28 January 2010

The Mavericks - Territorial Force infantry

In August 2008 I published a post here which I titled The Mavericks. For want of a better term I'm going to stick to that and use it to outline below, those Territorial Force infantry battalions which had idiosyncratic numbering sequences. Some, like the 5th Londons, continued with the number series that had been in place for their Volunteer predecessors.  Other battalions operated more than one number series - initially at least - largely because more than one County Association had a hand in administering them.

Bedfordshire Regiment - 5th Battalion
Black Watch - 5th Battalion
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) - 5th Battalion
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) - 8th Battalion
Gordon Highlanders - 6th Battalion
Gordon Highlanders - 7th Battalion
Highland Light Infantry - 8th Battalion
King's Own Scottish Borderers - 4th Battalion
King's Own Scottish Borderers - 5th Battalion
Lancashire Fusiliers - 6th Battalion
London Regiment - 5th (City of London) Battalion (London Rifle Brigade)
Royal Scots - 8th Battalion
Royal Scots Fusiliers - 4th Battalion
Royal Scots Fusiliers - 5th Battalion
Royal Welsh Fusiliers - 5th Battalion
Royal Welsh Fusiliers - 6th Battalion
Royal Welsh Fusiliers - 7th Battalion
Seaforth Highlanders - 5th Battalion
South Staffordshire Regiment - 5th Battalion
Welsh Regiment - 4th Battalion

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21 January 2010

Army number prefixes


This post will look at army number prefixes, and in particular, letter prefixes. Contributions and corrections will be particularly welcomed.

Many army numbers carried letter prefixes, a lot of these being introduced during the First World War. Some prefixes, like the letter “G”, used to prefix the numbers of men in various Home Counties battalions who enlisted during 1914-1918 for General Service, were very common; others less so. Prefixes were normally expressed on army paperwork as G/1234 or G1234 and may be represented on medals as G-1234. A word of warning however: the use of prefixes was often inconsistent.

Number prefixes were also used by some regiments to identify the particular battalion that a man served with. The 3/ and 4/ prefixes are common for Special Reserve and Extra Reserve recruits, and during World War One, many service battalions (the so-called "Pals' Battalions" in particular) followed suit. For example, a man serving with the 15th (Service) Battalion (1st Leeds) West Yorkshire Regiment, would have his number expressed as 15/1234 – usually.

On 18th May 1915, Army Council Instruction 144 attempted to deal with the problem of duplicate numbering by instructing that where such duplication existed, a soldier's regimental number would be prefixed by the number of the battalion in which he was serving thus, for example, 5/3492. Men joining after this date were to have the number of the battalion they first joined, prefixed before their army number. In both cases, the prefix would remain the same for as long as the man remained with that particular regiment, regardless of whether he was subsequently posted to another battalion in that regiment.

The following list of letter prefixes is not exhaustive but it could provide clues as to which unit or battalion a man served with. The sources for this list are too numerous to mention - a lot have come from discussions on the Great War Forum - and many have come through my own trawling through records at the National Archives and on Ancestry.

I would be happy to be corrected regarding inaccuracies or omissions. Please do leave comments.

The photo above shows L/10419 Pte Albert Edward Padgham of The Royal Sussex Regiment. His L/ prefix clearly marks him as a regular soldier and the number dates to August 1914; a time when war-time only Royal Sussex Regiment enlistments were being given a whole variety of different prefixes (see below). Albert Padgham died of wounds on the 24th August 1916. You can read more about him on my Chailey 1914-1918 site.

Army Service Numbers - Letter Prefixes

A - Army Service Corps (old Special Reserve).
A - King’s Royal Rifle Corps (WW1). Numbers A/1 to A/3919 were issued to Army Reservists whose numbers had been re-allocated, or previously discharged Army Reservists who were re-enlisting. Later in the war numbers A/200000 to A/205598 were allocated to men who had been posted from the Training Reserve
A - Royal Scots Fusiliers, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.
A - Army Ordnance Corps
A - Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
A - King's Own Scottish Borderers, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion
A - Highland Light Infantry 3rd (Reserve) Battalion
A (HT) - Army Service Corps, Horse Transport Special Reserve
ARMR - Army Ordnance Corps Armourer
ASC - Army Service Corps

B - The Rifle Brigade (WW1). Numbers B/1 to B/3514 were issued to Army Reservists whose numbers had been re-allocated, or to previously discharged Army Reservists who were re-enlisting.
B - Army Service Corps, Special Reserve
B - Royal Fusiliers, 26th (Bankers) Battalion
B - Scottish Rifles, 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion
B (HT) - Army Service Corps, Horse Transport Special Reserve Territorial Force (TF)

C - King's Royal Rifle Corps (WW1). Some 1914-1918 service battalions, starting from the 16th (Church Lads) Battalion but extending to the 21st (Yeoman Rifles) inclusive
C - Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1st Garrison Battalion (Cork)
C (MT) - Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport Special Reserve
CAT - Army Service Corps, Caterpillar Mechanical Transport
CH - Royal Marines, Chatham Division Royal Marine Light Infantry
CHT - Army Service Corps, Corps of Horse Transport
CMT - Army Service Corps, Corps of Motor Transport

D - Dragoons & Dragoon Guards
D – Royal Dublin Fusiliers
DG - Dragoon Guards
DEAL - Royal Marines, Deal Depot
DEPOT / D - Royal Marine Light Infantry. Deal Depot Permanent Staff
DM - Army Service Corps, Driver, Mechanical Transport.
DM2 - Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport Learners. Discontinued in November 1916.

E - Royal Fusiliers, 17th (Empire) Battalion
E - Army Service Corps, Forage Department
EKent - East Kent Regiment (prior to the 1902 introduction of the L/ prefix for this regiment)
ES - East Surrey Regiment (prior to the 1902 introduction of the L/ prefix for this regiment)

F – Middlesex Regiment, 17th and 23rd (Football) Battalions
F - Army Service Corps, Forage Department

G - Royal Irish Fusiliers. 1st, 2nd and 3rd Garrison Battalions.
G - Found on various Home Counties’ Regiments’ Service battalions, WW1
G - Royal Fusiliers; General Service enlistment, WW1

G4 - Found on some WW1 enlistments into the 4th (Extra Reserve) Bn, East Surrey Regt
GS – General Service enlistment, WW1
GS - Cavalry regiments; General Service enlistment, WW1
GSR - General Special Reserve; WW1
GS/RS - General Service Royal Sussex (see Albert Henry Gaston as an example)
GSSR - General Service Special Reserve, WW1. Certainly used by The Royal Sussex Regiment and the Royal West Kent Regiment
GYM – Army Gymnastic Staff

H - Hussars
H - North Irish Horse

J - Royal Fusiliers 38th, 39th 40th, 42nd (Judean) Battalions

K - Royal Lancaster Regt, The King's Own (WW1)
K - King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, 1914 enlistments, 11th - 14th Battalions
K - Royal Fusiliers 22nd (Kensington) Battalion

L - Lancers
L - Regular enlistments. I have always assumed that L represents "Line" but I would be pleased to stand corrected. This prefix first starts appearing in 1902 and is found on regular enlistments into the following regiments: The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), East Surrey Regiment, Middlesex Regiment, Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), Royal Fusiliers, Royal Sussex Regiment and the Royal West Kent Regiment. All of these regiments, with the exception of the Royal Fusiliers, formed the Number 10 Grouped Regimental District. My thanks to David Langley for his inputs on this prefix.
L - Royal Artillery, WW1 enlistment
L - (King's) Liverpool Regiment
LSR - Royal Sussex Regiment Special Reserve, enlisted under regular terms

M - Army Service Corps. Mechanical Transport
M1 & M2 - Army Service Corps
M2 - Army Service Corps. Electricians
MS – Army Service Corps. Mechanical Specials
MT – Army Service Corps. Mechanical Transport

N - National Reserve (East Surrey Regiment amongst others)

O - Rifle Brigade. Numbers O/1 to O/984 did not appear at the front until 1917.
O – Army Ordnance Corps

P – Rifle Brigade, 16th (Service) Battalion (St Pancras) and the 17th (Reserve) Battalion which was a reserve battalion for the 16th.
P - Military Foot Police & Military Mounted Police
P - Dragoon Guards
PET - Army Service Corps. Petroleum Dept
PLY - Royal Marines Plymouth Division, Royal Marine Light Infantry

PLY/RMP - Royal Marine Police. Plymouth
PO - Royal Marines. Portsmouth Division, Royal Marine Light Infantry
PO/RMP - Royal Marine Police. Portsmouth
PS - Royal Fusiliers. 18th, 19th, 20th & 21st (Public Schools) Battalions
PS - Middlesex Regiment. 16th (Public Schools) Battalion
PW - Middlesex Regiment. 18th, 19th & 26th (Public Works) Battalions (Later Labour Corps)

R - Army Service Corps. Remounts
R - King's Royal Rifle Corps. New Army men within the range R/1 to R/58003
RMA - Royal Marines. Royal Marine Artillery
RMB - Royal Marines. Royal Marine Band
RME - Royal Marines. Royal Marine Engineers
RS & R/TS - Army Service Corps. Remount Specials
RS - Royal Sussex (see Albert Henry Gaston as an example)
RX - Army Service Corps Army Remount Section

S - Army Service Corps. Supply Branch
S - Devonshire Regiment (allegedly, although I have personally not come across any S/ prefix Devons numbers)
S - Royal Army Medical Corps
S - Royal Artillery
S - Highland Regiments, WW1 enlistment
S - Rifle Brigade, WW1 enlistment
S - Royal Munster Fusiliers
S - Army Ordnance Corps
S1, 2, 3, 4 - Army Service Corps. 1st/2nd/3rd/4th New Armies Supply (S4 Labour)
SB –Royal Fusiliers. 10th (Stockbrokers) Battalion
SD –Royal Sussex Regiment. 11th, 12th and 13th (South Down) Battalions and the 14th (Reserve) Battalion.
SE - Army Veterinary Corps (Special Enlistment for duration of 1914-1918 War)
SP - Royal Fusiliers. 23rd & 24th (Sportsman's) Battalions
SPTS – Royal Fusiliers. 23rd & 24th (Sportsman's) Battalions
SR – Special Reserve
SRGS - Special Reserve General Service (found on some East Surrey Regiment records)
SR/GSES - Special Reserve / General Service East Surrey (WW1 enlistments into the East Surrey Special and Extra Reserve)
SR3 - Special Reserve (found on some East Surrey Regiment records)
SS – Army Service Corps. Supply Special (butchers, bakers, clerks etc)
SRMT – Army Service Corps. Special Reserve Motor Transport
STK – Royal Fusiliers. 10th (Stockbrokers) Battalion

T - Army Service Corps. Horse Transport
T - Army Ordnance Corps
T - Territorial Force
T1 & 2/ (SR) - Army Service Corps. Enlisted Special Reserve for New Armies
T1, T2, T3 & T4 - Army Service Corps. Horse Transport
TF - Territorial Force.
TR – Training Reserve
TS – Army Service Corps. Transport Specials (trade)
TSR – Army Service Corps . Transport Special Reserve
TZ - Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Tyne Division 1914-1918 enlistment

W - Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Wales Division
W – Cheshire Regiment, 13th (Service) Battalion (Wirral)
W - 38th (Welsh) Division, Royal Artillery
W - Military Prison Staff Corps 1902-1906 (Army Order 241. December 1901)
W - Military Provost Staff Corps (Army Order 114. 1906).
WF - Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Appears on some attestation papers from the mid 1890s
WR - Royal Engineers. (Waterways & Railways)

Y - King’s Royal Rifle Corps (WW1). Y/1 to Y/1905 were issued to men enlisting for one year as Special Reservists and men enlisting for three years’ short service.

Z - Rifle Brigade (WW1). Numbers Z/1 to Z/2997 were issued to men enlisting for one year as Special Reservists and men enlisting for three years’ short service.

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20 January 2010

Updated index

I've updated the index on this blog to include a Section 2 which references those posts which are non-regiment specific. There is some useful archive material here, mostly courtesy of my pal Graham Stewart and which I list again here.

Section 2 is broken up as follows:

Case Studies
Recruitment and numbering patterns
Research Aids
Rules and Regulations
Miscellaneous

Here then, are those links again to (some) Rules and Regulations:

National Reserve Regulations 1911
National Reserve Regulations 1913
Queen's & King's Regulations - regimental numbering
Special Reserve Army Order - 23rd Dec 1907
Special Reserve appendices - Army Order 1907
Special Reserve - creation in 1908
Supernumerary Companies - Army Order 187, May 1915

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

18 January 2010

5th (Royal Irish) Lancers

This post will look at numbering in the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers between 1882 (when my data starts), and 1906.

Service records for all of the following numbers - a sample from a larger database - survive in the WO 363 (Burnt Documents) and in the WO 364 (Pensions) series at the National Archives in Kew, London. These records can also be viewed on-line via Ancestry.co.uk which is currently offering a FREE 14 day trial.

2462 joined on 15th November 1882
2509 joined on 26th June 1883
2653 joined on 17th July 1884
2832 joined on 17th September 1885
3027 joined on 9th April 1886
3161 joined on 26th February 1887
3344 joined on 10th January 1888
3753 joined on 29th November 1889
3905 joined on 2nd January 1890
3968 joined on 27th October 1891
4022 joined on 2nd March 1892
4181 joined on 10th February 1893
4308 joined on 8th January 1894
4558 joined on 14th January 1895
4712 joined on 6th January 1896
4740 joined on 18th September 1897
4840 joined on 19th April 1898
5000 joined on 12th April 1899
5355 joined on 17th January 1900
5937 joined on 1st March 1901
6483 joined on 16th March 1902
6943 joined on 27th January 1903
6985 joined on 10th June 1904
7048 joined on 8th April 1905
7336 joined on 24th January 1906

Apart from a surge in recruitment during the Boer War (1900 to 1902), the sequential numbering above illustrates again just how slow recruitment could be in the cavalry regiments. 1906 also marked the last year that cavalry regiments numbered by regiment rather than corps and I have explained this in greater detail in my post dealing with regimental numbering as laid down in the Queen's and King's Regulations.

Also see:

Numbering in the 12th Lancers between 1881 and 1906, and the memorial in Bangalore commemorating the 16th Lancers in India 1865-1876.

I have borrowed the superb photograph of an unknown sergeant from the 5th Lancers, from the excellent, Soldiers of the Queen website. The photograph was taken in Durban, South Africa, and dates to 1898. Also see the 5th Royal Irish Lancers website.

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

From The Naval & Military Press:


The Historical Records of the Fifth (Royal Irish) Lancers from their Foundation as Wynne’s Dragoons (in 1689) to 1908

The 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers owe their origins to the turbulent times of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688. As this excellent history, written by one of the regiment’s officers in 1908 recounts, the Lancers were raised as ‘James Wynne’s Dragoons’, a mounted unit, to repel the attempt by Catholic supporters of James II to take over Ireland and launch an invasion of England. The Lancers took part in the successful defences of Derry and Enniskillen and the victorious Battles of the Boyne and Aughram. Subsequently, they served under King William III in the defence of his Dutch homeland against the French at the Siege of Namur.

The Lancers took a proud part in the Duke of Marlborough’s campaigns in the early 18th century, fighting at all four of his famous victories: Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet. At the end of the century they took part in the suppression of the French-backed 1798 rising in their native Ireland, but were subsequently disbanded. Reformed in 1858 because of the need for cavalry to meet the threat of the Indian Mutiny, they took part in the relief of Lucknow.

The Lancers formed part of the Nile Expedition of 1884, mounted in a belated and doomed attempt to save Gordon of Khartoum from the Mahdi and in the Suakin expedition. Their final campaign narrated in this book was the Boer War, in which they took a prominent part in the successful defence of Ladysmith when the town was besieged by the Boers.

This is a fine and lively regimental history which will appeal to anyone interested in the British Army, the cavalry, or 18th and 19th century warfare. It is superbly reproduced with nine fine colour plates, 20 black and white illustrations and ten maps. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

10 January 2010

Enlistment dates on medal index cards

This post will suggest some tips for finding army service numbers and their corresponding date of issue using medal index cards. There are a number of different medal index cards (MIC) which were used to record a man's First World War medal entitlement, but this post is just concerned with those which also show his enlistment date.

I should say at the outset that using the MICs to accurately plot the date that an army number was issued to a soldier, can be a risky business. However, with so many WW1 service records destroyed during WW2, they can be a useful secondary source, provided you tread with care. I'll come back to this point later.

If you have an account with Ancestry.co.uk, identifying those cards that show the enlistment dates and those that don't, is a pretty straightforward task. There are three different versions of MIC which I have illustrated below. These images are Crown Copyright of the National Archives and I have removed those details which would identify the soldier.

Version 1
The most common of the MICs. No provision to record date of enlistment or discharge / disembodiment and I personally don't recall ever seeing this information recorded on these cards.


Version 2
Many men receiving the Silver War Badge (SWB) had their entitlement to it recorded on this card, particularly if this was their only entitlement. The man below fell into this category and was discharged medically unfit. There is provision on this card to record the date of enlistment and date of discharge. Printed information at the bottom of the card gives details of the print run and the date of that run, in this case 200,000 printed in November 1916.


Version 3
Probably the least common of the medal index cards and whilst there is no provision to include date of enlistment / discharge, these are sometimes found added in (as below). Again, printed information at the bottom of the card gives details of the print run and the date of that run, 20,000 in April 1918 in the example shown.



The first thing to note about these cards is that they are different colours. That's important if you're scrolling through the MICs on Ancestry because the darker cards stand out like a sore thumb.
The second point to note is that those cards which were issued to men who just received the SWB often record the regiment details slightly differently. So for instance, version 3 above, records the regiment as W Yorks. A search on that specific term on Ancestry, yields 2,290 MICs. Type in West Yor* however, and the count shoots up to 67,678. The percentage of cards showing enlistment dates is far higher on the W Yorks search than it is on the West Yor*, and the same holds true for every other regiment that I have looked at.


The variation in the spelling of the regiment name may often be subtle, but once you have identified what those variations are, it's then a simple matter to run a search based on that.
I mentioned at the start of this post that it can be risky to build an accurate database of enlistment dates based solely on the information recorded on MICs. For one thing, the enlistment date may not be the date that the man joined the unit shown on the MIC. He may have joined another regiment initially and then transferred.

Also, for enlistment, read ""attestation". It is particularly important to bear this point in mind when looking at MICs recording enlistment dates from November 1915 onwards as many of the dates shown refer to Derby Scheme attestations. So, in a typical scenario, a man may attest under the Derby Scheme in November or December 1915, go back home to await mobilisation and then be called up some months later. In these cases, the date of enlistment shown is the Nov / Dec attestation date, whilst the number dates to the time that he joined his regiment. And that little factor can seriously throw out a database of accurate joining dates and their corresponding numbers.

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

5 January 2010

North Staffordshire Regiment - 1st & 2nd Battalions



This post will look at numbering in the regular battalions of The North Staffordshire Regiment between August 1881 and August 1914.

The regiment was formed in July 1881; the 1st Battalion from the old 64th (2nd Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot, and the 2nd Battalion from the old 98th (Prince of Wales's) Regiment of Foot. Service records for all of the following numbers survive in the WO 363 (Burnt Documents) and (mostly) in the WO 364 (Pensions) series at the National Archives in Kew, London. Also see the British Army Pensions in WO 97, now online with Findmypast, for more North Staffordshire Regiment pension records.

In actual fact, there are over 34,000 North Staffordshire Regiment pension and service 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 North Staffordshire 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.

9 joined on 23rd August 1881
313 joined on 9th August 1882
543 joined on 17th February 1883
1315 joined on 17th September 1884
1432 joined on 24th January 1885
2001 joined on 17th April 1886
2313 joined on 4th March 1887
2496 joined on 27th February 1888
2692 joined on 4th January 1889
2954 joined on 29th January 1890
3295 joined on 26th February 1891
3591 joined on 19th January 1892
4015 joined on 16th February 1893
4428 joined on 15th February 1894
4701 joined on 8th January 1895
4899 joined on 25th January 1896
5246 joined on 18th February 1897
5580 joined on 17th February 1898
5823 joined on 2nd January 1899
6100 joined on 8th January 1900
6367 joined on 16th January 1901
6568 joined on 1st April 1902
6812 joined on 6th January 1903
7174 joined on 7th January 1904
7910 joined on 10th January 1905
8139 joined on 31st January 1906
8469 joined on 10th June 1907
8697 joined on 13th January 1908
9209 joined on 10th August 1909
9271 joined on 15th February 1910
9471 joined on 25th February 1911
9702 joined on 14th March 1912
9961 joined on 30th August 1913
10006 joined on 13th December 1913

My pre-WW1 data ends at this point. When Britain went to war with Germany eight months later, the new service battalions would draw numbers for their recruits from the series that had been in use by the 1st and 2nd Battalions.

The image on this post shows officers of the 2nd Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment outside the Officers' Mess in Multan, India in 1908. The image comes from Wikimedia Commons.

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