31 December 2010

Somerset Light Infantry 1881-1914


Prince Albert’s Light Infantry (Somersetshire Regiment) was formed on 1st July 1881 from the 13th (1st Somersetshire) (Prince Albert’s Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot.

The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Somersetshire and started numbering from 1 in 1881. On the 13th December 1881, Prince Albert’s Light Infantry (Somersetshire Regiment) became Prince Albert’s (Somersetshire Light Infantry). Numbering in the regiment was unaffected.

This post will look at army service numbers issued to men joining the regular battalions of the Somerset Light Infantry between the regiment's formation in 1881 and the outbreak of war in August 1914. As with all my other posts on army service numbers, what follows should be considered a snapshot of numbering in the regiment; a series of break points published here to help researchers determine when their own Somerset Light Infantry relative joined the regiment.


There are over 20,000 Somerset Light Infantry serviceand pension records (for this regiment - and its antecedents) in various War Office series held at the National Archives. Clicking on the link above 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.

I've compiled the list below as a result of looking at service records in the WO 97, WO 363 and WO 364 series (and the majority of these records are in WO 364). These are held at the National Archives in their original state (WO 97) and on microfilm, although the WO 363 and WO 364 records are now available via both the Ancestry website and Findmypast. Findmypast has indexed far more of these records than you'll find on Ancestry so their version of these crucial records is well worth checking out. Ancestry is also currently offering a FREE 14 day trial. The WO 97 Chelsea Pensioner records (and many other smaller series) are accessible through Find My Past.  

19 joined on 13th September 1881
238 joined on 21st December 1882
501 joined on 11th October 1883
846 joined on 5th December 1884
1059 joined on 22nd January 1885
1377 joined on 8th January 1886
1841 joined on 1st January 1887
2229 joined on 16th February 1888
2449 joined on 14th January 1889
2744 joined on 6th February 1890
3163 joined on 30th May 1891
3486 joined on 14th January 1892
3960 joined on 13th March 1893
4047 joined on 22nd January 1894
4359 joined on 18th March 1895
4665 joined on 9th June 1896
4823 joined on 22nd April 1897
5101 joined on 15th April 1898
5388 joined on 15th February 1899
5891 joined on 15th February 1900

During the South African War, the Somerset Light Infantry raised one volunteer service company and allocated numbers within the range 6781 to 6915 to the men who joined it. The 1st VSC started numbering in January 1900 and was complete by February.

6049 joined on 18th June 1901
6398 joined on 9th April 1902
6753 joined on 19th February 1903
7262 joined on 7th March 1904
7628 joined on 25th January 1905
7880 joined on 22nd January 1906
8097 joined on 9th January 1907
8583 joined on 20th January 1908
8881 joined on 3rd December 1909
8936 joined on 14th February 1910
9182 joined on 25th April 1911
9347 joined on 21st February 1912

In 1912 the regiment became Prince Albert’s (Somerset Light Infantry). Numbering was again unaffected.

9546 joined on 3rd February 1913
9748 joined on 9th June 1914

The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914, men joining the new service battalions were issued with numbers from the same series in use by the two regular battalions.

Recruitment Rates 1881-1911

Between 1st July 1881 and 30th May 1891, The Somerset Light Infantry recruited 3,163 men, an average of 319 men each year. Of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at this time, the Somerset Light Infantry was the fifty-first most effective recruiter of infantry.

Recruitment dropped away further over the next decade and up until the 18th June 1901, the regiment added just under 2,900 men to its books, an average of 286 new recruits a year.

Recruiting in the regiment picked up in the 1900s however, and by 25th April 1911 the regiment was issuing number 9182 to its latest recruit. For the decade, the regiment recruited at an average rate of 319 men per annum, and for the years since July 1881 it had averaged 308 new soldiers each year.

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

Further Reading

The following titles have been re-printed by The Naval & Military Press.

History of the Somerset Light Infantry 1685-1914

History of the Somerset Light Infantry 1914-1919

The History and the Book of Remembrance of the 1/5th Battalion (Prince Albert's) Somerset Light Infantry
In actual fact this history covers the 1/5th and 2/5th Battalions and includes a roll of honour for each.

No comments: