8 January 2009
Army Service Number sources
The bulk of my army service number data giving enlistment and joining dates, comes directly from service records held in the WO 363 and WO 364 series at the National Archives. These are by far the most reliable documents when it comes to ascertaining dates of attestation and later, dates of joining a particular regiment. Other sources - such as the privately published National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918 and De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour 1914-1924 - should be used with caution as the dates - where given - are often unreliable.
It is also possible to pick up enlistment dates from some Medal Index Cards (MICs) but again, caution should be exercised. The example above, appears to show that 654580 Edward Thomas Allen enlisted with the 21st London Regiment on 13th December 1915. Well he may have done, but he certainly wasn't given that number in December 1915 as numbers in this range (as I mentioned in my previous post) were not being issued until 1917.
It seems more likely that Edward Allen attested in December 1915, probably under The Derby Scheme, and was called up later. His number would have been issued to him when he joined the 21st Londons in 1917. In his case, he doesn't appear to have been with the battalion very long, before he was discharged due to sickness. Number 654714 was issued on 9th May 1917 and Edward, with a number 134 digits lower, had already been discharged from the army by 18th April that year.
Another point to note when trying to ascertain joining dates from MICs is that the regiment noted on the MIC in not always necessarily going to be the regiment that the man first joined. In Edward's case for example, it is feasible that he initially enlisted with another regiment, was numbered by it and then transferred to the 21st Londons. In some cases MICs will state that the soldier was "ex" so-and-so regiment but in many cases it will not.
So let caution be the watchword when trying to gather information from MICs: the enlistment date may be an attestation date rather than enlistment or joining date, and the regiment noted may not be the one that the man initially joined. In general, when looking at MICs I always tread warily around those with dates for November and December 1915 in particular as very many men were late Derby Scheme attestations during this time; signing up for their willingness to serve but not actually being called upon (and given army service numbers) until weeks or months later.
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