22 February 2015

The colourful guide to regimental numbering

Regimental number series, Essex Regiment
Here's a visual attempt to try and explain regimental numbering in a typical infantry regiment.  In the pre-1908 example above we see my local regiment, the Essex Regiment, which has:

1.A regimental depot and two regular battalions
2.Two militia battalions
3. Four Volunteer Force battalions

Each of the colours in the image represent a different regimental numbering series. So we can see that the regimental depot and the first and the second battalions shared one number series, whilst all the other battalions had their own unique numbering series.  In total then, we have seven different numbering series being used by the Essex Regiment at this time (and by the way, there's nothing particularly special about 1899; I simply use that year as a snapshot in time).

Regimental number series, Essex Regiment
Fast forward ten years. In 1908, the Special Reserve and the Extra Reserve replaced the militia, and the Territorial Force replaced the Volunteer Force. Twenty-three infantry regiments each lost a militia battalion and the Essex Regiment was one of these, losing its 4th Battalion.
I've maintained the same colour schemes to illustrate the different number series used:
1. The regimental depot and 1st and 2nd regular battalions continued with the same numbering series just as they had done in 1899.
2. Men joining the 3rd (Special Reserve) from the 3rd ((Militia) Battalion, carried their old militia battalion with them. Men joining from the old 4th (Militia) Battalion as well as new recruits, were all given numbers from a new number series which began at 1.
3. All Territorial Force battalions started numbering from 1.  The 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions were the natural successors to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Volunteer Force battalions respectively. The Essex & Suffolk Cyclist Battalion was a new battalion formed on 1st April 1908. It was ultimately short-lived and in June 1910 became the 8th Battalion, Essex Regiment, the Suffolk elements being formed into the 6th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.
But in any event, by April 1909 there were eight distinct regimental number series in use in the Essex regiment (including two being used by the 3rd Battalion - the old militia series and the new series begun in 1908).
I use this example of the Essex Regiment simply to illustrate that there were many number series in use at any one time in the British Army. I started this blog to help to make sense of it all and have information on regimental number series for most battalions and units of the British Army between 1881 and 1918 (and a good deal earlier for most cavalry units). If you can't find what you're looking for on this blog and need more help, please visit my Research Page. Research requests are normally fulfilled within 48 hours.
I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information.

No comments: