31 December 2011
Royal Warwickshire Regiment - Militia and Special Reserve
This post will look at numbering in the regular, militia, special and extra reserve battalions of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and will attempt to explain the vagaries (and applied logic) of regimental numbering. But first, a snapshot of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1897. The regiment had two regular battalions; men generally enlisting for short service (typically seven years with the colours and five on the reserve) or for long service (twelve years with the colours and no obligation to serve with the reserve). In 1897 the two regular battalions of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment were disposed as follows:
1st Battalion: Stationed in Egypt
2nd Battalion: Stationed in Chatham, Kent
Both of these battalions drew their regimental numbers from the same number series. A man joining the regiment as a regular soldier in 1897 would typically arrive at the regimental depot, be issued with his number and then undergo ten weeks' training at the depot before joining the 2nd Battalion (or whatever the home battalion happened to be). Typically, after two years' service with the home battalion, he would then be posted to the 1st Battalion (or whatever regular battalion of the regiment was serving overseas). This was a pattern that was repeated throughout the British Infantry of the Line regiments and one which meant that the most experienced soldiers were generally serving in the British Empire's far-flung outposts, whilst the newer, more inexperienced men were learning the ropes with the home service battalion in the UK (which at that time included the whole of Ireland). Battalions were supposed to do an overseas tour of duty for 16 years and then swapped places with the home battalion.
In 1897, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment also had two militia battalions, the 3rd and 4th Battalions. These two battalions each had their own distinctive regimental number series and both battalions, like the two regular battalions, were administered from the regimental depot at Warwick. The militia was a part-time, home service army which largely drew its recruits from the local area. The regular battalions, whilst territorially organised since 1st April 1873, recruited men locally but also drew men from further afield. See my post on Border Regiment recruitment in 1906 as an example of this.
On the 6th April 1898, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment raised a third, regular battalion in Ireland which was designated the 3rd Battalion. The regimental depot was thus now issuing numbers to men who could be posted to any of the three regular battalions - and be posted between battalions - and still retain their regular number. The creation of a fourth regular battalion (the 4th Battalion, raised at Colchester on the 3rd February 1900) was treated in exactly the same way: one number series for regular soldiers which was shared between the (now) four regular battalions.
The creation of two more regular battalions with numbers already allocated to militia battalions now created a problem which was logically solved. What had been the 3rd and 4th Militia Battalions of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment now became the 5th and 6th Militia Battalions. Although I've not seen any Army Council Instruction dealing with the re-numbering of militia battalions, it would appear that this happened at around the same time as the new 3rd (Regular) Battalion was formed. Alfred Ashfield and Frank Kirk both joined the 4th (Militia) Battalion on the 7th April 1898 (the day after the 3rd Regular battalion was formed) and Richard Ryan joined the 4th Battalion on the 12th April 1898. All of their attestation papers clearly show that they joined the 4th Battalion, rather than the 6th. By the 15th of April 1898 however, John Coney had joined the 6th Battalion, and my research of attestation papers for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment militia battalions for April 1898 onwards would suggest that by the middle of the month, the 3rd and 4th militia battalions had ceased to exist, being replaced by the 5th and 6th Battalions. It's interesting to note however, that old rubber stamps for the 4th Battalion (and probably the 3rd as well) were still being used as late as September 1898, the new number 6 being crudely over-written, as in the example below.
As for the numbering in the militia battalions, this remained unchanged. Men who had joined the 3rd militia battalion and now found themselves with the 5th Battalion, retained their 3rd Battalion numbers. New men joining the 5th Battalion from around mid April 1898 were simply given numbers in continuation of the (old) 3rd Battalion number series. The process worked in exactly the same way for the serving men and new recruits into the 4th/6th militia battalions.
Fast forward nine years.
By April 1907 the two newest regular Royal Warwickshire Regiment battalions - the 3rd and 4th - had both been disbanded and so when the Special Reserve was formed in 1908, the two Royal Warwickshire Regiment SR battalions were designated the 3rd (Special Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions. Men transferring from the militia battalions into the Special Reserve retained their old militia numbers whilst new recruits into the two Special Reserve battalions were simply given numbers in continuation of what had been the old militia number series. For example, 129 Leon Taylor joined the 6th (Militia) Battalion on the 5th March 1907 and 367 William Dearn (a man with no prior military service) joined the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion on the 10th April 1908.
This concludes my post on militia and SR numbering in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and indeed my posts for 2011. I wish all readers of this blog a happy and successful 2012.
The image I've chosen for this post is an anachronism, depicting a cross belt plate of the 6th Regiment of Foot. It comes from the 1812 History website.
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