27 August 2008

5th (City of London) Bn, The London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade)

This battalion had its origins in the 1st Volunteer Rifle Corps and, as the title suggests, it was affiliated to The London Rifle Brigade. It was headquarted in Bunhill Row in the City of London.

Unlike all of the other London Regiment battalions (and including the Inns of Court and HAC), this battalion did not start numbering from 1 in April 1908 but appears to have continued with the numbering series which had been in use for the 1st VRC. I am assuming that the old 1st VRC men re-enlisted with the 5th (City of London) Bn and retained their old VRC numbers but this is just an assumption in the absence of further evidence via attestation papers or documentation from the time. In any event, the 5th London Regiment numbering sequence is certainly unique within the London Regiment.

By the time the First World War was declared, the battalion had reached the high 9000s and it wasn't long before it got to 9999 and started re-numbering from 1 again. Number 35 was issued on 6th August 1914.

This also illustrates another point that a low number doesn't always signify an early enlistment date. Medal sellers on eBay will often point out that a medal has a low number which, they imply, must therefore mean that it was one of the first to be issued. Well, yes and no. A low number should normally indicate that it was one of the first to be issued in a particular series, but as we have seen with the 5th London Regiment, their series wasn't begun until August 1914. Anyway, here are some numbers and joining dates / enlistment dates for the 5th London Regiment.

8304 joined on 5th May 1908
8525 joined on 16th February 1909
9166 joined on 16th June 1910
9266 joined on 9th March 1911
9415 joined on 30th May 1912
9668 joined on 4th December 1913
35 joined on 6th August 1914
281 joined on 1st September 1914
1130 joined on 14th October 1914
1192 joined on 2nd November 1914
1326 joined on 10th December 1914
1438 joined on 5th January 1914
1588 joined on 6th February 1915
1701 joined on 3rd March 1915
2087 joined on 27th April 1915
2171 joined on 25th May 1915
2413 joined on 28th Jun 1915
2430 joined on 1st Jul 1915
2916 joined on 29th October 1915
2936 joined on 1st November 1915
3755 joined on 6th December 1915
4310 joined on 16th March 1916
4676 joined on 26th April 1916
4783 joined on 5th May 1916
5446 joined on 26th August 1916
5828 joined on 20th September 1916
5863 joined on 18th October 1916

Five digit service numbers in the 5th Londons

On 1st July 1916, the 5th Londons suffered heavy casualties on the diversionary attack on Gommecourt. In order to bring the battalion up to strength, men were drafted in from the 2/7th Middlesex Regiment and from other London battalions. This from the History of the London Rifle Brigade 1859-1919:

"On 16th July a move was made to rest billets at Bienvillers. The battalion by then had filled up more or less, and included 2/7th Middlesex, 494 other ranks; 6th Londons, 8; 7th Londons, 26; 8th Londons, 86; 20th Londons 1; 2/2nd Londons, 1; all wearing their own regimental badges."

These men - 616 Other ranks in total - were all given five digit numbers within the range 10501 to at least 11077 . I can break this down further:

10501(later re-numbered 303982) - 10525 (later re-numbered 304002)
These numbers, twenty five in all, were allocated to men who had previously served with the 7th London Regiment. The Rifle Brigade history mentions 26 men but I have been unable to identify the 26th. All of these men were first grouped sequentially by their 7th Londons army service numbers and then re-numbered in the 105** range. At least six of these men were killed in action or died of wounds before the year was out.

10526 (later re-numbered 304003) - 10533 (not re-numbered, trans to MGC)
These eight numbers were issued to men who had previously served with the 6th London Regiment. They appear to have been allocated their numbers randomly. At least one of these men from the 6th Londons was killed before the year was out (10530) and 10528 died in August 1917.

10534 (not re-numbered, KiA Sept 1916) - 10620 (later re-numbered 304073)
That's a range of 87 numbers against the Rifle Brigade history's 86. I have a few gaps and it's possible therefore that one of my gaps represents a number that was not used. These men had all previously served with the 8th London Regiment and, as with the transferees from the 7th London Regiment, they were first grouped sequentially by their 8th Londons numbers and then re-numbered - in two groups. The first group extends from 10534 (formerly 757, 8th Londons) to 10588 (formerly 5409, 8th Londons). The second group extends from 10589 (formerly 2932, 8th Londons) to 10620 (formerly 5515 8th Londons). At least 21 of these 86 transferees were killed in action or died of wounds before the year was out.

10621 (later re-numbered 304074) - 11077 (later re-numbered 304425)
These 459 men were transferred from the 2/7th Middlesex Regiment. They were grouped broadly alphabetically by surname and then given numbers within the 106** to 110** range. The Rifle Brigade history notes 494 transfers from the Middlesex. It seems likely that 11078 was also a former 7th Middlesex man (although I don't have confirmation of that) and also 11080 through to 11083. I am still researching these numbers and will add to this portion of this post when I have more information to report. At least 102 of these 459 transferees were killed in action or died of wounds before the year was out.

This number was allocated to the former 20th London Regiment man. He wasn't re-numbered in the 5th Londons six-digit sequence but his medal index card shows a six digit number which belongs to the series issued to the 20th Londons. I am assuming that he transferred to the 5th Londons and then transferred back to the 20th Londons where he was re-numbered.

2/2nd Londons
I'm still looking for this man's five digit 5th London number.

As far as actual dates for these five digit transfers are concerned, I can offer the following information:

10520 and 10524 (formerly 7th Londons) transfered on the 9th July 1916 (and so it seems reasonable to assume that the other 7th London transferees joined on this date as well). 10668. 10669 and 10680 (all former 7th Middlesex men) transfered on the 3rd July 1916 (and so too, probably did the bulk of the other 7th Middlesex men). All of these men's service records survive in the WO 364 (pension) series held at The National Archives.

When the Territorial Force re-numbered in 1917, men in the 5th London Regiment were allocated numbers within the range 300001 to 320000.

Find your 5th London Regiment ancestors today with a FREE 14 day trial to Ancestry.co.uk - Click here!
Read Rifleman Hubert Brown's WW1 diary, brought to life 100 years later by Allan Mornement.


I picked up an original copy of this book some years ago for a couple of pounds. That was a bargain, and so too is this Naval and Military Press (N&MP) reprint. I can't vouch for the quality of the photographic reproductions but the original has quite a few scattered through its pages. This is what the N&MP has to say about the book:

This book gives a summary of the history of the London Rifle Brigade (LRB) prior to the outbreak of war and then goes on to record the experiences of the first line battalion, 1/5th LRB, from mobilization to February 1916. The battalion arrived in France on 5 November 1914 and was allocated to 11th Brigade (Hunter-Weston or “Hunter-Bunter”), 4th Division and served with it till May 1915 when it was transferred to GHQ troops. In October the battalion moved back to the line to join 8th Brigade, 3rd Division in the Ypres salient and this record ends in February 1916 when the battalion was again transferred, this time to its final home in 169th Brigade of the 56th (London) Division which was then being reformed in France. This short account is written with censorship very much in mind, so it does get into too much detail; it is meant to give some idea of the battalions doings to those who were not out in France at the time, and to be an aid to the memory of those who were there. There is a list of Honours and Awards, headed by the VC to Sgt Belcher in May 1915; there is an alphabetical list, by ranks, of LRB officers with service in France up to 16 August 1916 (excluding those currently serving in the battalion, banned by the censor) showing casualties; and there is a list of attached officers who have served with the battalion, again excluding any currently serving.

I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information.

Read my other posts on numbering in the London Regiment battalions:

City of London Battalions

1st (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
3rd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
6th (City of London) Battalion (Rifles)
7th (City of London) Battalion
8th (City of London) Battalion (Post Office Rifles)

County of London Battalions

9th (County of London) Battalion (Queen Victoria's Rifles)
10th County of London) Battalion (Hackney) [Originally Paddington Rifles]
11th (County of London) Battalion (Finsbury Rifles)
12th (County of London) Battalion (The Rangers)
13th (County of London) Battalion (Kensington)
14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish)
15th (County of London) Battalion (Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles)
16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster Rifles)
17th (County of London) Battalion (Poplar & Stepney Rifles)
18th (County of London) Battalion (London Irish Rifles)
19th (County of London) Battalion (St Pancras)
20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath & Woolwich)
21st (County of London) Battalion (First Surrey Rifles)
22nd (County of London) Battalion (The Queen's)
23rd (County of London) Battalion
24th (County of London) Battalion (The Queen's)
25th (County of London) Cyclist Battalion
28th (County of London) Battalion (Artists Rifles)


Richard C said...


I've been researching my grandfather who apparently signed up with the 2/7 Essex regiment, but along with a number of others (approx 70?), were tranferred to the 1/5 LRB, and arrived in France 31-8-16.

They appear to have numbers in the LRB in the range 10001 - 10071, later renumbered 303921 - 303981. eg My Grandfather was 10052/303964.

My line of enquiry at this stage is working back towards the Essex connection - There don't appear to be any records of their original numbers there. Any ideas?

The only one possible ref I did find from these men with an Essex regiment number was : 10010 Bennett HG - who may have had a Essex number of 1955.

Be great if you have any pointers.



Paul Nixon said...


I have a number of 2/7th Essex Regt men who joined the LRB and were given numbers in the range you mention (including 1955 Bennett). Bennett would have joined the 7th Essex Regt around March 1913 and there were certainly other men in this LRB draft whose Essex Regt numbers indicate pre-war or Aug/Sep 1914 enlistments. However, the majority of the transfers that I have - and my sequence for this range is by no means complete - joined the 2/7th Essex in April 1916. Their numbers are in the 51**, 52** and 53** range. As far as your man is concerned then, the results are inconclusive. He could have been an early pre-war enlistment into the 7th Essex who was subsequently posted to the 2/7th Regt (for a number of reasons), or he could have been a later enlistment, going straight into the 2/7th Essex Regt when he joined up and being transferred to the 5th Londons shortly afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for that. Given Archibald's DoB (28/09/1897), April 1916 would have put him at about 18 and a half, so that's not a bad guess. Possibly one of those called up in the early stages of conscription?



Paul Nixon said...


Quite possibly, although he could have joined the TF as a 17-year old and been held back in England until he was old enough to be sent overseas. That might be the reason why some of those earlier Essex Regt enlistments were retained with the regiment and posted from the 7th Battalion to the 2/7th and then subsequently to the LRB. In the absence of official surviving documents you may never know for sure.


Anonymous said...

I have been trying to find when my uncle joined the army in wwi. His number was S/34408, but can't find this number on your site. His name was Alfred Bishop, died oct.1918 aged 20,in Flanders. Was with the Post Office rifles/London.
Would appreciate if you could help me please.

Paul Nixon said...

Look as though the number dates to September 1917 onwards. Certainly there were men of the Rifle Brigade who were later attached to the Post Office Rifles - my great uncle, John Frederick Nixon, included. He was KiA on the 3rd October 1918, eleven days before your uncle.

Natalie G said...

My great-grandfather is listed as Private 32777 5th (could possibly be 6th) Battalion Rifle Brigade on his marriage certificate in 1918 in Whitechapel, London. His name was Zelig Aaron Zaydeman (with various spelling changes sometimes Zelig Aron Zeiderman etc) and his usual profession was a jeweller. I've not been able to find any information on him.
The family story is that he was gassed in France and never recovered from his injuries. I have a French death certificate for him in 1928 in what looks like an asylum in Sotteville-les-Rouen, Normandy. Interestingly enough, he fathered my grandfather in 1924 who was born in London and was given a French name!
I would be grateful if you had any information about his military service (I've not found any records).

Paul Nixon said...

Natalie, I've drawn a complete blank for that name and number I'm afraid.

Natalie G said...

Thanks anyway. I'll keep trying!

Richard f said...

Hi my great great grandad 127 Albert Ernest Horsman in the 6th London rifles I think was also at Highwood I found and visited his grave last year in Belgium I was the first of our family to do so I will be going back this year as its the 100th year anniversary of he's death
Would love to know more about him

Paul Nixon said...

Richard, there is some research that could be undertaken for this man. Drop me a line via the RESEARCH tab on this blog. Paul

Unknown said...

Hi Paul
Hoping you could help point me in the right direction. I have been doing some ancestry research And found my great grandfathers brother served with the 1/5 London regiment,pte Percy J Belson no 9881. He also has a 300 prefixed number. He is listed as being a recipient of the 14 star and bar and was also awarded the silver war badge although the reason stated is the vague unfit for frontline duty, also no award date could be found. This is a perplexing situation as his service record states an 1918 discharge date! Any help or pointers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time. G.M.Belson

Paul Nixon said...

I don't really understand the question, I'm afraid. My reading from what you have said is that he served overseas and was discharged in 1918 as no longer physically fit for war service, thus being entitled to a SWB.

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