28 March 2010

Suffolk Regiment - 5th Battalion


I was in 5th Suffolk territory today. En route to Bury St Edmunds, the headquarters of the 5th Battalion (and also home to a splendid Boer War Memorial, above) I passed through Sudbury. In the days before the Territorial Force was formed, Sudbury was home to two companies of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, and the building which housed D Company is still standing and still in use by today's territorials. There, above the large red doorway, carved into stone, is the legend, "D Company, 2nd Vol Batt, Suffolk Regt". That gives me as good an excuse as any to write a little bit about the 5th Suffolk Regiment.

This post will look at numbering in the 5th Suffolk Regiment between 1908 and 1916. All of the number information below is taken from service records which survive in the WO 363 and WO 364 series at the National Archives. You can view these there, or on-line via Ancestry which is offering a FREE 14-day trial.

Prior to 1908, the companies of the Suffolk Regiment's 2nd Volunteer Battalion were distributed as follows:

A Company: Stowmarket
B Company: Eye
C Company: Sudbury
D Company: Sudbury
E Company: Bury St Edmunds
F Company: Bury St Edmunds
G Company: Haverhill
H: Company: Newmarket

When the 5th Suffolk Regiment was born on the 1st April 1908, the distribution of its companies was slightly different:

A Company: Stowmarket, with a drill station at Eye
B Company: Beccles, with a drill station at Bungay
C Company: Hadleigh, with a drill station at Bildeston
D Company: Sudbury, with drill stations at Long Melford and Bures
E Company: Bury St Edmunds, with a drill station at Barrow
F Company: Bury St Edmunds, with a drill station at Lavenham
G Company: Haverhill, with a drill station at Clare
H: Company: Newmarket, with a drill station at Mildenhall

The battalion started numbering from 1 in 1908.

26 joined on 6th April 1908
654 joined on 18th January 1909
1062 joined on 21st February 1910
1167 joined on 6th March 1911
1504 joined on 27th March 1912
1690 joined on 25th January 1913
1944 joined on 20th February 1914
2080 joined on 10th August 1914
2190 joined on 2nd September 1914
2577 joined on 22nd October 1914
2715 joined on 14th November 1914
2876 joined on 15th December 1914
2964 joined on 2nd January 1915
3187 joined on 15th February 1915
3223 joined on 8th March 1915
3267 joined on 17th April 1915
3362 joined on 3rd May 1915
3519 joined on 1st June 1915
3656 joined on 26th July 1915
3752 joined on 20th November 1915
3774 joined on 25th January 1916
3832 joined on 8th February 1916
4062 joined on 1st March 1916
4545 joined on 12th April 1916
5189 joined on 31st May 1916
5636 joined on 17th July 1916
5697 joined on 4th August 1916
5719 joined on 4th September 1916
5848 joined on 12th October 1916
6285 joined on 11th November 1916

When the Territorial Force was re-numbered in early 1917, the 5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was issued numbers within the block 240001 to 256000.

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Suffolk Regiment titles from The Naval & Military Press:


History of the 12th (The Suffolk Regiment) 1685-1913

A very detailed history by an experienced author who observes that he was much assisted by the wealth of personal diaries, journals and varied reminiscences of the old 12th. There are informative appendices such as the succession of Colonels with biographies, succession of COs and Adjutants, and a chapter on uniform, equipment and the Colours.

During the almost 230 years covered by this history, the Suffolks served in India (Seringapatam is a principal battle honour), in Africa during the Kaffir and Boer Wars, in New Zealand in the Maori War, on the NW Frontier in the 2nd Afghan War, in the West Indies and Mauritius. Colour plates depict uniforms, battle scenes and the Colours in 1686 and 1849. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.


History of the Suffolk Regiment 1914-1927

This volume begins on 1st January 1914 when the Suffolk Regiment consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, and the 4th, 5th and 6th (Cyclist) Battalions of the Territorial Force. After the outbreak of war sixteen more battalions were raised and added, and in 1917 the Suffolk Yeomanry converted into the 15th Battalion, making a grand total of twenty-three. Battalions of the Regiment served in France and Flanders, Gallipoli, Macedonia, Egypt and Palestine, and at home.

This book, based on war diaries, private diaries, letters and interviews, tells the stroies of the men who served. 6,650 officers and men died for King and Country and two VCs were won and 73 Battle Honours awarded.

Given the scope of this volume and space considerations there is no Roll of Honour and the list of Honours and Awards is a very limited one showing only some of the more important honours gained. Inevitably some battalions get fuller treatment than others but the main events are clearly described.

The narrative appears in chronological order, beginning in 1914 with the 1st Battalion moving from Egypt to Khartoum and the 2nd Battalion in the Curragh with 14th Brigade, 5th Division, one of the original BEF divisions. As the story unfolds so the various battalions on active service are brought into the picture and the part they played in the battles is described. One chapter is given to the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion at home and another to all the other battalions that did not go on active service. There is a comprehensive, 26-page index. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.


Diary of Colonel Bayly, 12th Regiment, 1796-1803 (Seringapatnam 1799)

Entertaining, if bloody, account of the 12th Regiment of Foot in India and their struggles against Tippoo Sultan. CLICK HERE FOR FURTHER DETAILS.


Centurions of a Century

Nostalgic look back at Britain’s military campaigns, battles and leaders as well as (Suffolk) regimental actions and regimental life, all spread over more than a hundred years. Published in 1914, the book deals with Britain's colonial wars up until the death of Queen Victoria. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

21 March 2010

21st Lancers 1897-1906


In 1897 the 21st Hussars was re-designated the 21st Lancers. Read about numbering in the 21st Hussars HERE. Numbering in the 21st (Empress of India's) Lancers picked up from where the 21st Hussars left off, and this post will look at numbering in the regiment between 1897 and 1906.

All the numbers below are taken from service records which survive in the WO 363 and the WO 364 series at the National Archives. View them at Kew or on-line via Ancestry which is currently offering a FREE 14-day trial.

4032 joined on 15th January 1897
4208 joined on 9th September 1898
4250 joined on 28th January 1899
4785 joined on 21st February 1900
5089 joined on 2nd January 1901
5549 joined on 1st January 1902
6623 joined on 23rd February 1903
I currently have no data for 1904
6366 joined on 4th September 1905
6569 joined on 13th January 1906

In December 1906, Army Order 289 changed the way in which the cavalry were to number. Prior to this Army Order, all cavalry regiments had numbered individually by regiments. Now, line cavalry and household cavalry were differentiated, and each corps of line cavalry was to use a separate number series extending to 49,999. For more information on cavalry numbering and examples of cavalry attestations, see these previous posts:

Queen's & King's Regulations - numbering
Cavalry numbering in 1906
A cavalry numbering conundrum

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

14 March 2010

Volunteer Service Companies


I came across an excellent internet resource today: Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force 1859-1908. Click on the link in that last sentence and you can download it for free.

The following information regarding the birth of the Volunteer Service Companies and their composition, is taken from page 92 of this work.

"The reverses suffered by our arms in South Africa in December 1899 led to a call for more troops, and to a great outburst of national warlike enthusiasm, and accordingly, on January 2, 1900, a special Army Order was issued calling upon the volunteers to furnish their contingent of trained men to reinforce the army in the field.

"For each battalion serving in South Africa a selected company was directed to be raised from its affiliated volunteer battalions and sent out so serve with it, and to be placed under the orders of its commanding officer. Each company was to be composed of 1 captain, 2 subalterns, 1 serjeant-instructor as pay serjeant, 4 serjeants, 2 buglers, 5 corporals, 99 privates and 2 stretcher-bearers, or 116 of all ranks and an equal number of "waiting companies" was to raised and maintained at home. Each volunteer battalion was to form a complete section at least.

"To surmount the difficulties of the Volunteer Act, the men were to be enlisted for the regular army for a period of one year or the duration of the war, those taken for the "waiting companies" being transferred to the reserve until required for service. The conditions of enlistment were that men should be not under 20 or more than 35 years of age, 1st class (volunteer) shots, efficient in the years 1898 and 1899, of good character, medically fit, and, by preference, unmarried. They were to be paid, rationed, clothed and equipped as soldiers of the regular battalions (though continuing to wear the designation of their volunteer battalions on their shoulder straps), and were to be granted wound pensions as for the regular army. On completion of their term of service they were to be granted £5 as a gratuity, besides any special gratuity issued for the war. The corps to which the men belonged was to be given a sum of £9 to cover the cost of equipment of each volunteer, and the men were to be borne as supernumerary to their corps and to be considered as "efficients", the corps continuing to draw the full capitation grant for them.

"Needless to say, this call was met with alacrity in Scotland, end eleven special service companies were quickly formed, one for each regiment with one battalion in the field and two for the Gordon Highlanders, both regular battalions of which were at the seat of war, the London Scottish being affiliated with the local volunteer battalions of that regiment in the formation of the service companies. The companies sailed for South Africa in February or early March 1900.

"On January 25 1901, before the year's service of the first companies had expired, a call for companies to replace those was made and responded to and on March 3 1901, the formation of 8 volunteer cyclist companies was called for, one of them to be furnished by the Scottish volunteers..."

The image on this post was originally published in The Graphic of 1902 and shows men from an unknown VSC of the Hampshire Regiment. The image also appears HERE on the South African Military History Society website.

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

11 March 2010

21st Hussars 1874-1896


This post will look at numbering in the 21st Hussars.

My data for the cavalry regiments goes back further than 1881 and so I'm going to start in 1874 which is where my data for this regiment currently begins. Service records for all of the following numbers survive in WO 364 and WO 363 at the National Archives. These records can also be viewed on line via Ancestry which is currently offering a FREE 14 day trial. Plenty of cavalry records also survive in WO 97, the Chelsea Pensioner series.

1370 joined on 28th November 1874
1412 joined on 5th October 1876
1784 joined on 24th July 1878
1940 joined on 26th May 1880
2016 joined on 3rd February 1881
2131 joined on 3rd January 1883
2414 joined on 23rd February 1885
2486 joined on 21st January 1886
2733 joined on 25th January 1887
2998 joined on 22nd February 1888
3132 joined on 21st October 1889
3225 joined on 9th September 1890
3331 joined on 4th July 1891
3472 joined on 28th July 1892
3590 joined on 14th February 1893
3857 joined on 28th September 1894
3955 joined on 25th August 1895
3977 joined on 21st November 1896

In 1897 the regiment was re-designated the 21st Lancers and so as far as this post is concerned, the 21st Hussars story ends here. See HERE for the 21st Lancers.

In December 1906, Army Order 289 changed the way in which the cavalry were to number. Prior to this Army Order, all cavalry regiments had numbered individually by regiments. Now, line cavalry and household cavalry were differentiated, and each corps of line cavalry was to use a separate number series extending to 49,999. For more information on cavalry numbering and examples of cavalry attestations, see these previous posts:

Queen's & King's Regulations - numbering
Cavalry numbering in 1906
A cavalry numbering conundrum

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

4 March 2010

Manchester Regiment - Volunteer Service Companies


Special Army Order 29 of 2nd January 1900 stated:

"The regimental numbers given to the members of the Volunteer companies will form a portion of the regimental series, but, in order to avoid the confusion which would result from the assignment of numbers to Volunteers and ordinary recruits indiscriminately, and also to simplify future reference, the Volunteer numbering should run consecutively, with an interval of a clear thousand between the last number received by an ordinary recruit, at the date on which the Volunteer numbering begins, and the first Volunteer number."

The following year there was another Army Order. On 25th January 1901, Special Army Order 41 stated that fresh companies could be raised as above and those already in South Africa could stay if they wished to.

The Manchester Regiment fielded four Volunteer Service Companies during the Boer War and this post will look at numbering in those companies and how that numbering fitted in with numbering in the - at that stage - four regular battalions.

For some reason, the WO 363 class at the National Archives is awash with service records for the Manchester VSCs. Some other regiments appear to have no surviving VSC records at all. All the records mentioned below are at the National Archives and can also be viewed on-line at the Ancestry.co.uk website which is currently offering a FREE 14 Day Trial.

1st Volunteer Service Company
This VSC comprised numbers from 7001 through to 7197. First numbers were issued on the 9th February 1900 and the final numbers by 10th March 1900. Men joining the 1st VSC joined in sequential order according to the Volunteer Battalion they were serving with at the time. So 7001 through to 7026 are all 1st VB men; 7032 to 7057 are 2nd VB men, and so on. All Volunteers, in all VS companies, enlisted for one year only.

2nd Volunteer Service Company
Numbering in this VSC is a little more complicated. Numbers 7113 through to 7224 are all 2nd VCS men. So too are numbers from 8225 through to 8325, and the single number 8367.

7224 was issued to a VSC on the 10th March 1900. Meanwhile, numbering in the four regular battalions continued apace and by October 1901 the regiment was approaching 7000 (ie, the series of numbers that had already been allocated to VSC men the previous year).

Numbers 8225 through to 8257 were all issued in 1901. 8227 was issued on the 4th February 1901 and I'm guessing that the other numbers also date to close to that time. Presumably the authorities realised that numbering in the regular battalions would soon reach 7000 and they took the decision in early 1901 to give a clear break of 1000 from the last VSC number they had issued in March 1900 (7224).

3rd Volunteer Service Company
This VCS comprised numbers from 8236 through to 8366, all of which were issued in February and (I'm guessing) March 1901.

4th Volunteer Service Company
This VSC comprised numbers from 8376 to 8462. These numbers were issued between 17th February and 4th March 1902.

8463, the next number in line, was issued to a regular soldier who joined on the 2nd January 1903.

My thanks to Stuart Wilson, David Langley, Graham Stewart and Mike C in Canada, for their input - via correspondence on this blog and elsewhere - regarding VSCs generally and the Manchester Regiment specifically. The AO reference above is taken from the privately published Regimental and Army Numbers of the British Line Infantry Soldier from AD. 1800 to 2008 by Langley and Stewart.

Also see my blog post on the regular battalions of The Manchester Regiment.

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