7 April 2010

Royal Welsh Fusiliers - 3rd Bn 1908


The creation of the Special Reserve and Extra Reserve in 1908, marked the end of the Militia. As far as the infantry was concerned, of the 124 infantry militia battalions on the establishment, 74 became 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalions and 27 became 4th or 5th (Extra Reserve) Battalions. The remaining 23 militia battalions, 15 in Great Britain and eight in Ireland, were disbanded.

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers was one of those regiments to lose a militia battalion and it is interesting to see how this was dealt with by the RWF in 1908.

Men who had been serving with the 3rd Militia Battalion retained their militia numbers when they joined the newly created 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion. Thus, for example, William Griffiths, who had been given the number 1766 when he joined the 3rd Militia Battalion way back in January 1893, was still 1766 William Griffiths when he joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion on 28th June 1908. 2296 Llewellyn Edward, who had joined the militia in 1897, was still 2296 on 28th June 1908, and so on.

But what about those men who had originally joined the 4th Militia Battalion but who still wanted to serve with the new 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion? Both the militia battalions had issued numbers to their recruits from separate number series. To also allow the old 4th Militia men to retain their original numbers would lead to duplication of numbers in the same battalion, and so 4th Militia men were issued with new numbers.

The old 3rd Militia Battalion numbers cease in the 35** range, and then the old 4th Battalion men start appearing. Here is a sample from my data. Numbers in square brackets are the years in which the men originally joined their militia battalions.

3507 William Barker, formerly 3507 3rd Militia Bn [1907]
3559 Richard Hughes, formerly 3428 4th Militia Bn [1905]
3584 John Griffiths, formerly 3327 4th Militia Bn [1904]
3593 Thomas Johnson, formerly 3135 4th Militia Bn [1902]
3599 Owen Edward Williams, formerly 3529 4th Militia Bn [1906]
3603 Ellis Evans, formerly 2336 4th Militia Bn [1895]
3655 Griffith Evans, formerly 3626 4th Militia Bn [1907]

As far as my incomplete data is concerned, the highest number for an old 4th Militia Battalion man joining the 3rd RWF is 3789. He joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in October 1908. The next man on my database is number 3897, a man with no prior militia service who joined the Special Reserve on 2nd December 1908.

To summarise then:

1. Numbers up until 3507 at least, all appear to be ex 3rd Militia Battalion men
2. Numbers from at least 3559 through to 3789 all appear to be ex 4th Militia Battalion men
3. Numbers from at least 3897 all appear to be men with no prior militia service

The "appear to be" 'clause' above, is purely to allow for exceptions - and there often "appear to be" exceptions when it comes to regimental numbering. As usual though, I'll be happy to be corrected on any of the above. All of the data used in this post comes from surviving service records in WO 363 and WO 364 at the National Archives, also on line and accessible via a FREE trial with Ancestry.

The photograph, courtesy of David Langley, shows 3rd Battalion warrant officers and NCOs and dates to the 11th July 1915. Seated, left to right: Colour-Sergeant Jackson, RSM O'Leary, CSM Frederick Barter VC (although wearing the rank of colour sergeant in this photo), Acting Sergeant-Major Schofield, and QMS Holloway. CSM Barter had been awarded his VC for his actions at Festubert in May 1915.

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