24 December 2015
Army Service Numbers 1881-1918: one million views and counting
Yesterday, seven years after I launched this blog, it received its millionth view. In those seven years I have published 426 posts - and you're reading the 427th post now.
More importantly, over the last seven years, I have tried to make sense of the regimental numbering system in the British Army. 1881 was my starting point because this was the year which saw the demise of the old regiments of foot and their re-birth as county or territorial regiments, a process which had begun nine years earlier. I chose 1918 as my end point because it marked the end of the First World War, although it would have actually made more sense to put the end date at 1920 which was when, actually, regimental numbers were replaced by army numbers.
Correctly then, were I starting this exercise again, I would probably have called this blog, British Army regimental numbers 1881-1920. Semantics aside, however, I am pleased that the information published here has been useful. Understand too, that what is published here is a fraction of the information I have researched over the years. I set out on this exercise initially because I was frustrated that so many of the men I was researching from the Sussex village of Chailey had no surviving service records. For the majority, all that survived was a medal index card and medal rolls and most of these told me very little about when the man had joined the army. At that time too, with a few notable exceptions (Graham Stewart and David Langley in particular), general opinion was that regimental numbers told you very little. I hope that I have proven that opinion to be flawed.
The posts on this blog have mostly concentrated on the period 1881-1914. Regimental numbering certainly becomes more complicated, and more interesting in many respects, from August 1914, and worthy of study in its own right is the response of the army as a whole and regiments in particular, to the challenges brought about by mass recruiting and the formation of brand new battalions. Regiments dealt with this challenge in different ways and some certainly seem to have been more organised than others.
Over the last seven years my own interests have also developed. The First World War remains an abiding passion, but I have become more interested in the late Victorian army and the regular army which went to war in August 1914. I have an enduring admiration for the men of that army and the manner in which they fought in their Majesties' many small wars.
I have also started publishing regimental lists of other rank PoWs captured in 1914 (the only online resource, as far as I know, where this information is available regimentally) and I launched a low-cost research service. Oh, and I continued to post on the other eight blogs that are currently running (although maybe 2016 will see some consolidation in this area).
Thanks for supporting this blog over the last seven years. Onward and upward.
The image on this post is taken from the Gardin-Zanardi archive.