2 March 2009

The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders - service battalion numbers

If at times the Territorial Force army service numbers for some battalions of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders seem to confound logic, so too - at times - do those numbers issued to men joining the service battalions from August 1914.

By 8th June 1914, numbering in the 1st and 2nd (Regular) Battalions of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders had reached 1377 and when Britain went to war with Germany two months later and the 10th (Service) Battalion of the A&S Highlanders was formed in August 1914, it (and later the other service battalions too), continued with the numbering series in use by the regular battalions. The 1st and 2nd still recruited men for regular periods of enlistment (seven years with the Colours and five on the Reserve) but whereas these men's numbers carried no prefix, those joining the service battalions for war-time enlistment only, had their numbers prefixed with S/.

So in theory, S/1600 would have been an August 1914 war-time enlistment, whereas 1601 enlisted at around the same time time but as a regular, career soldier.

I list below, sample army service numbers and joining dates or date ranges for the A&S Highlanders during the First World War. There are significant gaps as you will see, and the numbers that I have listed below could give the impression that they ran sequentially and consistently. They didn't. Treat these dates with caution as there are exceptions which I'll try to point out.

It is also worth pointing out that as far as I am aware there are no patterns within the general number series which would identify a man as belonging to a particular battalion. The numbers listed below will give a rough indication of when he was likely to have joined but they are of no help in determining a battalion. Furthermore whilst the 3rd (Special Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions maintained their separate numbering series in the initial months of the war, these appear to have been abandoned later. My data for these battalions only extends to October 1914 and as the war progressed it was quite common to see an S/ prefix man with a number in the service/regular battalion series, joining what had once been the Special/Extra Reserve. I'd love to see an ACI or Army Order dealing with this.

Anyway, on with the numbering:

S/3033 joined on 31st August 1914
S/5422 joined on 23rd September 1914
S/6126 joined on 29th October 1914
S/6758 joined on 25th November 1914
S/7158 joined on 26th December 1914
S/7711 joined on 18th January 1915
S/8152 joined on 27th February 1915
S/8279 joined on 10th March 1915
S/8641 joined on 28th April 1915
S/9385 joined on 27th May 1915
S/9750 joined on 27th June 1915

S/9986 joined the 14th (Service) Battalion on the 12th July 1915, but by this time, numbers in the S/121* range had already begun to appear, thus S/12155 was issued on 5th July 1915. S/12198 on 10th July 1915, S/12250 on 17th July 1915 and so on. S/12483 was issued on the 27th July 1915.

NB - see also the section below headed The return of the S/10***s

S/13186 joined on 21st August 1915
S/13565 joined on 21st September 1915
S/14141 joined on 27th October 1915

In November and December 1915, the numbering goes awry and I think for the purposes of this post, I'll just pull additional data from my database to try and illustrate this. Battalion (or D for Depot) indicated in brackets. The 13th and 15th were local reserve battalions.

S/14062 - 17th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14100 - 8th Nov 1915 (D)
S/14109 - 24th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14125 - 15th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14246 - 8th Nov 1915 (13th)
S/14133 - 15th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14170 - 2nd Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14259 - 3rd Nov 1915 (D)
S/14324 - 9th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14352 - 9th Nov 1915 (14th)
S/14387 - 2nd Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14390 - 8th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14438 - 22nd Nov 1915 (15th)
S/14962 - 19th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/15057 - 23rd Nov 1915 (15th)
S/15260 - 24th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/15310 - 26th Nov 1915 (15th)
S/15439 - 16th Nov 1915 (15th)

S/15156 - 1st Dec 1915 (D)
S/15164 - 1st Dec 1915 (D)
S/15292 - 10th Dec 1915 (15th)
S/15350 - 10th Dec 1915 (D)

S/15477 joined on 24th January 1916
S/16083 joined on 15th February 1916

The return of the S/10***s

In June 1915, the numbering had appeared to leap from the 97**s to the 12***s. For me, this illustrates the point that it's generally advisable to be suspicious of unexplained gaps in numbering sequences. The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders is a case in point as these "missing" S/10*** numbers start appearing in March 1916.

Army service number S/16204 was issued to a man joining the 4th Battalion on 2nd March 1916, but by the 8th of that month, S/10256 was issued to a man (who also joined the 4th Battalion).

Numbers from S/10256 were issued, largely sequentially, through March, April and into May 1916 before the numbering returned to the 16***s in June 1916, thus:

S/10526 joined on 28th March 1916
S/11606 joined on 26th April 1916
S/11909 joined on 31st May 1916

S/16329 joined on 13th June 1916
S/16674 joined on 24th June 1916
S/16934 joined on 25th July 1916
S/17161 joined on 12th August 1916
S/17477 joined on 4th September 1916
S/17747 joined on 25th October 1916
S/18237 joined on 27th November 1916 [and again, another large jump]
S/18583 joined on 21st January 1917
S/20419 joined on 30th April 1917
S/20838 joined on 15th May 1917 [another large jump]
S/21380 joined on 14th June 1917
S/21680 joined on 18th July 1917
S/21810 joined on 4th August 1917
S/22332 joined on 18th September 1917
S/22548 joined on 22nd October 1917

My data becomes decidedly patchier from here on in; to the point where it would probably be unhelpful, rather than helpful, to publish it. So for the time being I'm going to leave service battalion numbering in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders at this point, and this also concludes my look at numbering patterns in the regiment as a whole. I will update posts with additional information as and when I have something useful to publish.

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

Find British Army WW1 Records by clicking this link. Also see my posts regarding army service numbers issued to men in the following Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders battalions:

1st & 2nd Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders 1881-1914
3rd (Special Reserve) & 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion A&S Highlanders
5th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (TF)
6th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (TF)
7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (TF)
8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (TF)
9th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (TF)


Iain McRobbie said...

My Granddad was S/13227 I know you can't be accurate but I'm thinking it would be probably August Sept 1915 that he joined the Argylls would you agree that's likely?

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Iain. I'd have said second half of August 1915 rather than September.

Best wishes

Caroline Jeffreys said...


I don't know if you can help me, but I can find no service record for my ancestor William Friock. All I know is that his regiment number was S/14050 when with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and then S/43587 with the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. He died 6 Sep 1916. His brother Hugh Friock again appears not to have service records available,but he served with the Highland Light Infantry
Battalion: 18th Battalion (4th Glasgow), and his service number was 30222. He died 28 Nov 1916. I am just really trying to piece together any information I can on their military lives.

Any help would be much appreciated.

Many thanks


Caroline Jeffreys said...


I don't know if you can help but I am trying to find out any information in relation to two of my ancestors - William Friock and his brother Hugh. Both were killed during WW1 and don't appear to have service records. All I know is that William served with the Argyll And Sutherland Highlanders, his service number was S/14050. He then served with the Gordon Highlanders 2nd Battalion, Number S/43587, he was killed in action 6 Sep 1916. His brother Hugh served with the Highland Light Infantry 18th Battalion (4th Glasgow), his Number was 30222, he died 28 Nov 1916.

I would appreciate any help.

Many thanks


Paul Nixon said...

Hello Caroline

S/14050 dates to late Oct 1915, the S/ prefix indicating he was a wartime enlistment (ie he joined up for three years or the duration of the war). Not sure when the Gordons number dates to. 30222 looks to date to May or June 1916. His death was reported in the Highland Light Infantry Chronicle (which I have transcribed) in April 1917, Vol XVII No 2, Page 67.

Caroline Jeffreys said...

Many thanks for your help Paul.


Colette Sweeney said...

Hi trying to trace a james mckinnon regiment number 6643 a&sh then labour corp 368127 any information will be appreciated the only record I can find is a medal record on ancestry other than this he doesnt seem to exist thanks

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Colette

The fact that his number is not prefixed with S/ could suggest that he was a late enlistment into one of the TF battalions of the A&S Highlanders. 6643 would have joined the 6th A&SH in August 1916 or the 7th A&SH in late September or October 1916. His medal index card certainly tells us that he didn't arrive overseas until after 1915. Like you, I failed to find a service or pension record on either Ancestry or findmypast. Do you know which part of Scotland he was from? The 6th A&SH was headquartered in Paisley whilst the 7th was based in Stirling. We can rule out the 8th and 9th Battalions as their numbers did not reach this high - as far as I know - until the TF infantry was re-numbered in 1917.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul, I am trying to find out more info about my great grandad Daniel Baxter . His service number was s\10413 and was part of the 11th battalion argyll and Sutherland highlanders. Do you know when he would of enlisted and where? Any info would be most helpful. Thank you in advance Steve.

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Steve, I'd need to research it. Please see the RESEARCH tab on this blog.


James Clayton said...

Hi My name is Jim
I have a photo of E company Johnstone 6th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland highlanders

mobilised 5th Augusta 1914 can you help please

Regards Jim

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Jim, please drop me a line to paulcanixon@gmail.com

Hiker said...

Can you tell me anything about this man?
John Thomas DUNBAR
1914-1920 Pte
British War Medal and Victory Medal
Machine Gun Corps 177776
20237 Arg & Suth'd Highrs. Pte, 177776 M.G.C.


Paul Nixon said...

It could be researched, Tony, assuming a service record does not survive. Please see the research tab and contact me if you would like to pursue this.


Littlelou said...

My Great Great Uncle was S/11243

James Dewar Robertson
Died 23/4/17 in France

Recently discovered his name was on Arras memorial
I saw his medals and dead man's penny when I was young but sadly my grandmother passed them onto someone and they are now lost.

HammY said...

My Great Uncle: S/22652 2nd Bn. Private James Haldane Hamilton of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was killed just six weeks before World War I ended. Enlisted in March 1917.

Paul Nixon said...

My great uncle, too, on the 3rd October 1918. RIP.

Unknown said...

My 2nd great uncle John McFarlane was a Sergeant and his service number was 2970372. He was part of the 11th battalion but I am struggling to find any info on him. Any advice?

Chef_Hendrix said...

Hi Paul,

Great site and very informative.I'm just looking at one of my Great Grandads certificates (Certificate of transfer to reserve on demobilisation) and his service number is S/27146. Which I take to mean he signed up during the War for 3 years or duration. I know you said the A&SH have a strange numbering system and the fact that this certificate also states he enlisted on the 20th June 1918 when he was 18yrs and 9mth old doesn't quite match the numbering system and so I thought you may be interested. According to the medal rolls he was with the 2nd A&SH and was transferred to reserve on 20th Feb 1919.



Paul Nixon said...

Interesting; thanks for that, Gaz.


Paul Nixon said...

Re John McFarlane if the number you have quoted is corerect, its seven digits indicate that it was issued from 1920 and therefore papers will still be with the MoD. Google VETERANS UK to go to the MoD website.