I chanced upon the plaque above when I was in the village of Writtle in Essex recently. It was screwed to a wooden bench next to the bus stop and reads:
OXF & BUCKS
PRESENTED TO THE PARISH OF WRITTLE
BY THE 1/4TH OXF & BUCKS LT INFTY
OLD COMRADES ASSOCIATION IN APPRECIATION
OF THE HOSPITALITY SHOWN BY THE
PEOPLE OF WRITTLE TO THE BATTALION
WHILST BILLETTED THERE FROM
AUGUST 1914 TO MARCH 1915
I have no idea when the plaque was presented but I would imagine it has outlived several wooden benches and may indeed have originally been sited somewhere else. I've also rotated the photograph. If you're in Writtle and you want to read the original, you'll have to tilt your head ninety degrees to the right.
All of the following information comes from service papers in WO 363 and WO 364 - and all of which are accessible via Ancestry.
535 joined on 9th April 1908
764 joined on 19th February 1909
1224 joined on Christmas Day 1910
1253 joined on 3rd February 1911
1529 joined on 12th March 1912
1735 joined on 10th January 1913
2082 joined on 5th March 1914
2381 joined on 30th August 1914
2624 joined on 1st September 1914
3441 joined on 6th October 1914
3630 joined on 30th November 1914
In October 1914 it appears that men from the Oxfordshire National Reserve were drafted in to the 2/4th Battalion to form supernumerary companies. From the research I have done, these men mostly appear to have been in their 40s and 50s (and possibly even 60s), and most of them had prior service, either as Volunteers or regulars.
It looks to me as though the block of numbers 3700 to at least 3929 was set aside for these supernumerary men, and their attestation papers - those that I have come across at least - are all remarkably similiar in that:
1. They are all stamped: Oxfordshire National Reserve, followed by the Company number
2. They all signed up for one year's service in the United Kingdom
3. They were all posted to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion [ie the 2/4th], with the word "Supernumerary" stamped below this.
The lowest number that I have come across for these supernumerary men is 3705 who joined on the 2nd October 1914, and the highest, as I have mentioned before, 3929 on the 19th November 1914. Within this grouping it looks as though the earliest recruits formed No 1 Company, the next batch Number 2 Company, and the later enlistments, Number 3 Company. I have not come across anybody in a No 4 Company - but I wouldn't bet against it either.
By the time we get to the 18th January 1915, 4088 is also joining the 2/4th Battalion, not as a supernumerary man however, rather another eager recruit to line up against the enemy overseas. All of which explains why there appears to be such a surge in recruiting in the 4th Ox and Bucks between the issue of number 3630 on 30th November, and number 4088 in January 1915. There was a surge, but over 200 of these men were supernumerary men, and all had been numbered between 3705 and 3929 before number 3630 even presented himself.
As always, I'd be interested to learn more from an Ox and Bucks expert. I'm certainly not one; more of an army numbers geek.
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