The Dorsetshire Regiment was formed on 1st July 1881; the 1st Battalion from the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot, and the 2nd Battalion from the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot.
There are over 28,000 Dorsetshire 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 Dorsetshire 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.
The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Dorsetshire and started numbering from 1 in 1881.
6 joined on 5th July 1881
262 joined on 6th February 1882
465 joined on 2nd March 1883
1089 joined on 13th June 1884
1555 joined on 11th April 1885
2306 joined on 28th December 1886
2320 joined on 10th January 1887
2681 joined on 1st June 1888
2792 joined on 7th January 1889
2998 joined on 13th January 1890
3162 joined on 6th January 1891
3446 joined on 13th June 1892
3693 joined on 22nd March 1893
4310 joined on 5th March 1894
4607 joined on 7th January 1895
4805 joined on 16th January 1896
5350 joined on 26th March 1897
5645 joined on 18th January 1898
5872 joined on 5th April 1899
6114 joined on 27th February 1900
The Dorsetshire Regiment fielded one volunteer service company during the South African War. It did not leave “… an interval of a clear thousand between the last number received by an ordinary recruit… and the first Volunteer number” but carried straight on from where regular numbering left off. Numbers 6020 to 6101 were all 1st VSC men who joined in January 1900, so too were the drafts numbered 7108 to 7126 who joined in 1901. The 1st VSC sailed for South Africa aboard the SS Devon on 29th March 1900.
6367 joined on 9th September 1901
6422 joined on 17th January 1902
6674 joined on 4th March 1903
7142 joined on 11th February 1904
7533 joined on 25th January 1905
7990 joined on 18th July 1906
8280 joined on 30th January 1907
8440 joined on 3rd January 1908
8657 joined on 2nd January 1909
8915 joined on 5th April 1910
9094 joined on 27th February 1911
9318 joined on 17th January 1912
9500 joined on 6th January 1913
9784 joined on 9th June 1914
9828 joined on 5th August 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 21st March 1891, The Dorsetshire Regiment recruited 3,162 men, a below average rate of 330 soldiers a year and one which placed the regiment in the fortieth position out of sixty-nine infantry recruiting regiments. Nevertheless, it was to be the regiment’s most successful recruiting period.
Recruitment in the 1890s tailed off considerably, the regiment adding just over 3,205 men between January 1891 and September 1901; or a rate of 300 men per annum for the decade. It would be a similar picture in the next decade too.
Between September 1901 and February 1911, the regiment added a further 2,727 men to its ranks, an average of 290 men per year for the decade. From being 38th in the 1880s, the regiment fell to sixty-first position in the 1890s, climbing one position to sixtieth in the first ten years of the 1900s.
In total, between 1st July 1881 and 27th February 1911, The Dorsetshire Regiment recruited 9,094 men, well below the national average (355) at just 307 men a year.
1st Battalion stations 1881-1914
1893 Meean Meer
1914 France and Flanders (from August)
2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914
1899 South Africa
1914 Mesopotamia (from November)
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