12 February 2009

4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards - 1882 enlistments

For no other reason than that I find recruitment patterns in regiments endlessly fascinating, I thought I'd turn my attention today to the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, the regiment that holds the distinction of having fired the first shot (by the British Expeditionary Force) in the First World War. For the subject of this post however, I'd like to look at enlistments in 1882.

The previous year, 1881, recruitment had taken place at a snail's pace. This was not at all uncommon in either cavalry or infantry regiments but as far as the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards was concerned, number 2437 joined on 13th January 1881 and by 17th November that year, the regiment had reached 2474: precisely 38 recruits in 11 months.

1882 was a different story altogether and a massive recruitment drive appears to have taken place. I'd like to see official documents or hear from a 4th Dragoon Guards expert on the subject but the surge is remarkable. What follows is a list of recruitments - and these are all first-time enlistments into the regiment - that pretty much covers the entire year. Service records for ALL of the army service numbers listed below, survive in the WO 363 series held at the National Archives in Kew. I have indicated in brackets, where the individual was born but there appears to be no specific regional stronghold.

2480 enlisted 2nd January [b. Grantham, Lincs]
2485 enlisted 24th January [b. Arva, Govan]
2487 enlisted 26th January [b. Maidstone, Kent]
2491 enlisted 11th January [b. Ellon, Aberdeen] SEE BELOW
2493 enlisted 7th February [b. Bermondsey, London]
2494 enlisted 9th February [b. Camberwell, London]
2495 enlisted 10th February [b. Kingston, Surrey]
2499 enlisted 22nd February [b. Killin, Perth]
2500 enlisted 23rd February [b. Gorbals, Lanarkshire]
2504 enlisted 4th March [b. Antrim, Ireland]
2508 enlisted 15th March [b. Barnwood, Glos]
2514 enlisted 17th March [b. Enfield, Middlesex]
2515 enlisted 18th March [b. Stratford, London]
2519 enlisted 22nd April [b. Gravesend, Kent]
2527 enlisted 27th May [b. Sherbrook, Derbys]
2531 enlisted 14th June [b. St Pancras, London]
2532 enlisted 15th June [b. Hawick, Scotland]
2534 enlisted 16th June [b. Yateley, Hants]
2538 enlisted 3rd July [b. UNCLEAR]
2679 enlisted 9th August [b. Tweedmouth, Sco]
2694 enlisted 13th August [b. Ryde, IoW]
2782 enlisted 12th September [b. Malta]
2783 enlisted 14th September [b. Queen's County, Ireland]
2784 enlisted 18th September [b.Hove, Sussex]
2785 enlisted 25th September [b. Glasgow]
2789 enlisted 24th October [b. Lewes, Sussex]
2790 enlisted 9th November [b. Bedford, Beds]
2825 enlisted 8th December [b. Chester, Cheshire]
2830 enlisted 28th December [b. Harrow, Middlesex]

I find this sequence interesting because there appears to be a clear recruitment drive extending roughly from the beginning of the year until around mid September when things slow down again.

Number 2491, highlighted above, is interesting in that his number alone does not appear to fit the general sequence. This man joined on 11th January and then served precisely 14 days before deciding that the army wasn't his cup of tea. He paid ten pounds to buy his discharge, something which a recruit could do within three months of his attestation.

As regards where the men listed above joined their regiment in 1882, 2480 through to 2679 joined at Aldershot, 2694 through to 2785 joined at York, and 2789 onwards joined at Brighton.

Recruitment into this regiment slowed down again dramatically in 1883 (2831 joined on 2nd January and 2867 joined on 6th December) but by 1884 the pattern had reversed again, close to 350 men enlisting that year.

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Numerous records for 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards servicemen survive at the National Archives. Read them on-line with a FREE 14 day trial to Ancestry.co.uk - Click here!

Also see my other Corps of Dragoons posts:

1st (King’s) Dragoon Guards
2nd Dragoon Guards (The Queen's Bays)
3rd (Prince of Wales's) Dragoon Guards
4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards
5th Dragoon Guards
6th Dragoon Guards (Carabineiers)
7th (Princess Royal's) Dragoon Guards

1st (Royal) Dragoons
2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys)
6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons.


This from the Naval & Military Press:

On the declaration of war the 4th Dragoon Guards were at Tidworth, part of 2nd Cavalry Brigade under command of Brig Gen H. de B. de Lisle. The regiment crossed to France on 15th August and a week later, the day before Mons, made the first contact with the enemy, a cavalry patrol. Corporal Thomas of ‘C’ Squadron fired the first shot by the BEF and Capt Hornby led the first charge, scattering the Germans, sabring several and taking others prisoner. The regiment remained on the Western Front throughout the war.

"This volume gives a concise account of the regiment’s experiences without much of the personal reminiscence. There is a useful appendix which gives the service details of every officer with any awards and noting casualties, and another contains the Roll of Honour in which the names are listed alphabetically regardless of rank, and on a year by year basis; the total amounted to 16 officers and 175 other ranks."


Jerry Cooley said...

With respect to your information on Fourth Dragoon Guards and their participation in the first actions of WW1, may I respectfully point out that it should read, in my opinion, 'Capt Hornby led the first charge, followed by Corporal Thomas firing the first shot' in that order. Also the German opposition in question was not 'sabered' they were put to the sword, British Cavalry as I am sure you are aware, did not carry sabres, they carried the 1908 pattern sword. Sharply pointed but no cutting edge. whereas a sabre is a totally different weapon. Small points you may thing but important nonetheless, or so my Grandfather told me. He was there.

Paul Nixon said...

I'm happy to record that, Jerry but please note that excerpt is from the Naval and Military Press blurb rather than my own reconstruction of events.


Nim said...

Thank you for a very interesting blog page.
I'm been looking at the medal roll for the 1st Royal Dragoons at the battle of Abu Klea. Now 8 men on that roll also qualified for the Tel-El-Kebir 1882 medal but the 1st RD didn't go to Egypt in 1882. So where did they come from? I've been searching for them on other cavalry rolls and I've discovered that they were all transfered from the 4th DG about 1883!
So this is why I'm commenting on your site - because you say there was another slow down in recruitment in 1883. Do you think there is any link between men transfering out of the 4th DG and the slow down in recruitment at the same time?

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks for commenting, Nim. Yes, could well be. It's unlikely that the regiment over-recruited, once they reached establishment, recruiting was supposed to stop. I'd be interested to know how many other 4th DG men transferred to other regiments in the Corps of Dragoons, or indeed other regiments.


Anonymous said...

The Regiment was not a 'big' regiment. My great-grandfather was the QM (as a WO) when 4DG went to France in early Aug 1914. He later became the first QM of the 4/7DG in 1922.

Tabnabs said...

Just discovered an ancestor of mine Frederick William Dowden, joined the 4th on the 14/04/1882 in Aldershot (re. no. 2518, previously he'd been in the Isle of Wight Artillary Militia, he was IoW born and bred.

AlanD6333 said...

I've just found a great uncle (Charles Gilbert Meaden) who joined the 4th Dragoons in 1885 regimental number 3100. He was 14 yo at the time so would be interested to find out what role he took. Maybe a drummer boy?
Can anyone help.

Paul Nixon said...

Probably in the band, yes. Write to the Irish Guards at Wellington Barracks as they probably have a file on him still.


Unknown said...

I found your article very interesting regarding the recruitment rate in 1881/82.
I am trying to establish whether a recruit that enlisted in September 1880 is my great uncle. His number is 2407 and he gave his age as 20. My great uncle would have been nearer 25. If, as you say, recruitment was slow I wonder whether they would have questioned it. He doesn't appear on either the 1881 or 1891 census so I presumed he was in the military.
Does anyone know?

Paul Nixon said...

You'd be unlikely to verify this without a service record I fear.

Anonymous said...

I have a Second Class Certificate of Education awarded to my great uncle in 1914 when he was 16 years old and described as "Boy ...". His service number is given as 8xxx. His medal records card gives his number as 3xxx (where the xxx digits are the same in both cases). Given that the 1882 numbers noted above are in the 2000 range is the number on the medal records card wrong and should be 8xxx? Or were numbers re-used?

Paul Nixon said...

No, the numbers weren't re-used but a new regimental number series by corps rather than regiment had been introduced for line cavalry in January 1907. See this post for more information on this topic: http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/2009/03/queens-kings-regulations-regimental.html

Anonymous said...

Thank you Paul,

Given the numbers that you list for the 1882 enlistments I guess we can assume that the 8xxx number is correct and the number on the medal index card is wrong (3xxx numbers probably relate to enlistments before his birth in 1897)

Paul Nixon said...

Are you looking at original documents or transcriptions? If the latter, I'd suggest there's a transcription error, particularly if the other three digits are identical.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for replying Paul.

I have the scan of his medal index card and the original of the Second Class Certificate of Education. My money would be on the individual who was having to write large numbers of medal index cards making a transcription error.

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