18 August 2018

Happy Birthday - 10 years old


I see that this Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 blog is ten years old today and as I launched it when I was living in India, it seems fitting that the image on this post should be from the Durbar that took place in Delhi in 1911. The new King Emperor George V and his wife Queen Mary were regally entertained with all the pomp and ceremony one might have expected.

Queen Victoria's army and the armies of her son, King Edward VII, and his son, King George V, remain a passion for me. In the last ten years I have written over 500 posts for this blog, not to mention countless posts for my other blogs. Last year, I launched a new initiative, British Army Ancestors, a site where you can upload photographs of your soldier ancestors and which also works rather well as a fast free search of over 11.6m British Army records sourced from The National Archives and elsewhere. It's free to search but you'll need to pay to view records.

In the meantime, I will continue to post information on this blog and I welcome comments, although the sheer volume of correspondence I receive means that sometimes my responses are delayed. 

So thanks for supporting this blog and in the meantime, "Happy Birthday to Army Service Numbers 1881-1918, Happy Birthday to Army Service Numbers 1881-1918..."


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16 August 2018

Somerset Light Infantry - regimental number analysis


Some while back I posted a list of men of the Somersetshire Light Infantry who had been captured by the Germans on or before Christmas Day 1914. You can read my Somerset Regiment PoWs post by clicking on the link. Anyway, here are those men again in regimental number order:

4661 Sergeant Patrick Williams, 4789 Sergeant H Lugg  

5324 Private G Hawthorne, 5446 Lance-Corporal W Knight, 5456 Private F Allen, 5569 Private O Veale, 5806 Sergeant W Tooze, 5878 Private W Fear, 5968 Sgt Bugler J Prince  

6029 Private T Biggs, 6188 Private J Duxberry, 6296 Private W J Crockson, 6359 Private R Roberts, 6453 Private P Garter, 6590 Private G Morgan, 6596 Private C Webber, 6609 Private J Appleton,  6637 Private W Chapman, 6653 Private J Mounce, 6661 Private James S Wilkins, 6681 Private G Willis, 6689 Private T Murley, 6700 Private S Dyer, 6703 Private G Wills, 6712 Private J Arthur,  6739 Private Arthur Burt, 6774 Private C Bailey, 6778 Private P Phillips, 6926 Private J Anderson  6950 Private C Bullock, 6956 Private Frank Stone, 6960 Private H Soper, 6975 Private W Coleman, 6997 Corporal D Gillespie, 6999 Private W Oates  

7004 Private J Dredge, 7028 Corporal J Willis, 7043 Private J Branchflower, 7045 Private A Ford, 7061 Private W Baldwin, 7092 Private H Gunningham, 7101 Private C Holder, 7103 Private A Gray, 7108 Private A Gray, 7129 Private H Gillard, 7167 Corporal W Care, 7196 Private D Golden, 7227 Private J Tucker, 7234 Private F Long, 7274 Lance-Corporal T Smale, 7279 Private H Burt, 7289 Private R Kates, 7303 Private J Meadon, 7307 Private C Hacker, 7315 Private A Bowsher, 7338 Corporal E Davies, 7341 Private E Derrick, 7344 Private C Greet, 7360 Private T Hampshire,7360 Private T Humphries, 7361 Private P Francis, 7369 Private S Summerhayes, 7412 Private F Smith, 7413 Private J Houlding, 7418 Private G Hann, 7421 Lance-Sergeant C Wills, 7464 Private J Ford,  7471 Private H Joyce, 7478 Private C Stokes, 7489 Private Albert S Pitt  7498 Private J Derrick  7505 Private W Harding  7512 Corporal C H A Dally, 7534 Private T Whalley 7545 Private A Wathen  7563 Private H Nash  7570 Private F J Young, 7576 Private T French, 7581 Private W Cousins, 7613 Private L Grant, 7615 Private H Compton, 7620 Private F Stokes, 7634 Private F Weston, 7667 Private C Pafford, 7667 Private W Coombs, 7690 Private F Parsons, 7727 Private E Kerby, 7732 Private A Garland, 7741 Private Charles Barber, 7778 Sergeant W Ford, 7792 Private W Hill, 7795 Private H Hawkins, 7823 Private W Jones, 7824 Private J Langdon 7835 Private George Popham  7843 Private V Tout  7903 Lance-Corporal W Spencer  7918 Private C O'Hare, 7933 Private W J Sawyer, 7936 Lance-Corporal C Craven, 7940 Private A Drew, 7964 Private F Chapman, 7978 Private Frederick McCready, 7987 Lance-Corporal James S White, 7990 Private S Balbin, 7990 Private S H Belbin, 7996 Private B Wallace  

8035 Private A Dawson, 8037 Private E Squires, 8059 Lance-Corporal J Lee, 8185 Sergeant E Rogers, 8198 Lance-Corporal J Davis, 8263 Lance-Corporal J Butler, 8294 Corporal A Phipps, 8328 Private J Stoker, 8343 Private F Mitchell, 8346 Corporal A Heath, 8354 Private F Hucklesby, 8409 Private L Hartridge, 8429 Private F Lewis, 8496 Private F Pugsley, 8498 Private C Weeks, 8574 Private J Withers, 8604 Lance-Corporal E Hayward, 8609 Corporal F Cobb, 8735 Private D Hall, 8742 Private P Smart, 8834 Private A Whitlock, 8843 Lance-Corporal E Goodman, 8942 Private C Medhurst, 8955 Private B Furzer, 8962 Bugler J West, 8981 Lance-Corporal C Bird, 9057 Private W Sullivan, 9074 Lance-Corporal F Pocock, 9109 Corporal R Collins, 9125 Private C Williams, 9149 Private W Rainey, 9150 Private J Oliver, 9166 Private P A Phillips, 9191 Lance-Corporal W Dunster, 9203 Private W Clifford, 9213 Private E J Masters, 9220 Bugler A Bell, 9254 Private W Margetts, 9327 Private W Phillips, 9329 Private W Randell, 9366 Lance-Corporal W E Morgan, 9373 Lance-Corporal J Hawkins, 9399 Private W H Webb, 9412 Private R Wiltshire, 9418 Private F Cox, 9426 Private L Everall, 9463 Private R Buller, 9481 Bugler A White, 9482 Private S Hines, 9513 Private F Phillips, 9515 Private H Trask, 9517 Lance-Corporal Harry Sarsfield, 9519 Private J Havard, 9523 Private E W Davidge, 9527 Private H King, 9531 Private P Harris, 9545 Lance-Corporal A Cross,  9547 Lance-Corporal E Hopkins, 9552 Private A James, 9553 Private J Smith, 9568 Lance-Corporal S Southwood, 9583 Private S Cossins, 9595 Private E Poole, 9618 Private W Porter, 9626 Private Thomas J Legg, 9632 Private W Taylor, 9636 Private S Driscoll, 9637 Private A English, 9641 Private A E Hanks, 9641 Private A Hawks, 9656 Private Samuel S Sims, 9675 Private J Hollick,  9677 Private H Day, 9682 Private A Peppin,  9684 Private F Linham, 9694 Private H Burgess, 9726 Private T Reynolds,  9727 Private G Garland,  9731 Private M Hargett. 

Using my post on Somersetshire regimental numbers as a reference source it should, on the face of it, be a relatively easy task to work out when the men above enlisted. 4661 Sergeant Williams is the longest serving man here and his number indicates that he joined the regiment in May or June 1896. At the other end of the scale, 9731 Private Morley Hargett can only have joined the regiment in May 1914. These men were thus a mixture of seasoned old hands - many of these men recalled from the army reserve - and recent recruits; men who in the normal; course of events should still have been completing their training rather than facing Von Kluck's army in Belgium.

But there were other men in the same regiment who served overseas alongside these career soldiers and these were the men of the Special Reserve. Whereas a career soldier joined the army for 12 years - a combination of colour service and reserve service - a man joined the Special Reserve for a period of six years and did all his soldiering, very much on a part-time basis, at home in the UK. Nevertheless, these men were aware that in the event of war they could be called out to replace casualties in the regular battalions. And this is precisely what happened.

The Special Reserve, heirs to the militia which had ceased to exist in 1908, had their own regimental number series (often the same number series that had been used by the militia) and in many cases there was a duplication of numbers which were also being used by the regular battalions. So in the case of the Somerset Light Infantry, for instance, numbers in the 6000s were being issued to men enlisting as career soldiers (destined for the 1st and 2nd Battalions) between 1901 and 1903 whilst numbers in the 6000s, but from an entirely different number series, were being issued to men of the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion who joined the regiment between 1909 and 1914. 

In some cases these men of the Special Reserve are easy enough to spot because their numbers are prefixed with the number 3/. However, this convention was not universally adopted and it still catches people out or makes like difficult when trying to understand precisely when a man joined up. I'm paraphrasing here, but I'm often asked questions along the lines of "My grandfather had the number 6300 which according to your site would have been issued to him in 1902 when he was nine years old!" The answer, of course, is that grandad was a member of the Special Reserve and he joined the regiment in 1913 when he was 20.

The photo on this post is of 8037 Ernest Squires, a career soldier, who appears in the list above and spent most of the war in a German PoW camp.

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5 August 2018

V Platoon, B Coy, 23rd Manchester Regiment


These men all appear in the Manchester City Battalions, Book of Honour published by Sherratt and Hughes in 1916. I've had a copy on my shelf for years and it's a very useful reference work; essential in fact for anyone with an interest in the Manchester Regiment.

There were eight service battalions, numbering from the 16th through to the 23rd Battalion and the book features photos of the men in platoon order, with separate photos for officers, NCOs, and bands. The big frustration with the book is that although the photos are accompanied by lists of names of the men who appear, it is impossible - for the most part - to identify who is who. Apart from some ordering by rank, there appears to be no logic to the way in which the names are recorded. I've puzzled over this for years but I'm still no closer to arriving at an answer.

Nevertheless, it is possible to identify some men and the crop above is a good example of this. The man on the left wears the rank insignia of a company quartermaster sergeant. He is seated next to an officer - a lieutenant judging by his cuffs - and he in turn sits next to the company sergeant major. The book tells us that these men are Lt J E Rothband, 21529 CQMS J Hunt and 23015 CSM W Gorin.


Jacob (Jack) Eustace Rothband, above,  was killed in action at Mametz Wood on the 19th July 1916. He was 37 years old and is buried in Flatiron Copse Cemetery at Mametz. Photo from British Jewry Book of Hnour 1914-1920.

21529 Warrant Officer Class 2 John Hunt later served in the Tank Corps with the number 75480. He died in 1919 and is buried under a  Commonwealth War Graves headstone in Boltonj (Heaton) Cemetery. He was 25 years old.

28515 CSM Walter Gorin was an old soldier who had originally joined the 3rd Gloucestershire regiment as an 18-year-old in 1897 and subsequently enlisted with the Grenadier Guards in 1899, serving in South Africa. He would be killed in action on the 20th July 1916 whilst serving with the 23rd Manchester Regiment.  The Manchester City Battalions book incorrectly records his regimental number as 23015.

I have added this photo to these men's profiles on my British Army Ancestors website. For more information on the numbering in these City Battalions, see my earlier posts:


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