12 November 2014

Duplicate numbers

A visitor to one of my posts yesterday expressed surprise that someone listed on that post had the same number as his ancestor. How could that be?

I have covered this very common topic elsewhere but here's a quick overview of how this happens; and for the purpose of this post I'm going to refer to infantry only.

1. In July 1881 all line infantry regiments, with the exception of the Rifle Brigade, commenced a new numbering series which began at 1 on 1st July 1881. So straight away you have the first 68 duplicate numbers.
2. The militia battalions for each regiment each had their own number series too. Most regiments had two militia battalion and each of these battalions would have had its own number series. These militia battalions often recruited at a similar rate and it is quite often the case that I see numbers in the two battalions keeping pace with each other, neck and neck, over the years.
3. When the Territorial Force was formed in April 1908 the majority of its battalions started a new number series beginning at 1 although there were many notable exceptions, some of which I have drawn attention to on this blog.
4. When Britain went to war with Germany in August 1914 and new service battalions started forming, many of these battalions also started numbering from 1.

So by 1914 it would be possible, in a typical line regiment to see the same regimental number appearing in the regular battalions, the Special Reserve, the Extra Reserve and each Territorial Force battalion. Some numbers were prefixed with letters or numbers which can make identification of a particular battalion easier for today's researchers, but the application of these prefixes in documents of the time was inconsistent to say the least.

This blog only covers a fraction of the number series that would have been issued between 1881 and 1918 but I have much unpublished information on ALL infantry battalions and most corps besides. Use the index tab to navigate around corps, regiments and battalions but if you get stuck, or need additional help, have a look at the RESEARCH tab.

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