs ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.

11 January 2020

The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) - 5th Battalion


This post will look at regimental numbering in the 5th (Weald of Kent) Battalion (TF), The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) between 1908 and 1914.

The 5th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908 and prior to this had been the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, the Buffs (East Kent Regiment). In 1908, as The Territorial Year Book for that year records, the battalion strength comprised 13 officers and 434 men. 102 men attended camp in 1908 for 8 days and 307 attended for 15 days.

The following year, The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength of the battalion in 1909 stood at 21 officers and 710 men. At the annual camp at Dover that year, 140 officers and men attended for eight days whilst 551 officers and men attended for 15 days. Camp in 1910 was scheduled to take place with the 4th Battalion from the 23rd July at Dover.

By August 1914 the battalion was headquartered at Ashford, and recruiting in the following parts of the county:  


A Company: Cranbrook, with a drill station at Benenden
B Company: Hawkhurst, with a drill station at Sandhurst
C Company: Headcorn, with drill stations at Staplehurst, Marden and Sutton Valence
D Company: Horsmonden, with drill stations at Goudhurst, Lamberhurst, Brenchley, Yalding and Paddock Wood
E Company: Ashford, with drill stations at Pluckley, Bethersden, Aldington and Ham Street
F Company: Ashford
G Company:Tenterden, with drill stations at Lydd, Woodchurch, New Romney, Appledore, Wittersham and Rolvenden
H Company: Ashford

The above information about company distribution is particularly useful if your ancestor enlisted with the 5th Buffs prior to August 1914. For argument's sake, if he lived in Ashford he would have been most likely to have joined E, F or H Company; if he was in the immediate vicinity of Sandhurst, B Company would have been the most likely company he served with.

Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the the 5th (Weald of Kent) Battalion (TF), The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).

121 joined from the 2nd Volunteer Force Battalion on the 10th April 1908
500 joined on the 3rd February 1909
874 joined on the 7th April 1910
932 joined on the 8th February 1911
1050 joined on the 1st November 1912
1141 joined on the 9th June 1913
1199 joined on the 26th February 1914
1358 joined on the 6th August 1914

Use the regimental numbers above to estimate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 600 and he lived in Headcorn, he would have joined the battalion some time after 3rd February 1909 and before April 1910. Furthermore, he probably served with C Company.


The undated photo at the top of this page shows band members of an unidentified battalion of the Buffs. There is an array of cloth insignia on display here.

Remember. I research soldiers!


To search for photos of your Buffs ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.

10 January 2020

The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) - 4th Battalion



This post will look at regimental numbering in the 4th Battalion (TF), The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) between 1908 and 1914.

The 4th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908 and prior to this had been the 1st Volunteer Battalion, the Buffs (East Kent Regiment). In 1907, the 1st VB was under-strength; 950 men out of an establishment of 1396. By 1908, as The Territorial Year Book for that year records, the battalion strength had shrunk further and now comprised 16 officers and 508 men. 158 men attended camp in 1908 for 8 days and 259 attended for 15 days.

The following year, after an obviously successful recruiting campaign, The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength of the battalion in 1909 stood at 18 officers and 787 men. At the annual camp that year, 316 officers and men attended for eight days whilst 385 officers and men attended for 15 days. Camp in 1910 was scheduled to take place from the 23rd July at Dover.

By August 1914 the battalion was headquartered at Canterbury, and recruiting in the following parts of the county:  


A Company: Ramsgate, with drill stations at Birchington and Broadstairs
B Company: Canterbury, with drill stations at Chatham and Ash
C Company: Canterbury, with drill stations at Littlebourne, Wingham and Nonington
D Company: Folkestone, with a drill station at Hythe
E Company: Sittingbourne, with a drill station at Sheerness
F Company: Herne Bay, with a drill station at Whitstable
G Company: Margate, with drill stations at St Nicholas at Wade, and Westgate
H Company: Dover

The above information about company distribution is particularly useful if your ancest
or enlisted with the 4th Buffs prior to August 1914. For argument's sake, if he lived in Whitstable he would have been most likely to have joined F Company; if he was in the immediate vicinity of Dover, H Company would have been the most likely company he served with.

Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the the 4th Battalion (TF), The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).

126 joined from the 1st Volunteer Force Battalion on the 24th April 1908
690 joined on the 12th January 1909
1017 joined on the 19th February 1910
1221 joined on the 17th February 1911
1367 joined on the 31st January 1912
1496 joined on the 29th January 1913
1774 joined on the 29th January 1914
1879 joined on the 5th August 1914

Use the regimental numbers above to estimate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 1250 and he lived in Wingham, he would have joined the battalion some time after 17th February 1911 and before January 1912. Furthermore, he probably served with C Company.


The undated photo at the top of this page shows an unidentified battalion of the Buffs on the march.

Remember. I research soldiers!


To search for photos of your Buffs ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.

22 September 2019

Black Watch - 4th Battalion (TF) - 1908-1914


This post will look at regimental numbering in the 4th Battalion (TF), The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) between 1908 and 1914.

The 4th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908 and prior to this had been the 1st (City of Dundee) Volunteer Battalion of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). The Territorial Year Book for 1909 recorded that the battalion strength was 21 officers and 487 men. 182 men attended camp in 1908 for 8 days and 248 attended got 15 days.

The following year, The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength was 23 officers and 664 men and at the annual camp at Balshandie in 1909, 241 officers and men had attended for eight days whilst 297 officers and men had attended for 15 days. Camp in 1910 was scheduled from the 16th July.

By August 1914 the battalion was headquartered in Dundee with all recruits drawn from that city.

Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the the 4th Battalion (TF), The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).

216 joined from the Volunteer Force on the 6th April 1908
638 joined on the 18th February 1909
1077 joined on the 2nd February 1911
1292 joined on the 7th March 1912
1599 joined on the 5th March 1913
1924 joined on the 7th May 1914
2036 joined on the 4th August 1914

Use the regimental numbers above to estimate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 1111 he would have joined the battalion between February 1911 and March 1912.

Remember. I research soldiers!


To search for photos of your Black Watch ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.

15 September 2019

Bedfordshire Regiment - 5th Battalion (TF) - 1908-1914


This post will look at regimental numbering in the 5th Battalion (TF), Bedfordshire Regiment between 1908 and 1914.

The 5th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908 and prior to this had been the 3rd and 4th (Huntingdon) Volunteer Battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment. The Territorial Year Book for 1909 recorded that the battalion strength was 24 officers and 738 men. No details of camp attendance for that year are given.

The following year, The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength was 23 officers and 664 men and at the annual camp in 1909, 159 officers and men had attended for eight days whilst 443 officers and men had attended for 15 days. Camp in 1910 was scheduled to be held at Ipswich from the 30th July


In August 1914 the battalion was headquartered at Gwyn Street, Bedford and the battalion's companies drew men from the following areas.


A Company: Bedford
B & C Companies: Luton
D Company: Biggleswade, with drill stations at Sandy, Arlesey and St Neots
E Company: Ampthill, with a drill station at Olney
F Company: Luton, with drill stations at Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard
G Company: Fletton, with a drill station at Yaxley
H Company: Hintingdon, with drill stations at St Ives and Ramsey

Understanding the company distribution is important if you know where your 5th Battalion soldier lived as it would likely suggest the company he served with. For instance, men living in Ampthill and wishing to join this battalion would have logically been assigned to E Company. (Note that this logic was abandoned after 4th August 1914).


Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the 5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.

Numbering started at around 2000 in 1908

2015 joined from the Volunteer Force on the 30th June 1908

2508 joined on the 23rd March 1909
2637 joined on the 16th March 1910
2741 joined on the 16th January 1911
2925 joined on the 23rd March 1912
2992 joined on the 3rd January 1913
3181 joined on the 5th March 1914
3785 joined on the 18th August 1914

Use the regimental numbers above to estimate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 2345 he would have joined the battalion between June 1908 and March 1909. 


Also see my posts on regimental numbering in these other Bedfordshire Regiment battalions:

1st and 2nd Battalions, Bedfordshire Regiment

3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment



Remember. I research soldiers!

To search for photos of your Bedfordshire Regiment ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.

8 September 2019

Border Regiment - 5th Battalion (TF) - 1908-1914


This post will look at regimental numbering in the 5th (Cumberland) Battalion (TF), Border Regiment between 1908 and 1914.

The 5th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908 and prior to this had been the 3rd Volunteer Battalion (Cumberland). The Territorial Year Book for 1909 recorded that the battalion strength was 25 officers and 685 men and at the annual camp at Peel, Isle of Man in 1908, 585 officers and men had attended for eight days whilst 171 officers and men had attended for 15 days.


The following year, The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength was 26 officers and 969 men and at the annual camp in 1909 (at Conway), 273 officers and men had attended for eight days whilst 629 officers and men had attended for 15 days.


In August 1914 the battalion was headquartered at Workington and the battalion's companies drew men from the following areas.


A Company: Whitehaven
B & C Companies: Workington
D Company: Cockermouth
E Company: Egremont, with drill stations at St Bees and Cleator
F Company: Wigton
G Company: Frizington
H Company: Aspatria, with drill stations at Dearham and Bullgill

Understanding the company distribution is important if you know where your 5th Battalion soldier lived as it would likely suggest the company he served with. For instance, men living in Wigton and wishing to join this battalion would have logically been assigned to F Company. (Note that this logic was abandoned after 4th August 1914).


Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the 5th Battalion, Border Regiment.


63 joined from the Volunteer Force on the 1st April 1908

762 joined on the 25th February 1909

Like the 4th Battalion, Border Regiment, the 5th Battalion had recruited steadily (and a little faster than the 4th Battalion) since its inception and by the 12th May 1909 was issuing the number 940 to its latest recruit. Recruitment hereafter slowed down dramatically, as can be seen from the pattern of numbers issued in the ensuing years to August 1914.

1148 joined on the 28th February 1910
1262 joined on the 15th February 1911
1365 joined on the 12th February 1912
1553 joined on the 10th February 1913
1728 joined on the 20th March 1914
1925 joined on the 4th August 1914

Use the regimental numbers above to estimate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 1234 he would have joined the battalion between February 1910 and February 1911. 


Note that the 4th (Cumberland & Westmorland) Battalion of the Border Regiment had its own separate regimental number sequence which had also all started with the number 1 in April 1908.



Remember. I research soldiers!

To search for photos of your Border Regiment ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.

Border Regiment - 4th Battalion (TF) - 1908-1914



This post will look at regimental numbering in the 4th (Cumberland & Westmorland) Battalion (TF), Border Regiment between 1908 and 1914.

The 4th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908 and brought together what had previously been the 1st Cumberland Volunteer and the 2nd Westmorland Volunteer battalions. The Territorial Year Book for 1909 recorded that the battalion strength was 38 officers and 694 men and at the annual camp in 1908, 388 officers and men had attended for less than 15 days whilst 284 officers and men had attended for 15 days.


The following year, The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength was 38 officers and 882 men and at the annual camp in 1909 (at Conway), 337 officers and men had attended for less than 15 days whilst 456 officers and men had attended for 15 days.


In August 1914 the battalion was headquartered at Strand Road, Carlisle and the battalion's companies drew men from the following areas.


A & B Companies: Carlisle
C Company: Keswick, with a drill station at Brampton
D Company: Penrith
E Company: Kirkby Lonsdale, with drill stations at Sedbergh, Endmoor and Appleby
F & G Companies: Kendal, with drill stations at Burneside and Staveley
H Company: Windermere, with drill stations at Ambleside and Elterwater

Understanding the company distribution is important if you know where your 4th Battalion soldier lived as it would likely suggest the company he served with. For instance, men living in Penrith and wishing to join this battalion would have logically been assigned to D Company. (Note that this logic went out of the window after 4th August 1914).


Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the 4th Battalion, Border Regiment.


28 joined from the Volunteer Force on the 1st April 1908

808 joined on the 17th February 1909

The battalion had recruited steadily since its inception and by the 24th November 1909 was issuing the number 1204 to its latest recruit. Recruitment hereafter slowed down dramatically, as can be seen from the pattern of numbers issued in the ensuing years to August 1914.

1149 joined on the 28th October 1910
1178 joined on the 6th January 1911
1313 joined on the 14th February 1912
1484 joined on the 9th April 1913
1628 joined on the 18th February 1914
1769 joined on the 4th August 1914

Use the regimental numbers above to estimate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 1234 he would have joined the battalion between January 1911 and February 1912. 


Note that the 5th (Cumberland) Battalion of the Border Regiment had its own separate regimental number sequence which had also all started with the number 1 in April 1908.



Remember. I research soldiers!

To search for photos of your Border Regiment ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.

1 September 2019

Cheshire Regiment - 4th Battalion (TF) - 1908-1914


This post will look at regimental numbering in the 4th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment between 1908 and 1914.

The 4th Battalion was formed on the 1st April 1908, taking over where the 1st Volunteer Battalion had left off. The Territorial Year Book for 1909 recorded that the battalion strength was 22 officers and 500 men and at the annual camp in 1908, 174 officers and men had attended for less than 15 days whilst 273 officers and men had attended for 15 days.

The following year, the The Territorial Year Book for 1910 recorded that the strength was 27 officers and 827 men and at the annual camp in 1909 (at Conway), 192 officers and men had attended for less than 15 days whilst 554 officers and men had attended for 15 days.

The battalion was headquartered at Grange Road, Birkenhead and the battalion's companies drew men from the following areas.

A, B, C and D Companies: Birkenhead
E Company: Tranmere
F & G Company: Liscard
H Company: Heswell, with drill stations at Parkgate and Hoylake

Understanding the company distribution is important if you know where your 4th Battalion soldier lived as it would likely suggest the company he served with. For instance, men living in Tranmere and wishing to join this battalion would have logically been assigned to E Company. (Note that such logic went out of the window after 4th August 1914).

Here are some sample regimental numbers and joining dates for the 4th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

91 joined from the Volunteer Force on the 1st April 1908
648 joined on the 25th February 1909
1020 joined on the 23rd February 1910
1132 joined on the 17th February 1911
1287 joined on the 19th April 1912
1468 joined on the 11th March 1913
1589 joined on the 6th February 1914
1807 joined on the 6th August 1914

Use these regimental numbers to approximate when a man would have joined this battalion between 1908 and August 1914. For example if your man's number was 1234 he would have joined the battalion between February 1911 and April 1912. 

Note that the 5th, 6th and 7th (TF) Battalions of the Cheshire Regiment each had their own separate regimental number sequences (which also all started with the number 1 in April 1908).

The photo above, source unknown, shows men of the 4th Cheshire Regiment at their annual camp in Carnarvon in 1912.


Remember. I research soldiers!

To search for photos of your Cheshire Regiment ancestors, check my British Army Ancestors website.





25 August 2019

Regimental numbers - Fast Facts



I need to re-state some basic facts once in a while and so if you're familiar with regimental numbering in the British Army up until 1920, you might just want to skip this post.

In 1920, Army Order 338 introduced a new system of  'army numbers'. Up until that point, men had been issued with regimental numbers by the regiment or corps that they joined.

Since 2008 this blog has detailed regimental and corps numbers issued between 1881 and 1918, with the focus on the period 1881 to 1914. I chose 1881 as my starting point because this was when the majority of the old infantry Regiments of Foot were officially re-designated along county or 'territorial' lines, and men joining these newly named regiments were, from 1st July 1881, issued with a number from a new number series which began at 1.

This system invariably meant that there was massive duplication of regimental numbers in the British Army. Furthermore, the regimental number series operated by the regular battalions of each regiment would prove to be just one of several series operated by the regiment.

A typical line infantry regiment could expect to administer one regimental number series for its regular battalions, and a separate number series for each militia battalion. Volunteer Force battalions also each had a separate regimental number series and later, and so too would EACH Territorial Force battalion. As if this wasn't confusing enough, some of these individual Territorial Force battalions operated their own multiple number series.

This blog has information on regimental numbering in ALL line infantry regiments, ALL household and line cavalry, ALL yeomanry, and much more besides.  Use the INDEX to find the regiment you are interested in BUT be careful.  As I said, regiments operated multiple regimental number series and understanding which battalion a man served with is the key to understanding what his service looked like.

The extract below shows regimental numbers issued by the King's (Liverpool Regiment) between 1908 and 1912. Here, straight away, you can see that there were nine separate series in use between those years. Later, in 1917, when the Territorial Force was re-numbered, serving members of the TF were all issued with new regimental numbers, the lowest number in each series being issued to the longest serving member of that battalion or TF unit. This re-numbering, designed to cut some of the confusion with duplicate numbering would have been better had not the new number series also been duplicated across battalions.  By my reckoning, when the new number blocks were introduced in 1917, 61 regiments started re-issuing numbers from a series which began with 200001!
So using the example above, if your King's (Liverpool Regiment) British Army Ancestor had the regimental number 10030, he could have been a regular soldier who joined the regiment some time before 1908, or he could have been a man who joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in January 1912.  Similarly, if your ancestor was in the Territorial Force and had the number 1100, he could have served with any of the six TF battalions listed here - and he could have therefore joined up in either 1908, 1909 or 1910 depending on which battalion he joined. 

I have published a fraction of the information from my database on this blog. Contact me via the RESEARCH tab if you need help with your British Army Ancestors.

Some other points to bear in mind; this from Queen's Regulations for 1889:


There are two key points to bear in mind here. The first is the scope of the number series expressed in paragraph 38, particularly the point about applying to start a new series. As an example, between 1881 and 1914, the Rifle Brigade reached 9999 on two occasions and therefore started a new number series beginning with 1. So if we see a Rifleman from the Rifle Brigade with the number 5000, that number could date to 1882 (the Rifle Brigade did not start numbering from 1 in 1881) or 1897 or 1913.

The second point to note is paragraph 41. Regimental numbers were not re-issued. If a man was discharged from a regiment, walked around the block and then re-enlisted with the same regiment he would be issued with a new regimental number. I have published extracts from King's and Queen's Regulations on this blog. 
There is a lot of information that I have published over the years and I am happy to answer general questions. Post a comment and I'll post a response. For individual RESEARCH projects, contact me via the RESEARCH tab.

11 August 2019

The Western Times - Devonshire


I came across this article in The Western Times whilst looking for something else completely unrelated, but it does serve as a useful reminder of just how helpful newspapers can be when it comes to military research.

I have yet to check other issues of this publication and so I don't know whether this was a one-off, but I suspect not. Reporting regimental orders for the week, The Western Times records:

4TH BATT. DEVON REGIMENT

Regimental numbers - regimental numbers have been assigned the under-mentioned recruits: No 1622 Pte E Connett, No 1623 Pte T J Cowell, No 1624 Pte R W G Dare, No 1625 Pte R J Roderidge, No 1626 Pte S Ward, all of F Company; No 1627 Pte E Dunsett, G Company; No 1628 Pte G H Norman and No 1629 Pte R H Pulman, C Company...

F Company was based at Sidmouth, G Company at Cullompton and C Company at Exeter, suggesting the men who joined these companies probably came from these areas.

This is extremely useful information, particularly as service records in WO 363 for this regiment and the DCLI seem to be more scarce than those for many other line infantry regiments. A quick check on British Army Ancestors reveals that whilst some of these men did serve during the First World War, some had clearly been discharged before 1914, or did not serve overseas, and there are no surviving service records for any of these men.

The Western Times also reports discharges from the army as well as events affecting the 4th Wessex Brigade, RFA and Royal Engineers companies; all in all a very useful discovery.

22 June 2019

Don't always trust the MIC


This email had me scratching my head earlier in the week:

"I was interested in your series of numbers and enlistment dates on your website relating to the London Irish. On your site 3290 enlisted on 23 April 1915 and yet 4255, W M Torrington's medal record card shows that he went with the 1st Bn to France on 9/3/1915. Any thoughts?"

I checked the Medal index card (MIC), above, and the regimental number sequences for the 18th (County of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (London Irish). The MIC and my sequences are clearly at odds with each other and as far as I was concerned, 4255 could not date to any earlier than November 1915. Yet here was a man with that number who had, according to the medal index card and the 1914-15 Star medal roll arrived overseas on the 9th March 1915.


Fortunately this man - W M Forrington, rather than Torrington - has papers in WO 364 and these reveal (above) that he originally arrived overseas with a Territorial Force unit of the Army Service Corps, transferring to the 18th London Regiment on the 18th November 1915. Mystery solved, but only thanks to surviving service papers. The MIC and the medal roll suggest an entirely different, and puzzling story.

Contact me if you need help.

26 May 2019

The 1911 Census of Ireland


I've written here before about the 1911 Census of England and Wales, and the information that can be gleaned about the soldiers who were enumerated on it. See Unpicking the 1911 Census and 1911 Census Revelations. I completed my work on those men who were enumerated overseas some time ago, and I've recently turned back to the 1911 Census of Ireland to complete my transcription of the British Army soldiers who were stationed there on census night.

PDFs of the original census returns for Ireland in 1911 can be downloaded free of charge from The National Archives of Ireland website. Unfortunately however, many of the men were recorded only by their first and last name initials. That's a shame because there's some great information on these forms such as the men's religion and their former occupations before joining the army. All is not lost however.

On some returns, the man's regimental number has been recorded. Take this extract below, for instance, which is taken from the return of the 1st Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) who were stationed at Portobello Barracks in Grove Road, Dublin.


Using my British Army Ancestors website which, if I say so myself, is far quicker than certain well-known family history websites in getting to the result, it is a very simple task to find the majority of these men. Here are the same men on my Excel spreadsheet:


As can be seen from this tiny extract, I have identified eight of the ten men enumerated here, hardly surprising really as the vast majority of these individuals would either have still been serving with this regiment, or on the army reserve (and therefore liable for recall to the colours), by August 1914. Most of these men will therefore have surviving medal records and/or service records which can be accessed via British Army Ancestors.

Taking the last men on this list as a case study, here's how you can quickly identify these individuals. He's recorded on the census as 9225 A B of the East Kent Regiment. Simply go to the British Army Ancestors home page and type in 9225 East Kent in the search box. In this example Albert Broughton is the only result returned and this is our man. 


The L/ prefix on Albert's number confirms that he was a regular soldier and, by referring to my post on regimental numbering in the East Kent Regiment, we can see that he must have joined the regiment between January 1910 and March 1911. Actually, as can be seen above, Albert has a surviving service record which shows that he enlisted at Chatham in February 1910. That makes perfect sense because as a young soldier he would be expected to be serving with the home battalion, learning the ropes before shipping out to the overseas' battalion (which he duly did, to India, in January 1913).

Contact me if you need help.

17 May 2019

An embarkation list observation


The extract above comes from an embarkation list held in IOR/L/MIL/15/45 at The British Library. The men concerned formed part of a draft of two sergeants and 186 rank and file from the 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment who set sail aboard HMS Serapis on the 8th December 1886 bound for India and the 2nd Battalion.

What's interesting about this extract is that all of these men attested for service on the 17th April 1885 and, before their regimental numbers were issued to them a couple of days later at Bristol, they were organised alphabetically by surname and then issued with their numbers. So 1055 Baker is followed by 1057 Ballinger who is followed by 1058 Barnes, and so on. 1056 would have been issued to someone whose surname falls between Baker and Ballinger and who was obviously not on this draft; there are other gaps as well.

17th April 1885 was obviously a good recruiting day for the Gloucestershire Regiment. Men issued with numbers 1055 to 1118 inclusive were all recruited on this day; not at all bad going considering the average monthly recruitment figure in line infantry regiments at the time was around 350.

The embarkation lists in  IOR/L/MIL/15/42-46 fill useful gaps in service records but have not been digitised and published online, although I have my own currently un-indexed copies from all five volumes.

29 March 2019

3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)


This post will look at regimental numbering in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) between 1908 and September 1914.

Men signed up for six years' service on the understanding that they were "liable to be called out or detained whilst called up for training, in case of imminent national danger, or great emergency, on permanent service in the United Kingdom, or elsewhere..." and furthermore that they "could be detained in army service for the unexpired portion of [their] term of service in the Army Reserve and for a further period not exceeding 12 months..." And when Britain went to war in August 1914, that is exactly what happened. Men in the Special Reserve were called up and were soon forming drafts to replace casualties in the regular battalions which, in the case of the Black Watch, were the 1st and 2nd Battalions.


The regimental numbering sequence used by the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion was entirely separate from the numbering series used by the 1st and 2nd Battalions and in fact was a continuation of the number series that had been used by the 3rd (Militia) Battalion before the militia was replaced by the Special Reserve in April 1908. 


Here then, are some regimental numbers for the 3rd Battalion, Black Watch; all of these issued sequentially. Use these sample regimental numbers to ascertain when a man would have joined this particular battalion.


760 joined on the 18th March 1908

3/998 joined on the 3rd February 1909
3/1315 joined on the 10th January 1910
3/2102 joined on the 29th March 1912
3/2407 joined on the 3rd December 1913
3/2474 joined on the 27th February 1914
3/2642 joined on the 6th August 1914
3/3425 joined on the 1st September 1914

The 3/ prefix was used inconsistently which means that it can be confusing when it comes to trying to ascertain, from a man's regimental number alone, whether that men was a regular soldier or a man who had originally joined the Special Reserve. For instance, whilst the number 2407, above, was issued to a Special Reservist in December 1913, the same number 2407 (albeit from a different number series) would have been issued to a man signing up as a regular in 1912.


For information on numbering in the regular battalions have a look at my post here: 1st and 2nd Battalions, Black Watch

14 February 2019

3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders


This post will look at regimental numbering in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders between 1908 and November 1914.

Men signed up for six years' service on the understanding that they were "liable to be called out or detained whilst called up for training, in case of imminent national danger, or great emergency, on permanent service in the United Kingdom, or elsewhere..." and furthermore that they "could be detained in army service for the unexpired portion of [their] term of service in the Army Reserve and for a further period not exceeding 12 months..." And when Britain went to war in August 1914, that is exactly what happened. Men in the Special Reserve were called up and were soon forming drafts to replace casualties in the regular battalions which, in the case of the Gordon Highlanders, were the 1st and 2nd Battalions.

The regimental numbering sequence used by the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion was entirely separate from the numbering series used by the 1st and 2nd Battalions and in fact was a continuation of the number series that had been used by the 3rd (Militia) Battalion before the militia was replaced by the Special Reserve in April 1908. 

Here then, are some regimental numbers for the 3rd Gordon Highlanders; all of these issued sequentially. Use these sample regimental numbers to ascertain when a man would have joined this particular battalion.

5264 joined on the 23rd November 1908
5564 joined on the 14th March 1910
5823 joined on the 3rd August 1911
6077 joined on the 4th November 1912
6128 joined on the 29th April 1913
3/6207 joined on the 20th February 1914
3/6491 joined on the 18th August 1914
3/6779 joined on the 3rd September 1914
3/7100 joined on the 19th September 1914
3/7239 joined on the 24th October 1914
3/7319 joined on the 11th November 1914

The 3/ prefix was used inconsistently and it can therefore be confusing at times when it comes to trying to ascertain, from a man's regimental number alone, whether he was a regular soldier or a man who had originally joined the Special Reserve. For instance, whilst the number 6128, above, was issued to a Special Reservist in April 1913, the same number would have been issued to a man signing up as a regular in 1897.

Men joining the newly forming service battalions from August 1914 were issued with numbers from the series that had been used by the regular battalions albeit the prefix S/ (for service) was applied (again, inconsistently) to these numbers. So 1423 was a regular who joined in May 1914, whereas S/1601 was a man who enlisted on the 12th August 1914 for wartime service only.

I have also written posts on regimental numbering in the 1st and 2nd Battalions
4th (TF) Battalion5th (Buchan & Formartin) Battalion6th (Banff & Donside) Battalion and 7th (Deeside Highland) Battalion.

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