4 January 2013

Postings - regular battalions

Earlier, I wrote:

"The regular battalions, that is, the battalions populated by career soldiers, operate a single regimental number sequence. A new recruit is given his number at the Regimental Depot, spends up to three months training at the Depot and is then posted to the 1st Battalion which is stationed in the UK. After 18 months to two years he is then posted to the 2nd Battalion which is serving overseas in India. His posting from the Depot to the 1st Battalion, and then from the 1st Battalion to the 2nd Battalion does not affect his regimental number which remains unchanged."

Here's an example of what I meant - and you'll find similar examples awash in WO 97, WO 363 and WO 364.

Michael Hooper joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 8th Jun 1894 and was given the regimental number 5089.  He was posted to the Depot and remained there until posted to the Home Battalion (in this case, the 1st Battalion) on the 23rd August 1894. He remained with the 1st Battalion, which was then stationed in Sheffield, until the 10th February 1896 when he was posted to the overseas battalion, the 2nd Battalion.  This battalion would have been stationed in Quetta when Michael Hooper joined it and his service record notes that he remained with the 2nd Battalion until September 1902 when he was posted back to the regimental Depot. In the intervening years, Hooper would have seen service in Bombay, Natal and South Africa, the battalion moving back to Ireland in 1902 (and becoming the Home Battalion) whilst the 1st Battalion, already overseas in South Africa as a result of the Boer War, moved on to Crete and Malta and took up the role of the overseas battalion.
Michael Hooper was transferred to the Army Reserve in October 1902 and on completing this period of reserve service elected to join Section D Reserve for a further four years.  He was finally discharged from Section D Reserve  on the 7th June 1910.
At no point during his army career, did Michael Hooper's number change.  Why would it?  He joined as a regularsoldier and moved freely between the two battalions during his army career.  Whilst on the reserve, had he been recalled to the Colours, he would have retained his service number.  However, from the moment he was discharged in 1910, his number would also have been discarded.  Even if he walked around the block and decided to re-enlist, that number would not have been re-issued to him. 
The image from Michael Hooper's service record in WO 363 (above) is Crown Copyright and reproduced by courtesy of the National Archives.  Interestingly, the same papers (but beautifully preserved) exist in WO 97, so here's another version of the same document:

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Anonymous said...

trying to find war records of my great great uncle Henry C J Belsham
died 7th June in France. Would like to know why a London would be in the 2Bat. Devenshires

Paul Nixon said...

Henry Belsham originally joined the 3rd Special Reserve Bn, Devons and would have been posted as part of a draft to the 2nd Battalion. His 3rd Bn number dates to August 1914. I can't explain why a Londoner would have joined the Special Reserve of the Devonshire Regt unless he happened to be living in Devon at the time. A study of the numbers issued to 3rd Devin men in Aug 1914 may reveal more.


Chris Taylor said...

Thanks for the quick reply Paul.
Can you tell me what the 3rd Special Reserve Bn actually was and what was their role.
Where would be the best place to look for his issue number

Paul Nixon said...

The Special Reserve was the successor to the militia and was formed in 1908. It was effectively an opportunity for men to try out army life without the full time commitment to a life of soldiering. In times of war the 3rd Battalion acted as a draft-finder for the regular battalions and this is what happened in the case of Harry Belsham.

Anonymous said...

One of my relatives, Walter Herbert YARE (b 1881 d 24.1.1917) was, according to the CWGC memorial in the 2nd/5th Bat. Durham Light Infantry. I've checked battles which may have been taking place on the date he died, and which involved the Durham LI, but without success. But my query relates to where he was buried - that was at the Sofia War Cemetery. Were the Durhams involved in fighting in Bulgaria, if not, how did this poor man end up in this place?

Paul Nixon said...

I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that one, although somebody here should do: http://www.durham.gov.uk/Pages/Service.aspx?ServiceId=6383