26 October 2011

South Wales Borderers 1881-1914 - 1st and 2nd Battalions


The information contained this post has been compiled as a result of looking at service records in WO 97, WO 363 and WO 364. All of these series, joy of joys, are now online via subscription or pay per view. Clicking on the links will take you to these pay-sites. My online correspondent, Greenwich Pensioner (GP), has also contributed data for 1907-1908 and I am grateful to him for his research.

There are over 28,000 South Wales Borderers pensionand 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 South Wales Borderers' 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 South Wales Borderers was formed on the 1st July 1881 from the 24th (the 2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot.

The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire and Radnor and started numbering from 1 in 1881.

12 joined on 12th August 1881
263 joined on 29th June 1882
732 joined on 26th June 1883
985 joined on 8th January 1884
1433 joined on 7th April 1885
1725 joined on 21st January 1886
2169 joined on 5th April 1887
2355 joined on 16th February 1888
2621 joined on 26th April 1889
3237 joined on 28th April 1890
3598 joined on 13th January 1891
3910 joined on 22nd January 1892
4150 joined on 13th March 1893
4520 joined on 10th January 1894
4851 joined on 10th January 1895
5188 joined on 25th January 1896
5551 joined on 12th January 1897
5894 joined on 18th March 1898
6076 joined on 13th January 1899
6623 joined on 9th March 1900


The South Wales Borderers raised two complete volunteer service companies during the South African War and one volunteer service section comprising one officer and 31 men. Numbers were allocated as follows:

1st VSC: numbers within the ranges 6720 to 6738 and 7502 to 7612
2nd VSC: numbers within the range 7613 to 7727
3rd VSC: numbers 7731 to 7761

The 1st VSC departed home locations on 29th January 1900 and by May that year had joined the 2nd Battalion at Osfontein in South Africa. The 2nd VSC was mobilized at Brecon on the 15th February and arrived at Cape Town on the 16th April 1901.

6977 joined on 1st April 1901
7257 joined on 16th April 1902
7868 joined on 8th January 1903
8341 joined on 28th January 1904
8841 joined on 31st July 1905
9246 joined on the 3rd July 1906

1907-1908

By 1905, the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers was in Karachi and a number of drafts from the UK were sent to Karachi during the time frame 1907-8 (about 450 men in all). When it was time for the 1st to come back to the UK, and for the 2nd Battalion to deploy overseas to South Africa (Pretoria), around 250 men were transferred to the 2nd so that the new overseas battalion was well up to strength.

The majority of the following numbers and names from 1907 and 1908 are reproduced here thanks to research undertaken by GP.

9495 Thomas Thomas joined on 8th January 1907
9510 joined on 29th January 1907
9579 Alfred Walker joined on 11th July 1907
9605 Ernest Charles Andrew joined on 24th August 1907
9607 Morgan Hopkins joined on 21st August 1907
9610 Harry Jenkins joined on 26th August 1907
9613 Albert William Powell joined on 22nd August 1907
9614 John Carlton joined on 29th August 1907
9616 Noah Francis joined on 30th August 1907
9617 William Gabb joined on 29th August 1907
9621 William Gough joined on 4th September 1907
9624 Walter Nash joined on 2nd September 1907
9630 Bedwin Robert Watson joined on 3rd September 1907
9637 David Williams joined on 3rd September 1907
9641 Arthur Ernest Peacock joined on 5th September 1907
9642 William Storer joined on 5th September 1907
9643 Joseph Humphries joined on 6th September 1907
9644 Osborn James Hales joined on 4th September 1907
9645 Will F Manning joined on 4th September 1907
9648 Alfred Smith joined on 5th September 1907
9656 James Camplin joined on 7th September 1907
9664 William Pope joined on 9th September 1907
9669 Eugene McCarthy joined on 11th September 1907
9679 Alfred E Box joined on 11th September 1907
9680 Henry George Spencer joined on 12th September 1907
9683 Sidney Ernest Collins joined on 12th September 1907
9686 William Joseph Powell joined on 12th September 1907
9690 George Warner joined on 16th September 1907
9696 William Suggett joined on 16th September 1907
9700 Isaac Rees Evans joined on 18th September 1907
9704 Peter Blake joined on 19th September 1907
9715 Evan John Davies joined on 23rd September 1907
9720 Eric Leslie Bowyer joined on 23rd September 1907
9726 Edgar William Wall joined on 23rd September 1907
9729 Nathan John Goat joined on 24th September 1907
9739 Alfred Ernest Mayhew joined on 12th October 1907
9745 Alfred Gibbons joined on 19th October 1907
9746 Thomas Davies joined on 21st October 1907
9750 John Hudson joined on 22nd October 1907
9752 Francis John Court joined on 24th October 1907
9758 Joseph Jennings joined on 5th November 1907
9769 Thomas Jones joined on 22nd November 1907
9785 John Dillon joined on 30th December 1907
9790 Robert Carver joined on 4th January 1908
9791 William Ludwick joined on 4th January 1908
9805 Ernest Cruise joined on 17th January 1908
9818 Fred Round joined on 16th January 1908
9861 Ernest Reuben Loveridge joined on 29th April 1908
9908 Gerbert Cockeran joined on 20th July 1908

10238 joined on 15th January 1909
10492 joined on the 12th August 1910
10648 joined on the 6th July 1911
10818 joined on 28th May 1912
11041 joined on 5th May 1913
11115 joined on 5th February 1914

The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914 an attempt appears to have been made to differentiate between those men who were enlisting for war-time service only and those men who were enlisting during war-time, but under regular terms of enlistment.

By August 1914, The South Wales Borderers had three separate number series running: one for the two regular battalions, one for the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, and one for the Territorial Brecknockshire Battalion. Quite a simple differentiation on the face of it, but the South Wales Borderers numbering is far from straightforward from August 1914 onwards.

Numbers prefixed with the number 3/ start appearing on attestation papers of men who were joining up for a career in the army. The 3/ appears to be a red herring, a way of differentiating perhaps, between war-time only enlistments and regular enlistments. However, the same prefix also appears – as it might be expected to do - on some 3rd Battalion numbers. Thus, for example 3/11283 joined up for seven years with the colours and three years on the reserve on the 2nd September 1914. However, the same number had already been issued to a man joining the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in March 1913.

At the same time, some men who were joining up for war-time service only were issued with numbers from the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, even though their papers are clearly not those of Special Reservists but rather men signing up for active service for three years or duration.

In summary, and ignoring the 3/ prefix, it looks as though numbers up until around 12300 were held back for men who wanted to join the SWB as career soldiers whilst numbers higher than this were issued to war-time only recruits.

Recruitment rates 1881-1911

Between 1st July 1881 and 25th February 1891, The South Wales Borderers recruited 3,598 men, a good average of 375 men each year. Of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at this time, The South Wales Borderers was the seventeenth most successful infantry recruiter.

Recruitment in the 1890s dipped for the regiment and by April 1901 it was issuing number 6977 to its latest career soldier, an average recruitment rate of 330 men per annum and put the regiment in thirty-eighth place out of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at the time.

Recruitment in the regiment picked up in the first decade of the twentieth century and by July 1911 the regiment had issued number 10648 to its latest recruit; an above-average recruitment rate for the 1900s of 358 men.

1st Battalion stations 1881-1914

1881 Colchester
1883 Kilkenny
1885 Curragh
1887 Dublin
1889 Aldershot
1893 Egypt
1895 Gibraltar
1897 Chakratta
1903 Dalhousie
1905 Karachi
1909 Quetta
1910 Chatham
1913 Bordon
1914 France and Flanders (from August)

2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914

1881 Sheffield
1883 Mullingar (India)
1888 Cork
1891 Devonport
1892 Secunderabad
1897 Bellary
1899 Ahmednagar
1901 Subathu
1904 Quetta
1906 South Africa
1908 (Sep) - 1910 (Jan) Pembroke Dock
1910 (Jan) - 1912 (Oct) Pretoria
1912 (Oct) - 1914 (Sept) Tientsin, China

1914 Tsingtao / Hong Kong
1915 (Jan) UK

The photo on this blog is an anachronism and shows men of the 24th Regiment of Foot in 1879.  Image taken from Historik Orders.

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

Further reading:

The South Wales Borderers, 24th Foot 1689-1937

Historical records of the 24th Regiment (South Wales Borderers)

History of the South Wales Borderers 1914-1918

17 October 2011

Dorsetshire Regiment 1881-1914 - 1st and 2nd Battalions


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

1881 Bengal
1882 Chatham
1885 Malta
1886 England
1888 Malta
1889 Egypt
1893 Meean Meer
1895 Bangalore
1897 Tirah
1898 Nowshera
1902 Feroxepore
1906 Gosport
1909 Farnborough
1911 Blackdown
1913 Belfast
1914 France and Flanders (from August)

2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914

1881 Cherat
1885 Aden
1887 Malta
1888 Portsmouth
1891 Plymouth
1893 Enniskillen
1898 Crete
1899 Malta
1899 South Africa
1902 Portland
1904 Colchester
1906 Madras
1910 Poona
1914 Mesopotamia (from November)

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5 October 2011

George Henry Johnson

I've received an enquiry asking for any information about George Henry Johnson of The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghmashire and Derbyshire Regiment) who died in Flanders in 1917.

Soldiers Died in The Great War notes two men of this name who died whilst serving with this regiment, one in 1916 and one in 1917. The man who died in 1917 was killed in action on the 28th November 1917. He was born in Farndon, Nottinghamshire and enlisted at Newark. At the time of his death he was serving with the 1/6th Battalion, a Territorial Force Battalion and had the number 242600. He was entitled to the British War and Victory medals.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that he was the husband of H Johnson of 20 George Street, Newark, Notts. He is buried in Philosophe British Cemetery in Mazingarbe; grave reference III.A.40 (see map above).

George's number is a mystery to me. I had suggested that his original number -20007 - noted on his medal index card, suggested enlistment into a service battalion in 1914. However, Stuart, in a comment on this post (below) has put me right. He writes:

"This particular number, 20007, is not an original enlistment number, which explains your difficulty in pinning it down. The N&D territorials used the 20*** series of numbers for inter-TF battalion transfers during 1915 and 1916. In this particular case, with the man residing and enlisting in Newark, he would almost certainly have enlisted originally with the 8th Bn (original TF number unknown) and at a later date was posted to the 6th Bn, with subsequent change of number. Unfortunately, the Notts and Derby Regt usually work in alphabetical order (rather than original TF number order), so it is very difficult to work out the original numbers."

Stuart, thank you very much for that.

George's six-digit number certainly belongs within the range of numbers allocated to the 6th Battalion when the Territorial Force was re-numbered in 1917. The fact that he was only entitled to the British War and Victory medals means that he certainly didn't arrive overseas until 1st January 1916 or later. No service record appears to survive for this man.

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

3 October 2011

250,000 thank-yous


I see that this blog notched up its 250,000th page load earlier today; quite remarkable and I'm really very pleased that so many people have visited the blog and that increasing numbers are repeat visitors.

I have plenty more data which will be published and that will be coming soon.

But in the meantime, thanks for visiting and thanks for helping me to achieve this milestone.

Image courtesy of ww1propaganda.com

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