28 June 2009

The Leicestershire Regiment - 1st & 2nd Battalions

This post will look at army service numbers issued to men joining the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment between 1881 and May 1914. The regiment was formed in July 1881, the 1st and 2nd Battalions formerly having been designated as the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 17th (Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot.

There are over 45,000 Leicestershire 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 Leicestershire 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.

177 joined on 15th August 1881
337 joined on 6th January 1882
552 joined on 22nd May 1883
1074 joined on 4th November 1884
1197 joined on 22nd January 1885
1739 joined on 8th June 1886
2096 joined on 27th April 1887
2395 joined on 16th July 1888
2549 joined on 27th February 1889
2862 joined on 26th September 1890
3062 joined on 23rd June 1891
3349 joined on 1st February 1892
3685 joined on 25th January 1893
4040 joined on 17th April 1894
4352 joined on 24th May 1895
4552 joined on 8th January 1896
4997 joined on 5th February 1897
5314 joined on 1st July 1898
5477 joined on 5th April 1899
5694 joined on 20th January 1900
6266 joined on 14th November 1901
6430 joined on 21st July 1902
6839 joined on 5th February 1903
7498 joined on 30th September 1904
7668 joined on 9th March 1905
7968 joined on 15th August 1906
8094 joined on 9th February 1907
8384 joined on 13th July 1908
8679 joined on 20th April 1909
8927 joined on 7th April 1910
9205 joined on 19th May 1911
9482 joined on 22nd April 1912
9732 joined on 28th July 1913
9882 joined on 12th May 1914

When Britain went to war a few months later, men joining the newly forming service battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment were issued with numbers from the same series that had, up until then, been solely used by the regulars.

Pictured on this post is Stan Brown who was a Leicestershire Regiment regular, fighting with the 1st Battalion at Mons in 1914. He later transferred to the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and after the war, was a long-standing - and ultimately the last surviving - member of the Chelmsford Branch of the Old Contemptibles' Association. I've briefly written about Stan on my World War 1 Veterans blog and I'll return to him in greater depth in future. His regimental number is the 9732 mentioned above. I interviewed Stan in 1981 and his partial service record also survives in WO 364 and can be viewed via the Ancestry website.

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

Further Reading

History of the services of the 17th (The Leicestershire) Regiment
Covering the period 1688-1910.

History of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, The Leicestershire Regiment, in the Great War
This volume picks up in 1910

Footprints of the 1/4th Leicestershire Regiment
Covers the period August 1914 to November 1918. Slender yet name-rich volume written primarily for the benefit of those who served.

The Fifth Leicestershire
A Record of the 1/5th Battalion the Leicestershire Regiment, TF, during the War 1914-1919. Also see Harold Shephard's account of his time with the battalion.

39 months with the "Tigers"
The story of the 110th Infantry Brigade, the ‘Leicester' Brigade, which consisted of the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th (Service) Battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment, all formed in August/September 1914.


lee said...

Is there any way of finding out the identity of a soldier who was in the Leicester regiment in both the Boer and WW1 using an assumed name? presumebly he would have still used his first name and birthdate. The man in question is my grand father. William Rathbone

Paul Nixon said...


It will be difficult if you're saying that his name was William Rathbone but he signed up using a different name. You'd really need to cross check medal rolls - look at the Boer war roll for the Leicesters and then run those names against the medal roll for the Leicesters. If he was serving at the outbreak of WW1 that would mean you would only need to check the 1914 Star roll for WW1. Even so, it would be a long and tiresome exercise and with no gauarantee of identifying the right man. If you have any medals or any documentation relating to either period that's going to give you the answer, otherwise it's a pretty hopeless task I'm afraid. Try searching on other known family names or variations of Rathbone perhaps.

Good luck.


lee said...

Thanks Paul.
I am willing to look for the needle in a haystack if it would bring me any closer to finding about my grandfather. Are the records online at "A" or does it call for a visit to an archive? If I could find his enlistment papers I would recognise his signiture and his tattoo etc. Lee

Paul Nixon said...


The Boer War medal rolls are online at Ancestry. You might find a service record in WO 364 or WO 363, also on Ancestry; however, you have a 60% chance - in general - of the record not having survived. In order to check the WW1 medal rolls you'd need to go to The National Archives and spend a morniong there taking digital photos of every page for the 1914 Star - then cross-checking, as a start, against the Boer war roll for the same numbers.

Also, you should definitely post your query on The Great War Forum if you've not already done so.


lee said...

Thank you Paul.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was a private and bandsman in the 1st Leicestershire Regiment. His name was Stanley Rideal Wing and his Registration no was 9050. Date of enlistment: 20.09.10 (he was only 14!).

Sandra Morris

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks for the information, Sandra. Infantry regiments were allowed to sign-up up to 12 boys for boys' service. Places were sought after and often went to the sons of men (usually NCOs) already serving with the battalion.


Paul Nixon said...

12 boys per battalion, I should have added.