21 February 2009

Understanding army service numbers

The images reproduced on this post are both Crown Copyright, but I show them here to illustrate one man's war service and the allocation of army service numbers. Click on them both for larger views.

Claudius Beavins attested under the Derby Scheme on 11th December 1915. He was called up for service on the 26th April 1916 and posted to the 3/6th London Regiment the following day. It was at this point that he would have been issued with his first number, 5389.

On the 18th August 1916 he was transferred to the reserve battalion of the 23rd London Regiment; ie the 2/23rd Londons. At this point in time he would have been issued his second army service number, 6788.

Claudius was posted to the 1/23rd Londons on 3rd December 1916 (no change of number here) and was still serving with this battalion when the Territorial Force was renumbered in 1917. He was given the new number, 703068.

On 14th April 1917, he was transferred for a second time, this time to the 13th Londons. His number, 505004, falls within a separate series of numbers issued to 23rd London men transferring to the Kensingtons. (There were also transfers from other London Regiment battalions and other regiments for that matter who received a six digit number within the 505*** range).

It is worth pointing out that at the time Claudius was transferred, in France, to the 13th Londons, the battalion was issuing six digit numbers in England in the 494*** range. The 505*** range therefore illustrates the point I have made on several posts that it is wrong to assume that numbers were always issued sequentially. They weren't.

Claudius transferred for a final time, to the Royal Engineers, on 14th June 1918. He was issued a new number, 361118. He survived the war. Interestingly, his medal index card mixes the order of his numbers up somewhat. As I have explained, 5389 was the first number he was issued with, not 6788.

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Anonymous said...

Your blog is very good. Very informative. You may already be aware of this but in a recent 'Who do you think you are' programme on the BBC. Alex Kington visited the RE library at Brompton barracks in Chatham kent. One of the guys from the library helped the guest locate where her relative served in the RE's. In WW1 the number denoted a company the person served. The number used was 550483, this denoted that he served with the 3rd London Field Company. Hopr this info is useful.

Paul Nixon said...

It is useful, thanks very much for posting this information.


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