The information on this post is based on assumptions taken from a study of surviving service papers for men who joined the 16th, 17th and 18th Manchesters, and from Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW). The medal rolls for these battalions would give a more accurate picture of the numbering sequences used, and I’ll be happy to be corrected on any of the assumptions that I have made.
The scope of this post covers the 1st, 2nd and 3rd City Battalions and the army service numbers issued to volunteers joining these battalions between August 1914 and July 1915.
16th Manchesters (1st City)
The 16th Manchesters initially used a separate series of numbers starting from 1 but this was discontinued. Surviving service papers show the numbers originally issued to 16th Battalion men which are crossed out and the new number in the 6*** range overwritten. SDGW gives the first casualty in the 6*** range as 6201 CSM James Hamilton Adamson who was KiA on 9th July 1916. The first number on my database for the 16th Manchester is 6203 Edward Alcroft (originally 713) who joined the 16th Manchesters on 24th August 1914.
When the new numbers in the 6*** range were used, men were grouped alphabetically by surname and then issued numbers. There are eight distinct alphabetic groupings.
6201 Adamson to 6329 Wilson
6335 Atherton to 6448 Wilkinson
6458 Balfe to 6572 Wilson
6582 Bentley to 6706 Wood
6713 Ashton to 6819 Wilson
6826 Acheson to 6943 Wiggins
6954 Batley to 7071 Wycherley
7074 Ashton to 7167 Yarwood
Number 7168 was issued to Private Robert Hyde (KiA on 9th July 1916) and from this point onwards, the alphabetical numbering sequence falls down.
The numbers and joining dates on my database for the 16th Manchesters are as follows:
6203 joined on 24th August 1914
7292 joined on 14th December 1914
7351 joined on 11th January 1915
7458 joined on 27th February 1915
7550 joined on 25th March 1915
7651 joined on 7th April 1915
7705 joined on 24th May 1915
7842 joined on 16th June 1915
Between August 1914 and June 1915, the 16th Manchesters appear to have numbered within the overall approximate range 6200 to 7800.
17th Manchesters (2nd City)
Numbering in the original battalion appears to start around 8040 although SDGW notes two 17th Bn men with numbers earlier than this: 8025 Private William Kenyon (DoW 11th April 1918) and 8029 Private William Kerr (Died 13th March 1916).
Like the 16th Manchesters, the 17th numbered alphabetically. This from SDGW:
8043 Aiken to 8355 Wolstencroft
8364 Ashton to 8993 Worrall
After 8993 Worrall, the alphabetical sequence falls down. (Note though, that in between the two sequences above, SDGW notes that number 8359 was issued to Herbert Moores).
The first number on my database for the 17th Manchesters is 8044 Harold Annegarn who joined on 2nd September 1914. Others for subsequent months as follows:
9106 joined on 1st December 1914
9155 joined on 11th January 1915
9270 joined on 8th February 1915
Between September 1914 and February 1915, the 17th Manchesters appear to have numbered within the overall approximate range 8040 to 9530
18th Manchesters (3rd City)
Numbering in the original battalion appears to start around 9800 and again follows a broadly alphabetical sequence. This from SDGW.
9809 Brown to 9960 Whitehead
9963 Anderson to 10001 Williams
10007 Branston to 10038 Normington
10070 Aldred to 10232 Wickman
10240 Cooper to 10317 Whittaker (this is probably the least alphabetical of all the sequences)
10323 Burton to 10464 Tinker
10482 Darbyshire to 10519 Wilson
10527 Bradshaw to 10583 Thompson
10603 Austin to 10747 Wood
10762 Bowles to 10857 Wright
Thereafter, the alphabetical sequence falls down. The numbers and joining dates on my database for the 18th Manchesters are as follows:
9808 joined on 4th September 1914
10896 joined on 8th November 1914
10941 joined on 29th December 1914
11040 joined on 18th January 1915
11094 joined on 4th February 1915
11169 joined on 27th March 1915
11293 joined on 30th May 1915
11313 joined on 1st June 1915
11323 joined on 5th July 1915
Between September 1914 and July 1915, the 18th Manchesters appear to have numbered within the overall approximate range 9801 to 11325.
The photo on this post dates to 1914 and is that of 9814 Harry Toplis Bardsley, 18th Manchesters. I interviewed Harry in 1981 and I have posted extracts from that interview on a separate post. See below.
Read my other posts on the Manchester Regiment:
The Manchester Regiment, The Regular Battalions 1881-1914
The Manchester Regiment, Special Reserve & Extra Reserve enlistments 1881-1914
5th Bn, Manchester Regiment (TF)
6th Bn, Manchester Regiment (TF)
7th Bn, Manchester Regiment (TF)
8th Bn, Manchester Regiment (TF)
9th Bn, Manchester Regiment (TF)
10th Bn, Manchester Regiment (TF)
Manchester Regiment Service Battalion numbers 1914-1916
19th, 20th & 21st Manchesters (4th, 5th and 6th City Battalions)
22nd, 23rd & 24th Manchesters (7th & 8th City Battalions and the Oldham Pioneers)
A Manchester Pal's War - 9814 Pte Harry Bardsley, 18th Manchesters
I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information.
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.
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SIXTEENTH, SEVENTEENTH, EIGHTEENTH & NINETEENTH BATTALIONS THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT 1914-1918
The Naval & Military Press says:
"These four battalions were raised on the same day, 28 August 1914, by the Lord Mayor and City and designated 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th City of Manchester Battalions, 1st City Brigade: The Manchester Pals. In December 1914 all the locally raised battalions were numbered and the four battalions became 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Battalions, The Manchester Regiment, forming the 90th Brigade of the 30th Division, an entirely Lancashire division with the crest of the Earl of Derby as its divisonal sign. They arrived in France in November 1915. Their first major battle was on 1st July when the division recorded one of the few successes of that awful day by securing all its objectives, including Montauban. This achievement is recognised by a memorial to the Manchester and Liverpool Pals battalions erected in Montauban and unveiled in 1994. In this action Sgt Evans of the 18th Battalion won the VC.
"In 1918, in the German March offensive the 16th Battalion fought a rearguard action on a feature known as Manchester Hill, where the CO, Lt Col W Elstrob was awarded a posthumous VC. There is an excellent map showing the dispositions of the battalion, still useful for anyone visiting the site today. The book is divided into four parts, one for each battalion, each with its own contents list, and the pattern for each battalion is the same: formation and training, roll of officers embarking for France, and description of the fighting. Each battalion record ends with its own honours and awards list and roll of honour in which the officers killed are shown in order of date and the other ranks lists are taken from Soldiers Died. Finally there is a section containing congratulatory messages to formations in which the battalions served."