19 February 2017

Using regimental numbers in photographic research

I picked this photo up last week. The reverse shows it to have been taken by Henry Bown, "photographic artist" who had studios at 43 New Kent Road, south east London, 298 Clapham Road, south west London, and 31 & 33 Jamaica Road, south east London. At the top of the photo is some script which reads. "Nov 30 13. Len 16 yrs".

The photo clearly shows a boy bandsman wearing the collar badges of the Middlesex Regiment and so I thought I'd try and find out who Len was.

A boy could join the army from the age of 14 and so if Len was 16 years old in 1913 he could have joined from 1910 or 1911. Looking at my regimental numbers database, that would suggest that his number must have been within the approximate range L/13300 to L/14700. Assuming that Len went on to serve in the First World War I ran a search on the National Archives' medal index card database where "Leonard" was the first name, "Middlesex" was the regiment. I then ran different number search options to narrow the number range. This National Archives' search screen is far more efficient, and far quicker than the search screens on both Ancestry and Findmypast and what's more you can type in the search criteria in a single field, in any order and throw in wildcards to assist the search.

Running this search on L/13* and L/14* (and with searches for 13* and 14* as well, just to pick up examples where the L/ prefix had not been recorded) gave me a short-list of a dozen or so candidates and leads me to believe that Len is potentially L/13649 Leonard Alexander Watts from Poplar who attested for 12 years on the 6th July 1911 aged 14 years and 6 days. His parents were William and Ellen Watts and he had two older brothers and three younger brothers. It could be one of the older brothers who is in the photo with him.

I should stress that the photo could show the Watts family, but by the same token, there are still other candidates who need to be more fully investigated. Nevertheless, understanding how the regimental numbers were issued has, once again, narrowed the field considerably.

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11 February 2017

Casualty lists 1914

I'm mid-way through a project to transcribe non-fatal casualties of 1914; a somewhat depressing task which nevertheless is not without its rewards as I inch slowly forwards, one day at a time.

The names below are a small sample of wounded men whose names appeared in The Times newspaper on 2nd November 1914, all of these men reported to be recuperating at the 1st Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge.

Enlistment dates for all of these men could be approximated by using the information published elsewhere on this blog.  So, for instance, go to the Devonshire Regiment page to see that Private Gage must have enlisted in 1902 (and was therefore probably a reservist by 1914), and to the Royal Scots page to see that, coincidentally, Private Gemmell must also have enlisted in 1902.

Private Grace of the Northumberland Fusiliers has a low number because the regiment had reached 9999 by 2nd December 1903 and had then started a new number series from 1 from that date. Private Grace's number therefore dates to late December 1903 or early January 1904. He too was probably a reservist and probably originally enlisted for a period of three years with the colours and nine years on the reserve meaning that when he was recalled to the colours in August 1914 he probably hadn't worn khaki for seven years or more. 

7055 Pte J Gage, Devonshire Regiment 
8237 Pte G Gemmell, Royal Scots
195 Pte P Grace, Northumberland Fusiliers 
7619 Pte A Gray, Scots Guards
8524 Pte C Griffin, Middlesex Regiment 
4755 Pte H Hadfield, King's Royal Rifle Corps
14270 Cpl L Hale, Royal Fusiliers 
8913 Pte W Hancock, Middlesex Regiment 
13996 L-Sgt Alfred W Harper, Royal Fusiliers 
10512 Pte A Harrison, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
609 Pte W Harrison, Lancashire Fusiliers
7064 Pte W Harvey, Wiltshire Regiment
6713 Pte J Hayes, Connaught Rangers
7984 Pte A T Heart, Coldstream Guards
5130 Pte W Hindon, Wiltshire Regiment

The regimental numbers for The Royal Fusiliers and Loyal North Lancashire Regiment reflect the change in King's Regulations in 1904 which noted that number sequences would now extend to 19,999 rather than 9,999. You can read more about this on my 2009 post which dealt with the all important King's and Queen's Regulations and how these impacted on regimental numbering over the years.

I have borrowed the photo on this post from WW1Photos.org and specifically, the section which deals with wounded men. There are a number of photos published here from the 1st Eastern General Hospital, Cambridge and this is one of them.

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5 February 2017

1st (Royal) Dragoons - Other Rank PoWs 1914

There are only five men from the 1st (Royal) Dragoons who appear on a list of men from that regiment captured on or before the 25th December 1914. The Imperial War Museum reference is B.O.2 1/53 and the complete details are listed below. All of these men were captured on the 19th October 1914.

2824 Lance-Corporal J F Harris of Whittocks Lane, Frome 
5986 Private W J Luck of 10 Dapdune Crescent, Guildford 
5052 Lance-Corporal J W Murkin of 126 Waterloo Street, Burton-on-Trent 
3381 Private W Proctor of 34 Coxwell Avenue, off Queenseast Street, Toronto, Canada 
7885 Private W S Wide of 1 Victoria Parade, Church End, Finchley

Read more about this data source on my 1914 PoWs page.

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29 January 2017

7th (Princess Royal's) Dragoon Guards - PoW Other Ranks 1914

Some of the Imperial War Museum regimental rolls of other ranks captured by the Germans on or before 25th December 1914 are very thin indeed, and the 7th Dragoon Guards' roll falls into this category. There are just five men listed on two sources: B.O. 2 1/39 and B.O. 2 1/52. 

The information below records the men's names and regimental numbers, date of capture and home address.

6671 Corporal P F Cosgrave, captured 21st December 1914; 62 Pimlico, Dublin 
6857 Private C Lewis, captured 24th August 1914; 10 Dacre Street, Old Town, Eastbourne 
6924 Sergeant G W Naylor; captured 21st December 1914; 132 Russel Street, Hills Road, Cambridge 
6576 Private John Plain, 30th October 1914; 18 Cambridge Street, Brighton, Sussex 
6287 Private Herbert Wright, captured on 21st December 1914; 8 Grove Road, North Walsham, Norfolk 

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21 January 2017

4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

The 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers came into being in 1908 with the demise of the militia. Rather than start a new regimental number series from 1, the newly formed 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion simply continued with the series which had been used by the 4th (Militia) Battalion.  The battalion was headquartered at Enniskillen.

2311 joined on 29th June 1908 albeit he had originally been given this number when he joined the 4th (Militia) Battalion on the 4th April 1902
2430 joined on 27th October 1909
2474 joined 10th January 1910
4/2583 joined on 6th March 1911
4/2706 joined on 10th January 1912
2840 joined 4th October 1912
2875 joined 28th November 1912
2896 joined 11th January 1913
2925 joined 20th February 1913
2941 joined 1st April 1913
3023 joined 30th July 1913
3097 joined 3rd October 1913
4/3121 joined 15th October 1913
3126 joined 17th October 1913
3148 joined 19th November 1913
3181 joined 30th December 1913
3231 joined 11th March 1914
4/3261 joined 17th April 1914
4/3338 joined 28th July 1914
4/3374 joined 7th August 1914

Note that men with numbers lower than 2311 will all have seen prior service with the militia. Note too that this particular regimental numbers series was distinct form the series used by the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, and the series used by the regular 1st and 2nd Battalions. Some attempt at distinguishing the series was made by prefixing the regimental number series with the battalion number, thus 4/2583 etc. However, this convention was inconsistently applied and still, over a hundred years later, leads to confusion when researching military ancestors in British infantry regiments.

My thanks to AJH, whose comment on my 1st & 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers post, together with many of the regimental numbers and enlistment dates posted above prompted today's addition to this regimental numbers' blog.

I've borrowed the image on this blog post from the very interesting British Army Medical Services and the Malta Garrison 1799-1979.

15 January 2017

Dorsetshire & Devonshire Regimental numbers

Today's naughty-step nomination goes to The Keep Military Museum - Home of the Regiments of Devon & Dorset - for lifting information from this blog and publishing it on its Army Numbers page without crediting the source. Not only bad manners, but also poor archival practice, I would have thought.

I am quite happy for the information that I publish here to be used  - after all, that's why I publish it in the first place. But I also expect that if information is re-published elsewhere it should be properly credited. A 'thank you' or better still, a link back to the site is not too much to ask, is it?

And whilst I am at it, I need to correct the information that The Keep has published for the Dorsetshire Regiment (which was obviously NOT lifted from this blog).

1. "By 1899 men in the 1st and 2nd Battalions The Dorsetshire Regiment were being allocated numbers in the 4000-5000 range." Oh no they weren't. The number 4000 had been issued back in August 1893 and 5000 had been issued in August 1896 (4999 was issued to George Smith on the 19th August). By January 1899 the regiment was issuing numbers in the 58** range. For example, George Frampton was given the number 5836 when he joined the regiment at Dorchester on the 9th January 1899.

2. "The 4th Battalion (Territorial Army) were reorganised in 1908 and their numbers started with 1 in that year. Those who served overseas were renumbered in 1917 to a 6 digit number. The 4th Dorsets were allocated a batch of numbers starting with 200,000." Not correct. Back in 1914 it was the Territorial Force (TF), rather than Territorial Army, and it wasn't reorganised in 1908, but rather came into being on the 1st April, replacing the old Volunteer Force. When the TF was re-numbered in 1917, ALL serving members were issued with new five or six-digit numbers. This included not only men who were serving overseas, but men serving at home and even men who had been killed in action weeks or months before but who had not been officially confirmed as having been killed. The number block for the 4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment was 200001 to 225000.

3. "Men in the 5th and 6th Service Battalions of the Dorsetshire Regiment in World War I often had numbers in the 10,000-11,000 range."  Yes they did, but there are also men in the 5th Battalion who had numbers in the late 9,000 range as well. Note too, that many men in these battalions would have had numbers far higher than 11,000. 

It worked like this - and this pattern was replicated across very many line infantry regiments. When new service battalions started to be created in August 1914, the regimental numbers issued to new recruits followed on from the series that had previously been used for men in the regular battalions. The Dorset Regiment had reached 9816 by July 6th 1914, and my lowest August 1914 number is 9828 issued on the 5th August. From this point, men joining the newly formed 5th Battalion (formed in August 1914) would have been issued with numbers in continuation of the regular number series. The 6th Battalion was not formed until September 1914 and by this time the regiment was numbering in the 11000s.

4. "Soldiers with numbers in the 19,000 block were reinforcements sent to the 5th Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment to replace casualties. Many of these came from the 3rd Battalion The Somerset Light Infantry (special reservists) or North Somerset Yeomanry." I didn't know that, and if this is true it's useful information.

5. "The Dorset Yeomanry also had a new figure number system introduced in 1908. In 1916 they too were renumbered using numbers in a batch 230,0001 to 235,000." The Dorset Yeomanry (Queen's Own) started numbering from 1 in April 1908 but they were re-numbered in early 1917, not 1916, and the number block was 230001-235000.

The photo I have used on this post is of Super Nanny Jo Frost and is taken from the BBC News website. (Note to The Keep - that's how you credit someone else's work).

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14 January 2017

Shropshire Yeomanry enlistments 1908-1914

This post will look at numbering in the Shropshire Yeomanry between April 1908 and October 1914. The regiment can trace its history back to the French Wars with the raising of the Wellington Troop in 1795.

By August 1914 its disposition was as follows:


A Squadron: 

Shrewsbury, with drill stations at Baschurch, Pontesbury, Pulverbeach and Wem.
B Squadron: 

Oswestry, with drill stations at Whitchurch and Ellesmere.
C Squadron: 

Ludlow, with drill stations at Craven Arms, Ross, Hereford, Leominster, Tenbury and Kington.
D Squadron: 

Wellington, with drill stations at Much Wenlock, Shifnal, Market Drayton, Newport and Bridgnorth

The Shropshire Yeomanry formed part of the Welsh Border Mounted Brigade. 

923 Alfred Jones joined on 22nd April 1908
1256 Albert Beaton joined on 6th February 1909
1365 Wilfred Weaver joined on 1st January 1910
1485 John Frank Martin joined on 27th March 1911
1580 J H Thomas joined on 2nd April 1912
1639 George William Johnson joined on 5th March 1913
1721 Thomas Sydney Preston joined on 9th March 1914
1732 John Frederick Downes joined on 5th August 1914

1836 Thomas Beech joined on 14th September 1914
1987 Robert William Bach joined on 2nd October 1914 

A 2/1st regiment was formed in September 1914 as a second-line unit to train and supply men to the 1/1st Battalion, and a  3/1st unit would be formed in May 1915. Read more about the Shropshire Yeomanry on The Long, Long Trail website. The three formations all shared the same number sequence. 

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7 January 2017

Naval & Military Press - Winter Sale

It's that time of year again. Grab 20% off Naval & Military Press titles in the company's annual Winter Sale. Seeing the advertisement above reminds me that I must frame my own original copy of this recruitment poster which was the last one to be issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee in September 1915. The original version, by Lucy Kemp-Welch, is below:

Border Regiment - PoW Other Ranks 1914

The vast majority of the 107 Border Regiment men listed below were captured on the 26th October 1914. This list, which is almost certainly incomplete, was compiled as a six-page typed list and sent to Sir Ernest Goodhart in March 1919. It resides today at The Imperial War Museum under the catalogue reference B.O.2 1/93. My full transcription also includes the date of capture and the man's home address. All of these men were serving with the 2nd Battalion which had been in France since the 4th and 5th October.

By my reckoning, the longest serving man here was 5391 William Kimber whose number indicates that he joined the regiment in early June 1897. He served as a drummer with the 1st Battalion during the Boer War, and received the Queen's and King's South Africa Medals. So too did 5480 James Sherlock and 6017 Charles Harrison. To still be serving in 1914, all three of these men must have either re-engaged to complete 21 years with the colours or, more likely, were Section D Reservists when Britain went to war.

At the other end of the experience scale are men like 10675 George Lockerby and 10600 John Palmer whose regimental numbers indicate that they had joined the regiment in 1913. In peace time they could have expected further training in the UK before being posted to the overseas' battalion - the 1st Battalion - which was stationed in Burma. As it was, with around a year's experience under their belts, they found themselves sent out to France with the 2nd Battalion, shouldering their rifles along with other young soldiers and recalled men.

Here is the list of 2nd Battalion, Border Regiment men captured on or before the 25th December 1914.

6843 Private Daniel Airey
8647 Private Albert Aitkenhead
9224 Private Thomas A Allen
7375 Private Thomas William Ames
8896 Private Edward Andrew
7415 Pte Edward Ayers
8739 Lance-Corporal Horace Edwin Bellamy
10435 Private Reginald Bennett
8947 Lance-Corporal Sidney Bettis
8063 Private Charles William James Bewley
8653 Private Harry Bollam
6794 Private Charles Bowyer
7851 Private William Frederick Brackenborough
6823 Private Ishmael Braithwaite
9455 Sergeant Horace Charles Bray
7411 Private Bernard Briggall
6920 Private Thomas Brindle
8026 Private George Brooke
10558 Lance-Corporal Frank Brooker
6984 Lance-Sergeant Francis George Buchanan
9818 Private Harold Blanchard Bull
8295 Private Alfred Bunyan
8225 Private William Charles Burgess
9979 Private Robert Fredrick Burnes
8606 Private Charles Casey
7807 Private James Edward Chignell
7641 L/Cpl Walter Clark
10379 Private William Clarke
7796 Private Alfred Clay
7160 Private William Charles Clift
8620 Private Arthur Coates
8904 Private Robert Coatsworth
9454 Private Percy Percival John Cox
6886 Private Joseph Crossby
7309 Private Oswald Cunliffe
8215 Sergeant John Davidson
9345 Private Arthur Dawes
8249 Private Charles Henry Dayman
7163 Private Percy George Dewey
6831 Lance-Corporal John Watson Dickinson
7387 Private Harry Dodds
7456 Private John Douglas
8205 Private G H Dyer 
8657 Private Henry Edwards 
7731 Private William Edwards 
10353 Private Charles Alfred Ely 
7119 Private Peter Faughey 
10361 Private Edmund Fitton 
8648 Private Robert Fletcher 
10093 Corporal Richard Fotheringham 
7156 Pte Joseph Gray 
8908 Private James Gregory 
8591 Private Arthur Edgar Hahn 
8555 Private George Harris 
6017 Private Charles Harrison 
9566 Private Henry Hatcher 
6803 Private Joseph Ingham 
8238 Pte Robert Irving 
8458 Lance-Corporal Frank Jarvis 
6115 Private John Kemp 
6928 Private Thomas Kemp 
8611 Private James Kennedy 
5391 Lance-Corporal William David Kimber 
9411 Corporal William Kinghorn 
7126 Private William Kirkpatrick 
7110 Private William John Knox 
10519 Private Stanley Lee 
10675 Private George Frederick Lockerby 
10474 Private John Maloney 
10324 Private Thomas Matthews 
10500 Private Walter McKellar 
7991 Lance-Corporal James Meagan 
10322 Private Ernest Merrifield 
6774 Private James John Messer 
7504 Private John Neville 
9880 Private Cecil Charles Nicholls 
6919 Private Richard Norris 
7374 Private George Oakes 
7723 Private William Henry O'Key 
8672 Private William Stanton Orchard 
10600 Private John Edwin Palmer 
7099 Pte William Parkinson 
7561 Private Charles Lewis Pegram 
8977 Lance-Corporal Victor Price 
10468 Private Harold Pullan 
8346 Private Thomas William Purdon 
6873 Private Fred John Pye 
8996 Private T E Radley 
8686 Private George Read 
7152 Private John Frederick Richardson 
6923 Private Fred Rogers 
7784 Private David Rollason 
6851 Private Reginald Rudden 
9307 Private J Shepherd 
5480 Private James Sherlock 
7951 Private Edward Stalham 
8326 Private Herbert Stanley 
8927 Private Thomas Swaddle 
9889 Private Herbert Thompson 
8660 Private Edgar Reuben Tindall 
7601 Private Samuel Alfred Usher 
8708 Private James Edward Vincent 
8198 Private Alfred Whitehead 
9390 Private John Whitfield 
10491 Private Reuben Wilmot 
10495 Private James Wilson 
7939 Private Henry Wiltshire

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1 January 2017

2017, a look ahead... and a glance back

2017 will mark my tenth year of posting information on this army service numbers blog.  If I could go back ten years I'd probably have called this blog Regimental Numbers 1881-1918 because, actually, this is all about regimental numbers rather than army service numbers which were introduced in 1920.

If you are a regular visitor to this site, thank you for dropping by. If you are a new visitor to this blog, thank you too, and please use the search bar at the top left of this page, or click on the INDEX to find what you're looking for. On this blog you will find information on regimental number sequences for ALL British line infantry, ALL British Household Cavalry, ALL British Line Cavalry, and various sundry units besides. The majority of the regimental number sequences published here start in 1881 and end in 1914.  Use these as a rough guide to when your own ancestor might have joined up.

The information I have published here is a fraction of what I have on my databases. I am always happy to answer general questions, and indeed, some of these have prompted blog posts in their own right. However, with a full time career, as well as a family, multiple blogs and various military interests and research projects to run / support / undertake, I simply do not have the time to dig down into individual service histories. I do offer a research service and so if your enquiry is about a particular soldier you'll need to contact me directly: paulcanixon@yahoo.co.uk.

I see that last year I posted on this blog 39 times; a little down on 2016 but up on other years. Expect more of the same in 2017.

I should also take this opportunity to advise you of some of the other blogs I run concurrently:

Army Ancestry Research: research tips and case histories (38 posts last year)

Army Forms and Attestations: sample forms and brief explanations (8 posts last year)

British Army Medals: information on the medals plus medal auctions (13 posts last year)

Chailey 1914-1918: The story of a community response (37 posts last year)

World War 1 Veterans: Men I met or corresponded with in the 1980s and 90s (6 posts last year)

WW1 Remembrance (18 posts last year)

My best wishes to you all for 2017. The image on this post is by cartoonist Bert Thomas and was published in Punch in April 1917.

28 December 2016

11th Hussars - Other Rank PoWs 1914

The following fifty men, all serving with the 11th Hussars, became Prisoners of War of the Germans before 25th December 1914.

A number of the men appear on more than one list, catalogued today at The Imperial War Museum under B.O.2 1/157 and 
B.O.2 1/158. The full entries, not transcribed here, also include the men's home addresses. 

6039, later 46125 Private A Allcock 
5767, later 46096 Sergeant J W Allison 
6232 Private H Applegarth 
6040, later 46126 Private C Austin 
7527 Private D Austin 
29742 Private Walter Ayres 
6565 Private Frank G Bangay 
6174 Private B Clarke 
9198 Private F Cockram
1356 Corporal E Garner
6723 Private Phillip Garthwaite 
5704, later 46088 Private Samuel S Gash 
6601 Private C Goodwin 
5731 Private H Groom 
7564 Private C Hall 
5835 Lance-Corporal B Hart 
10016 Private T Hasprey 
9445 Private John Helme 
9597 Corporal Arthur Hinchliffe 
8251 Private P S Huggett 
8245 Lance-Corporal B Jackson 
6992 Private M Knowles 
5674 Private F Lake 
5585, later 46072 Private (Bandsman) T Lazenby 
5077, later 46032 Private Frank Ledger 
2921 Private T Lennon 
9376 Private L Mansell 
837 Lance-Corporal C Massey 
8541 Private R W Morgan 
5738, later 46145 Corporal Thomas F Noble 
8242 Lance-Corporal F Penrice 
8135 Lance-Corporal H Peplow 
5814, later 46100 Private A L Reeson 
1391 Private J Robins 
6391 Corporal R W Robinson 
9195 Private A T Saunders 
5775, later 46097 Private A Sessions 
9373 Private G Shaw 
10865 Private A E Sketes 
9571 Private T Spiers 
5555, later 46065 Private J Stott 
5318 Private J Surridge 
9208 Private W Talbot 
3937 Sergeant F C Taylor 
6015, later 46121 Private Harry Towner 
9576 Private J Ward 
5558, later 46055 Private James Welsh 
9577 Private B J White 
5561 Private E Woodley 
3784 Private C Wright 

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22 December 2016

Section or Platoon Roll Book - Gale & Polden

I recently won this little item on eBay and paid considerably more than the original price of 6d for it. There is no publication date but my guess is that it dates to around the time of the First World War. Its purpose, as explained on the opening page, was to record the names of NCOs and men and to include for each, their marital status, date of enlistment, age on enlistment etc; in fact everything including the man's rifle number and rifle bolt number, as well as details of certificates awarded and classes passed. This being the case, I suppose it's hardly surprising that my copy of this little gem is largely uncompleted. The officer or senior NCO who bought this must have balked at the thought of recording so much detail for all of the men under his charge.

Nevertheless, there are some details which have been recorded and which the vendor on eBay omitted to reveal. 

The middle page here notes "Dining hall fatigue, Sept 27th 1918" whilst the first page notes, "Roll of 9th Platoon / Se", followed by a list of 14 names.

A quick search of medal index cards and service records reveals that these men, at the time this roll was taken, were all serving with a Training Reserve Battalion. For instance, the third man on the list, 34798 A Beresford, was TR/9/34798 Alexander Beresford who enlisted at Warwick on the 22nd May 1917 was posted to the 47th Training Reserve Battalion two days later and finally, by way of the Essex Regiment and two further Training Reserve battalions, found himself in France with the Machine Gun Corps by May 1918.

There is no service record for 34602 T E Deptford but there is a medal index card and medal roll which reveal a similar pattern to that of Alexander Beresford, namely Training Reserve, Essex Regiment and Machine Gun Corps. Thomas Deptford also has the Royal Engineers added in for good measure, although this seven-digit number indicates that he joined the RE from 1920 as this number is from the new army service number series rather than the regimental number series which had operated prior to this time.

Helpfully, the medal roll entry gives more detail and confirms that he too served with the 47th Training Reserve Battalion, then the 3rd Essex Regiment, then the 84th TRB, followed by the 8th Machine Gun Corps, and finally the Royal Engineers.

The ironically named H F Coffin was latterly 137342 Harold Frederick Coffin who was killed in action on the 13th July 1918 whilst serving with the 6th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. Soldiers Died in the Great War notes that he was formerly 46200 Essex Regiment, and my platoon roll book records that he was 34719, TRB. Note the similarity in regimental numbers to those of Thomas Deptford.

So all in all, a nice item to own, I think, and I would guess that most of these men were probably young soldiers and that the majority went on to serve with the Essex Regiment and then Machine Gun Corps. Preliminary medal card searches reveals this to be the case.

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21 December 2016

Regimental numbers research tip - medal index cards

I'll try and keep this simple.

There are three resources where you can search First World War campaign medal index cards free of charge: Ancestry, Findmypast and The National Archives (TNA).

Ancestry has the best images but the lousiest, most inflexible search. If you are looking for a medal index card on Ancestry you will quickly realise that a) not all of the regimental numbers have been indexed and b) the actual search is not as flexible as it is on Findmypast or TNA. It is possible to just enter LONDON for instance, in the regiment field and see all results returned for the London Regiment. Similarly, if you were to just enter the number 1234 you would see all exact results plus this number with various prefixes: T/1234, MS/1234 etc. You can also use wildcard searching on Ancestry but you have to enter a minimum of three characters. So NIX* would return my surname (and variations) whereas NI* would return nothing.

It is also worth pointing out that the index to the medal index cards on the Ancestry site is Ancestry's own index and so there will be differences between search results here and on the other two sites. Talking of which, there are some real howlers on Ancestry that a good clean-up of data would improve no end.

But no doubt about it, the images on Ancestry are superb; both sides scanned, and scanned to a very high standard. It is no exaggeration to say that I look at these images daily.

You won't find images on Findmypast, and the index is the same index published on TNA's site. Locating the correct man will take you to the results' page which then offers the option to click through to the black and white image on TNA's site - which you'll need to pay £3.45 to view.

In terms of searching on Findmypast, be sure to use the wildcard. If you type LONDON in the regiment field on Findmypast you'll get just two results. However, typing *LONDON* will yield 198,000+ results. Always, always, always use the wildcard when searching on Findmypast - and unlike Ancestry, you can wildcard search on a single character if you wish.

Findmypast has recently clubbed all of its medal collections together under a single search and this certainly makes sense for most users of the service who won't always necessarily know what their ancestor's medal entitlement was. Furthermore, it is possible now to view a man's DCM medal card alongside his DCM citation. Note too, that Findmypast has a comprehensively indexed Military Medal card search.


In my opinion this is the most flexible and quickest search. The home page will invite you to type information in the relevant fields. And here, unlike on Findmypast, typing LONDON will bring up any regimental result which has the word London in the title.

However, the real beauty of the TNA search is the flexibility of the search from the search results' page (above). This is effectively a free search so gone is the need to type in information in specific fields. Simply type the information you want in the single search box. 

As far as I'm aware, it doesn't matter in which order you type the information, and the search results highlight where the information appears.

Use the TNA site to quickly find the card you want and then, armed with that information, view the image on Ancestry. You can view the images on TNA's site but these are inferior black and white images and only the front of the card has been imaged.

16 December 2016

Regimental numbers research tip: British War & Victory Medal roll

With so little information surviving for so many men who served overseas during the First World War, correctly interpreting the information that does survive takes on even greater importance.

The information that survives on British War and Victory Medals varies enormously according to the regiment. Some rolls give very detailed information which may include theatre of war served in, and the dates served (the London Regiment is a great example here), whilst other regiments give very little information (my heart always sinks when I see that a man ended up in the Labour Corps as these rolls offer very little information). Other information also to be found on this particular medal roll might include a comment in the remarks' column such as date of demobilisation. Comments regarding amendment to the medal, or entitlement to the medal are routinely included. After all, this is a roll of medal entitlement, and the ticks and annotations are those of the clerk - on behalf of the officer in charge of records at the particular infantry record office - that the information is correct.

But I want to draw attention to repetition on these rolls. In the example above, Henry Hewson originally served overseas with the 19th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and with the regimental number 31125. He then transferred to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was given a new regimental number 29618, and served overseas with the 6th Battalion. Underneath this entry, on the next two lines, we see "do" or "ditto". This repetition indicates that Henry had broken service with this battalion and returned to England twice. If this had been a London Regiment record, the dates would also have been included:

In the example above we can see that Charles Francis of the 9th London Regiment served overseas until the 23rd November 1914, returned to England and then served overseas again from the 22nd April 1915.

So for me, when I am researching soldiers' service histories, this duplication of line entries is important because it's a signpost that the man returned to England either sick or wounded and may get a mention in a local newspaper or in an official casualty list.  Findmypast, in partnership with the British Library, continues to publish thousands of newspaper pages each week and I continually update my 1914-1918 newspaper listing. I also make sure I check The Times newspaper for official casualty lists. Many UK libraries have digital versions and in my case I access the online version via Essex Libraries. Where dates are recorded on medal rolls I would be checking war diaries to see if that provided any clues as to why the man would have returned to England when he did.  

I research soldiers! 
Contact me if you need help with your military ancestor.

14 December 2016

20th Hussars - Other Rank PoWs 1914

The following men, all serving with the 20th Hussars, became Prisoners of War of the Germans before 25th December 1914. In the spirit of Christmas giving, I am also including their home addresses as recorded by the officer in charge of cavalry records (Hussars) when he wrote to Sir Ernest Goodhart in January 1919.

The original documentation is housed at The Imperial War Museum under B.O.2 1/164.

9842 Private E Blackford,  56 Liverpool Road, Watford 
6425 Private E Burns, 33 Conway Street, Beswick, Manchester 
47336 Private W M Death, 166 Wood Street, Walthamstow 
9357 Bandsman G F Foley, 15 Park Street, Windsor 
8167 Private B J Guppy, 10 Alexandra Terrace, Teignmouth 
4826 Private J Harvey, Yellow Road, Waterford 
47322 Private J Hope, 5 London Road, Walton, Liverpool 
4893 Private E Kavanagh, 9 Middle Gardener Street, Dublin 
7254 Lance-Corporal C H Lloyd, Habblesthorpe Farm, Near Leverton, Notts 
4556 Private R Lloyd, 6 Boyne Road, Liverpool 
2798 Private J Logan, Union Jack Club, London 
8869 Private J Lovell, Crown & Anchor Hotel, Wakefield 
47371 Private J P Mason, 19 Honiton Street, Carlton Grove, Peckham, London SE 
47378 Private V H McAuley, 27 Castle Road, Grays, Essex 
5663 Lance-Sergeant C Nunn, 21 Clarissa Road, Chadwell Heath 
804 Lance-Corporal T Ramsbottom, 12 Wooler Street, Scarborough 
11183 Lance-Sergeant T Roxby, 291 Heath Street, Winson Green, Birmingham 
3303 Private E A Vaughan, 2 Suffolk Cottage, Copse Lane, Freshwater, Isle of Wight 
8954 Private R Ward, High Street, Skelton-in Cleveland

I research soldiers! 
Contact me if you need help with your military ancestor.

3 December 2016

Regimental numbers research tip: duplicate number series

On this blog you will find lists of regimental number series. Back in 2003 I started to compile a database of regimental numbers and the known dates on which these were issued. I embarked on this mission because I was researching a community in Chailey and quickly realised that for the most part, the only surviving record of military service was a medal card and medal rolls. I felt sure that there was method to the way in which regimental numbers were issued, and so it turned out to be.

I want to use this opportunity though, once again, to talk about duplicate regimental number series. I have covered this topic periodically over the eight years that this blog has been in existence, but it does no harm to cover it again.

First of all, we need to have a picture in our minds of a typical line infantry regiment in July 1881. With the exception of the Rifle Brigade, all regiments have started a new regimental number series. Their designations have also changed and, with the singular exception of the 79th Regiment of Foot, single battalion regiments of foot from the 26th Regiment of Foot upwards have been formally paired with other regiments. Gone are the old numerical "Regiment of Foot" titles and in their place are county titles.  Using my own local regiment as an example, the old 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot and the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot have been formally merged to create the brand new two-battalion Essex Regiment. Men joining this new regiment from July 1881 are issued with new numbers beginning at 1. The numbers are issued when the men arrive at the regimental depot, NOT on the day on which they attest (although in many cases this will be the same day of attestation).

This is our first Essex Regiment regimental numbers series - numbers issued to regular soldiers.

The Essex Regiment also has two militia battalions in 1881. These are the 3rd East Essex Rifles and the 4th West Essex Militia. Both of these battalions have their own regimental series. 

In addition to the regular number series (covering the 1st and 2nd Battalions), a regimental number series for the 3rd Battalion, and a regimental numbers series for the 4th Battalion, the Essex Regiment also has four Volunteer Force battalions, each of these battalions operating its own regimental number series.

So in total, in 1881, the Essex Regiment has seven separate regimental number series being used concurrently.

Fast forward to 1908. There are no changes to regular battalions. The Special Reserve and Extra Reserve replace the militia. The Territorial Force replaces the Volunteer Force. The Essex Regiment is one of several regiments to lose one of its militia battalions. Men transferring into the new 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion from  the old 3rd (Militia) Battalion keep their old militia regimental numbers. Men transferring in from the old 4th (Militia) Battalion as well as new recruits who have never served in the militia before are all issued with new regimental numbers from a new series beginning at 1.

The Volunteer Force has been replaced by the Territorial Force, the old 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th VF battalions being replaced by the new 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions. All of these battalions have their own regimental number series and all begin at number 1 in 1908. In 1910 an 8th (Cyclist) Battalion will also be formed and it will start numbering from 1 as well.

Fast forward to August 1914. The Essex Regiment will start to raise new service battalions. All of these battalions will issue numbers from the series being used by the 1st and 2nd Battalions.

The point is this.  There is massive duplication of regimental numbers in the Essex Regiment and in all line infantry regiments.

1. By the end of 1914 the Essex Regiment has two regular battalions (the 1st & 2nd Battalions) and five service battalions (the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions) all using regimental numbers from the same series.
2. The 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion uses numbers from another series.
3. The five Territorial Force battalions all have their own regimental number series

In theory therefore, by 1914 there could be four men in the Essex Regiment who all have the same number. The number 3000 would have been issued to:

1. A man joining the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in September 1914
2. A man joining the 5th Battalion in November 1914
3. A man joining the 6th Battalion in October 1914
4. A man joining the 7th Battalion in November 1914

The number 3000 would also have been issued to a regular recruit in 1890. It would also be issued to a man in the 4th Battalion in January 1915 and a man in the 8th Battalion in October 1916. 

This duplication of numbers is evident across all infantry regiments to a greater or lesser degree, and similar duplication of numbers appears in Territorial Force numbers for other Corps. This was the principal reason that the Territorial Force was re-numbered in 1917 except of course that it still resulted in massive duplication of numbers across regiments. The number 200001, for instance was issued by 56 different regiments, as was the number 200002, 200003 and so on.

On this blog you will find man different regimental number sequences explained, but there are many many more sequences which I have not published. Take a look at my posts on the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders regimental number sequences (see here for the INDEX) and then imagine that same scenario repeating across the majority of the other infantry regiments (excluding Irish regiments which had no Territorial Force battalions). 

I hope this post has been helpful. Use the information here and elsewhere to narrow down the enlistment and/or transfer dates of your own British Army ancestor but remember, if you get stuck:

I research soldiers! 
Contact me if you need help with your military ancestor.