25 August 2008

Essex Regiment numbers from 1914

In previous posts I gave:
Let me now continue with numbering in the Essex Regiment service battalions from August 1914.
As I mentioned in a previous post, by March 1914, the two regular battalions of the Essex Regiment were numbering in the 10,400s. I have not seen an Army Council Instruction or any official documentation concerned with how the Essex Regiment treated numbering in the service battalions once Britain went to war in August 1914, but looking at the numbering sequences it would appear that a small block of numbers was retained for use by men who, during war-time, still wished to enlist for 7&5 (seven years with the Colours, five on the Reserve) and separate, larger blocks of numbers for men who were purely joining up for three years or duration.
But in the early days at least, it looks as though men who were purely enlisting for the duration of the war, were allocated numbers which were from the old regular battalion series - and they seem to have attested on all manner of forms. There is evidence in surviving attestation papers in the WO 363 and WO 364 series at the National Archives in London that men joining the Essex Regiment in August 1914 for three years or duration, attested on forms originally designed for regulars enlisting for 6&6 (AF. B.250), 8&4 (AF. B.224), 3&9 (AF. B.217) and 7&5 (AF.B.265). Army Form B.248, designed for men enlisting into the Special Reserve, was also used during that chaotic first month of war.
As the months went on, things seem to have settled down and, staying with the 1st and 2nd Battalions for a moment, number 10732 was issued to a man enlisting for 7&5 on 26th October 1914, and numbers 11003 and 11032 were issued on 14th July 1915 and 18th August 1915 respectively, to men who also enlisted as regular career soldiers with the Essex regiment on those dates. By these latter dates, men enlisting into the service battalions of the Essex regiment were receiving numbers in the 20,000s and 21,000s.
Here are a few more numbers and joining dates for men enlisting in the service battalions of the Essex regiment:

12019 joined 24th August 1914
15181 joined 30th September 1914
15417 joined 28th October 1914
16408 joined 16th November 1914
16638 joined 29th December 1914
19770 joined 30th June 1915
23703 joined 10th November 1915
29165 joined 21st July 1916
36028 joined 17th January 1917

Find your army ancestors today with a FREE 14 day trial to Ancestry.co.uk - Click here!

Caveat
It is wrong to assume that numbering sequences in battalions always followed a sequential pattern. They didn't. As the war progressed and casualties grew, large numbers of men were often transferred from one battalion to another and allocated numbers within blocks which did not fit the sequential patterning seen to date. This becomes particularly evident in most battalions from 1916 onwards. For an example of this, see my post on the
23rd London Regiment.


I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information.



6 comments:

Jon Humphreys said...

Hi,

Wow what a great resource of information. Many thanks

As you know so much more than anyone Ive come across about these service numbers can you assist me with a task.

My great grandfather joined up in August 1914 in Chelmsford his service numer was 12162. He is supposed to have joined up with his best pal, Leslie. But this is all we know of him, other than he supposed to have been killed next to Percy in France some time later, we know that Percy Gusterson (my G.Grandfather) was in the Machine Gun Corps, and was attatched to start with to the 8th Essex. But Leslie is proving tricky to trace. (mainly due to not knowing his surname)

Were the service number issued at the point of joining up? and if so would they have been consequtive?

Many thanks in advance

Jon

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Jon

You're right, it is tricky isn't it? I've not found any obvious candidates as a result of looking at men with the name Leslie and an essex regiment number beginning 121*. If Leslie was killed by his side then he was presumably in the same Essex Regiment battalion as your great-grandfather, or in the Machine Gun Corps.

Soldiers Died notes four Essex Regiment men with the name Leslie who enlisted at Chelmsford. Three of these men served with the 5th Essex Regiment and the fourth joined up much later than Percy and was killed whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion.

As for the issuing of numbers, men could join uo together but the numbers would not be issued until they presented at the depot. Numbers could then be issued sequentially but some battalions would group men alphabetically by surname and then number them - the South Down battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment are a good example of this.

If you've not already done so, do post this query on the Great war Forum and put the word Essex in the title of your post. There are some knowledgeable Essex Regt experts there who may be able to come up with an answer.

Good luck with your search, and do let me know if you come up with anything. I did notice that there were other Essex men with numbers close to your great-grandfather's number who also subsequently transferred to the MGC and had numbers close to is MGC number.

Incidentally, the MGC number appears to date to February 1916.

Paul

Jon Humphreys said...

Hi Paul

Thank you so much for your speedy and informative response, Can I please ask how you search the Soldiers Died records, My online searches never allow me to search for the right options. I find Ancestry very hit and miss on its accuracy and Find my past wont let you search without a surname.

I will as you suggest post this on the Great War Forum, I found that site last night and have joined and posted another query.

Thank you once more.

Jon

Paul Nixon said...

Jon, I've only just seen this response as for some reason your comment ended up in the sapm folder on Blogger. Not sure how that happened.

I always use Ancestry to search SDGW as the search on findmypast is not as flexible.

I think I probably just entered Essex as the regiment and then did a wild card search. Hopefully by now though, you'll have had some luck on the Great War Forum.

Best wishes

Paul

Tessa said...

I'm trying to find out more about my great grandfather Percy William Hammond,I know he was in the 11th battalion Essex Regiment. Is it possible to find his service number? Any help would be appreciated

Paul Nixon said...

Tessa, his number was 19598 which dates to late May or early June 1915. His medal index card notes that he arrived overseas on the 30th September that year and was discharged on the 25th April 1915. He received the 1914/1915 Star trio of medals and also a silver war badge.

Paul