I received an email from someone who had read my recent post on the Royal Engineers and was enquiring about their own relative who joined the Royal Engineers and was given the number 10822. When did he join?
With all of the regiments and battalions I've covered - and have yet to cover - there is, or can be, a difference between the date a man attested and the date his attestation was approved and he was issued with a number.
Here is a sample of Royal Engineers attestations for men with five figure numbers beginning 108**. All of these records survive in WO 97, now published online here: British Army Service Records 1760-1915.
10805 attested [Chatham - 7&5] on 17th March 1902.
10807 attested [Warrington - 7&5] on 5th March 1902.
10810 attested [Reading - 7&5] on 14th March 1902.
10813 attested [Manchester - 7&5] on 15th March .
10826 attested [Bury St Edmunds - 7&5] on 19th March 1902.
10827 attested [Barrow - 3&9] on 17th March 1902.
10828 attested [Reading - 7&5] on 20th March 1902.
10829 attested [London - 7&5] on 19th March 1902.
10848 attested [Lurgan - 7&5] on 18th March 1902.
10852 attested [Hamilton - 7&5] on 31st March 1902.
10853 attested [Lurgan - 7&5] on 20th March 1902.
10854 attested [Manchester - 7&5] on 26th March 1902.
10856 attested [Newcastle-on-Tyne - 7&5] on 29th March 1902.
10865 attested [Helston - 3&9] on 1st April 1902.
10868 attested [Accrington - 3&9] on 2nd April 1902.
10879 attested [London - 3&9] on 3rd April 1902.
10883 attested [Worcester - 3&9] on 7th April 1902.
10884 attested [London - 7&5] on 16th April 1901.
10888 attested [Wexford - 3&9] on 1st April 1902.
10893 attested [Southampton - 3&9] on 7th April 1902.
So quite a variation in dates here. They're all March or April 1902 but the dates are only roughly sequential. The main exception here is 10884 who attested on the 16th April 1901 and who deserted the following day. So why does this 1901 attestation have a number which wasn't being issued until a year later? The answer lies in the date that the men's attestations were approved.
Here is that same list of numbers, this time with the approval dates instead of the attestation dates:
10805 approved 17th March 1902
10807 approved 17th March, 8/40 Reg District
10810 approved 19th March, 2nd Reg District
10813 approved 19th March
10826 approved 20th March, 12th Reg District
10827 approved 20th March
10828 approved 21st March, 49th Reg District
10829 approved 23rd March
10848 approved 27th March, 87th Reg District
10852 approved 31st March, 26th Reg District
10853 approved 29th March, 87th Reg District
10854 approved 29th March
10856 approved 2nd April, 5/68th Reg District
10865 approved 3rd April, 32nd Reg District
10868 approved 3rd April, 4th Reg District
10879 approved 8th April
10883 approved 8th April, 29th Reg District
10884 [finally] approved 9th April
10888 approved 13th April, 18th Reg District
10893 approved 8th April
Number 10893 is still slightly awry here, but the approval date; the date on which the man was appointed to his regiment, in this case The Royal Engineers, is the date which triggers the issue of the regimental number. And if you look at the small extract I've taken from the attestation paper of number 10810, you'll see that the number is written in a different hand, and a different ink from the other information on that first page of the attestation. The man's details would be filled out at the point of attestation - his age, address, trade etc - and the number comes after the attestation has been approved.
So to go back to my questioner and his relative who had the number 10822, my guess would be that he attested - presented himself before the recruiting staff - probably between the 15th and 19th March 1902, and was approved on the 19th or 20th March.
As for our 1901 attestation who deserted on the 17th April 1901, he forfeited 324 days' pay before being returned to duty on the 7th March 1902 and finally had his attestation approved on the 9th April that year. He was discharged at Chatham less than a month later as "not likely to become an efficient soldier".
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