19 January 2009

Five digit Territiorial Force numbers

Don't be fooled into thinking that because your ancestor had a five digit number, he couldn't have served with a Territorial Force battalion. He could have.

As we have seen with London Regiment men, the majority of the battalions (the 5th London Regiment being a notable exception) started numbering from 1 in 1908 and continued with the same series up until at least January 1917 when the first six digit numbers start to be issued. At that point in time, those men still serving were issued with new numbers in order of seniority. So the earliest enlistment from 1908 would have been issued with the lowest six digit number and so on.

Taking the 7th Manchester Regiment as an example, number 67 (who was probably a serving Volunteer with the 4th Volunteer Battalion, Manchester Regiment) joined the 7th Manchesters on 1st April 1908. In January 1917 he was still on the Regiment's books and was given the new number 275211. (The 7th Manchesters was allocated the block of numbers 275001 to 300000).

So for this battalion - and the majority of Territorial Force (TF) battalions - men with single, double and triple digit numbers (up to 500 or more) are generally 1908 enlistments, with four digit numbers starting to appear - for the most part (although Cyclist Battalions are generally an exception) - in 1910 and 1911. (The 7th Manchesters had reached 884 by March 1909 and 1135 by January 1910). Some battalions did in fact get into five digits before the new six digit renumbering happened in 1917 (see the 28th London Regiment for instance, which was up to 10400 by January 1917), but the majority of TF battalions did not.

But what about those high five digit numbers - 300** etc - which appear as Territorial Force numbers?

Army Council Instruction 1245 of 11th August 1917 explains why:

A recruit on being posted to a regular or TF unit, either on being called up under the Military Service Acts or on voluntary enlistment, will be allotted a regular number, with the exception of recruits posted to battalions of the London Regiment or to units of Corps which do not contain any regular unit (ie The Honourable Artillery Company [which was also supposed to be part of the London Regiment] and Royal Defence Corps.

So those high five digit numbers are conscripts or volunteers who have been posted to TF battalions but given numbers from the main series of numbering normally found in the regular/service battalions. Incidentally, and having referenced the 5th Londons earlier, we also see five digit numbers appearing in numbers beginning 105** through to 110**,for the 5th Londons in July 1916. The battalion suffered heavy casualties on the diversionary attack on Gommecourt on 1st July 1916 and these five digit numbers are all drafts from the 2/7th Middlesex Regiment and other London Regiment battalions - 616 in total - to replace those men lost on July 1st. I've given more details on these five digit 5th London Regiment numbers in a separate post. Of these 616 transferees, at least 130 were killed in action or died of wounds whilst serving with the 5th Londons, in a continuation of the Somme battles in September and October 1916.

The other five digit numbers that appear in TF battalions in large groups are those which appear for some Supernumerary Company men attached to TF battalions, but again, that will be the subject of a future post.

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