19 September 2011

Royal Engineers 108*

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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Anonymous said...

would you know the date of enlistment for a WW1 1st battalion loyal north lancs man no.40524,
many thanks for your time,

Paul Nixon said...

Not precisely John, but between Aug 1917 and April 1918; probably closer to the beginning of 1918 but I can't be certain I'm afraid.

Ann said...


I wonder if you will be able to help me. My great grandfather is also listed on this page. His regiment number was S/10807. His name was Francis Charles John Roloff, born in borough London 1898.

I've found his medal card but I'm not sure what everything means, and I'm also finding it impossible to find any other information relating to him - especially when/where he enlisted/volunteered.

The card says he was in the Rifle Brigade - am I right in thinking that's what the 'S' stands for, in his regiment number? His rank was Private. But what does the number 10807 correspond to exactly - I'm new to this, sorry. Your post says 8/40, what does that mean? Can I find out, somewhere, where they were stationed? Also, on the card there is a Victory medal listed, with roll number: M/102 [looks like a]B 18 [[M/102B18]], and page:2430.

Any help you can give me, and if you can point me to where I can find info relating these numbers would be greatly appreciated. I recently made the mistake of volunteering as the new family historian. ;)

Many thanks,
Victoria A Roloff

Paul Nixon said...

Ann, thank you for your comment. I've left a full response here: http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/2011/09/francis-roloff-rifle-brigade.html.

I couldn't find my reference to 8/40 that you refer to, but as far as your great-grandfather is concerned, this is a red herring so don't let that side-track you.


Dave Cooke said...

Hi, I have 14-18 medals to 988 Sapper Deere RE. Looks a very low number. .were numbers always sequential or could they have been re issued? There in no prefix and he's only got the 15 star, not the 14 star...bit confused

Paul Nixon said...

Dave, he was Territorial with the Glamorgan Fortress Companies. His medal index card notes two numbers: 988 and 454291. The second number is the number he was given when the TF was renumbered and it belongs to the block allocated to the Glamorgan Fortress Coys. His card notes he was a Territorial and also that he arrived in France on 9th March 1915 - so 1914/15 Star plus the BWM and VM is the correct medal entitlement.


Rocketman said...

Paul I have found your site looking for the enlistment date of my great uncle Sapper Thomas Batty. He enlisted after 1914 so I do understand he won't be on here. Can you point me in a direction where I may be able to find more information?
Sapper T Batty No 2719 Royal Engineers
2nd & 1st Field Co (458th Company) West Riding Division
No 4 Section
I estimate he enlisted in 1915, trained at Redmires, Sheffield, shipped for France in October 1915, and died 01/07/1916.

This is a fantastic site - what a huge labour!


Jeremy Wright

Paul Nixon said...

Jeremy, thanks for your compliments.

My data on the RE is very thin and I have nothing meaningful for the TF units. If you've not already done so, try the Royal Engineers museum: http://www.re-museum.co.uk/.

You might also want to see if you can narrow down the number to a date of joining. Best bet mught be to search on Ancestry or findmypast using the wildcard number search 476* and 478*. The logic here is that men in the 1st Field Coy were later re-numbered in the range 476001 - 478000, whilst men in the 2nd Field Coy were re-numbered in the range 478001 - 480000. It will be a laborious task, but easier on findmypast than on Ancestry. You'll be looking for men whose records give their six digit number and the earlier number as well. The lower the six digit number, the lower the original number. For instance, 478022 Alan Turner was originally 693 and he originally enlisted in the 2nd WR Field Coy on 20th June 1911. His second number indicates that by the time the RE was re-numbered in 1917, he was the 22nd most senior man (in terms of longevity) serving with that unit; ie there were only 21 men in that unit who had longer service than he did. As I say, it's a laborious process, but you'll be looking for a man with a much higher six digit number whose original number is as close as you can find to 2719. But this will only give you a rough joining date, nothing else. War diaries may also be a good bet (although it's unlikely he'll get a mention by name) and these are housed at the National Archives in Kew. Good luck.