This post will look at army service numbers and the dates on which they were issued to men joining the regular battalions (1st and 2nd Battalions) of the East Surrey Regiment.
There are over 37,000 East Surrey Regiment service and pension records (for this regiment - and its antecedents) in various War Office series held at the National Archives. Clicking on the link will take you to the results on Findmypast but you will need a subscription or Pay-Per-View credits to actually view the records. Some of these records can also be viewed on-line on Ancestry although Findmypast has by far the most comprehensive service record collection.
Use the regimental numbers and dates on which these were issued, below, to determine parameters for when your own East Surrey Regiment ancestor would have joined up. Note though that these numbers are only for regular enlistments. Special Reserve and Territorial Force battalions operated completely separate regimental number sequences.
The regiment was born in July 1881. The 1st Battalion, East Surreys had previously been the 31st (The Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot. The 2nd Battalion, East Surreys had previously been the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot.
My data for this regiment begins the year after it was formed, in 1882. What follows is a snapshot of numbers and dates from a far larger database. From October 1902 numbers were generally, but not always, prefixed with the letter L/. I have omitted this prefix from the series below.
83 joined on 7th January 1882
773 joined on 16th February 1883
1302 joined on 13th May 1885
1827 joined on 11th October 1886
2052 joined on 9th September 1887
2332 joined on 26th March 1888
2538 joined on 1st January 1889
2966 joined on 10th April 1890
3341 joined on 21st January 1891
3970 joined on 29th December 1892
4396 joined on 10th August 1893
4784 joined on 6th June 1894
4929 joined 17th May 1895
5059 joined on 20th July 1896
5451 joined on 29th October 1897
5605 joined on 29th October 1898
5806 joined on 13th January 1899
6271 joined on 30th January 1900
6902 joined on 26th January 1901
7181 joined on 4th January 1902
7664 joined on 12th January 1903
8104 joined on 12th Januar 1904
8632 joined on 9th October 1905
8806 joined on 7th July 1906
9347 joined on 20th November 1907
9545 joined on 13th February 1908
9774 joined on 6th January 1909
9910 joined on 4th January 1910
10134 joined on 5th January 1911
10355 joined on 4th January 1912
10600 joined on 1st January 1913
10787 joined on 7th January 1914
10918 joined on 3rd August 1914
The following day, Britain went to war with Germany. As with regular enlistments into the King's Royal Rifle Corps, The Royal Sussex Regiment and The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) during the First World War, The East Surrey Regiment maintained the number series above for men who, during wartime, still wished to enlist in the regiment as career soldiers for 7&5 (Seven years with the colours, five on the Reserve). Men joining up for wartime service only were given numbers from a separate series prefixed with the letter G/. So to continue with the regular numbering:
11012 joined on 23rd November 1914
11039 joined on 29th December 1914
11079 joined on 15th January 1915
11124 joined on 1st February 1915
11176 joined on 13th March 1915
11235 joined on 23rd April 1915
11251 joined on 18th May 1915
11269 joined on 3rd June 1915
11325 joined on 9th September 1915
11369 joined on 3rd December 1915
My data for regular East Surrey enlistments currently ends at this point but I'd be happy to augment the series above if anybody can add to this.
It is important to make the distinction between numbers issued from the regular L/ prefix series and numbers issued from the wartime G/ prefix series. For instance whereas G/11554 was issued on 11th August 1915 to a man joining up for wartime service only, the same number (but with an L/ prefix) would, as can be deduced from the series above, have been issued to a man joining up for regular service between October and December the same year.
The photograph that I've use to illustrate this post with, comes from my Chailey 1914-1918 archive and shows L/6738 Private Charles Sabourin of the 1st East Surrey Regiment recuperating at Hickwells, Chailey. Charles is seated in a wheelchair having lost his right leg as a result of a wound sustained on the first day of fighting at Mons - 23rd August 1914. A Boer War veteran who had enlisted on 31st October 1900, the bitterness he felt as a result of his wound, subsequent spell as a POW, and then repatriation, is evident in the entry he left in his nurse's autograph album. He wrote:
Pte C Sabourin
1st East Surrey Regt
Wounded and captured at Mons
I would like to meet the German
who fired that shrapnel. I would
certainly treat him.
Charles Sabourin is one of those rare cases who has papers in both WO 363 and WO 364. These documents are also now available on-line.
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