19 March 2009

The Bedfordshire Regiment - 1st & 2nd Battalions

There are over 35,000 Bedfordshire Regiment service and pension records (for this regiment - and its antecedents) in various War Office series held at the National Archives. Clicking on the link will take you to the results on Findmypast but you will need a subscription or Pay-Per-View credits to actually view the records. Some of these records can also be viewed on-line on Ancestry although Findmypast has by far the most comprehensive service record collection.

Pictured above, Private Alf Webb, a Bedfordshire regular who I have written about elsewhere. Alf joined the regiment in 1912 and was killed in action on the 20th September 1915. The photo above probably dates to pre-First World War.

Here is a sample series of regimental numbers and corresponding joining dates for the regular 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment. Use these numbers and dates as a guide to plot your own ancestor's joining date.

19 joined on 7th September 1881
245 joined on 11th February 1882
732 joined on 15th May 1883
1001 joined on 20th May 1884
1391 joined on 6th February 1885
1904 joined on 25th February 1886
2342 joined on 25th May 1887
2580 joined on 12th January 1888
3085 joined on 1st March 1889
3462 joined on 14th January 1890
3753 joined on 20th January 1891
4034 joined on 20th March 1892
4663 joined on 26th September 1893
5015 joined on 1st September 1894
5249 joined on 28th January 1895
5671 joined on 23rd April 1896
6044 joined on 10th August 1897
6312 joined on 20th July 1898
6571 joined on 24th July 1899
6747 joined on 1st March 1900
6928 joined on 26th February 1901
7233 joined on 8th July 1902
7413 joined on 19th January 1903
7947 joined on 5th February 1904
8193 joined on 27th January 1905
8501 joined on 15th May 1906
8901 joined on 14th January 1907
9340 joined on 7th August 1908
9460 joined on 11th June 1909
9526 joined on 31st January 1910
9750 joined on 8th April 1911
9994 joined on 6th April 1912
10259 joined on 28th June 1913
10358 joined on 7th January 1914

The First World War

The 6th (Service) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, was formed in August 1914. Men joining this battalion were given numbers that followed the same sequence being used by the regular battalions. So, in theory, 10400 (to take a hypothetical example) could enlist with the 6th Battalion for the duration of the war whilst 10401 could enlist with the 1st or 2nd battalion for Seven years with the Colours and five years on the Reserve.

I have a gap in my regular army service number data between 10381 (joined 9th February 1914) and 10712 (joined 14th August 1914). Certainly numbers in the 104** and 106** range were issued to 6th Battalion men between the 10th and 13th August 1914 and, from the information I hold, it looks as though this "sharing" (for want of a better term) of numbers between the 6th Battalion and the 1st and 2nd Battalion continued into the 107**s.

At some point in August 1914 though, it looks as though a decision was taken to separate the numbering sequences of the regular battalions from that of the service battalions. Service battalion numbering leaps from the 107**s to the 120**s in August 1914 whilst numbers in the 107** series and above, continued to be issued to regular enlistments throughout the war.

Here then, are some more regular enlistment army service numbers and joining dates for Bedfordshire Regiment enlistments during the war years:

10766 joined on 2nd November 1914
10785 joined on 12th December 1914
10793 joined on 4th January 1915
10849 joined on 18th March 1915
10881 joined on 29th April 1915
10891 joined on 22nd May 1915
10955 joined on 26th September 1915
10972 joined on 25th October 1915
10983 joined on 9th November 1915
11011 joined on 25th February 1916
11057 joined on 20th October 1916
11110 joined on 18th October 1917
11116 joined on 24th January 1918

My data currently ends in January 1918, and if some of the foregoing information is confusing, here's a summary based on my examination of the Bedfordshire Regiment army service numbers on my database:

Number 1 - 10450 (approx)
Regular enlistments whose numbers were issued sequentially between 1st July 1881 and 3rd August 1914
Number 10451 (approx) to 10760 (approx)
Regular enlistments and war-time service enlistments who joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in August 1914
Number 10761 (approx) to 11200 (approx)
Regular enlistments between c October 1914 and November 1918

And finally, a word of caution.

It is wrong to assume that numbering sequences in battalions always followed a sequential pattern. As can be seen above, they didn't. As the war progressed and casualties grew, large numbers of men were often transferred from one battalion to another and allocated numbers within blocks which did not fit the sequential patterning seen to date. This becomes particularly evident in most battalions from 1916 onwards.

For example, Bedfordshire Regiment numbers in the 119** range, which one might reasonably expect to fall in between the August 1914 107** and 120** patterns mentioned above, do no such thing. They appear to have been issued in July 1917 to men serving in the Bedfordshire Regiment graduated battalions.

For chapter and verse on the Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War, visit Steve Fuller's excellent website.

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


Mister S said...

Hi again,

I'm sometimes wonder if the men on my local memorial were selected to appear on it simply to be awkward.

Only 2 of them served as Bedfordshires, with the 1st and 7th (Svc) Bns, but your helpful commentary above doesn't seem fit either one.

Details are:

1st Bn:
3/7565 (Burgess H) KIA 5/5/1915 [one of a half-hundred lost in 48 hrs, with service numbers numbers spanning from 7005 through 13194 to 19153, with a handful of 4/7***, 3/7*** and a 3/8*** number in there too], and

7th Bn
27859 (Tompkins J) KIA 27/9/16 [along with 50-odd others, numbered from 7178 to 43370, with a smattering of 3/7*** 4/6*** numbers in there as well]

What do you make of these ?

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Mister S

Yes, nothing straightforward about war memorials.

3/7565 dates to around the 11th August 1914 and indicates enlistment into the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion. These men would have been sent as drafts to make up losses in the regular battalions (and later service battalions).

27859 indicates that the man joined the Beds in the second half of March 1916, almost certainly between the 22nd and the 29th.

In all cases the 3/ prefix indicates 3rd (Special Reserve) Bn (as it would for most regiments for that matter) and the 4/ indicates 4th (Extra Reserve) Bn in this case. But note that for some regts the 4/ can also indicate the 4th (Territorial Force) Bn.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I'm researching a local memorial and would be grateful if you can advise when these men would have enlisted with the Bedfordshire Regiment.

TYLER, ALBERT 1st Bn. 14344, Pte k.i.a. F.&F. 21/4/15

COLLINS, WILLIAM JAMES 1st Bn. 16423, Pte k.i.a. F.&F. 19/4/15

EBBS, HENRY 8th Bn. 25378 Pte k.i.a. F.&F. 15/9/16


Paul Nixon said...


14344 and 16423 are both September 1914, earlier in the month rather than later.

25378 looks to be January 1916, at a guess, although I have no 253** numbers in my database.


Unknown said...


My Grandfather Pte. Bert Blows

attested on 1st December 1903 - Bedfordshire Regiment (2nd Batt - with No 7863)

He joined WW1 in the RAMC with the number 3592


Paul Nixon said...

Thanks for the information, Liam.

Marcus Preston said...

My grandfather Richard Harry Preston enlisted in the 2nd Beds, No 3-7561.
He served in the Boer war as I have a picture of him wearing the ribbons ( the medals are lost), but under another name.

Paul Nixon said...

Marcus, 3-7561 indicates he enlisted with the Special Reserve and so must have been part of a draft to the 2nd Beds.


Marcus said...

Thank you Paul.
Would he have been in the Bedfordshire Special Reserve?
If so would I look to Kew to find any details?
Many thanks,

Paul Nixon said...

I don't believe a record survives for him. If it did, it would be in WO 363 and/or WO 364 but neither of these series appears to have a record for this man. He would have joined the battalion in August 1914.


Marcus said...

Thanks once again Paul.
We think that he served in the York & Lancs in the Boer War under the name of R H Page. Needless to say we can't find any thing about him.

Paul Nixon said...

8026 R H Page served with 3rd and 2nd Volunteer Service Companies, 1st Y&L during the Boer War. Awarded QSA with clasps for CC, OFS and SA 1902.

Marcus said...

Thanks Paul,

Unknown said...

Hi Paul my Gt Grandad was 18774 Lcpl S Sargent, 2nd Beds can you tell anything from his number?

Paul Nixon said...

I only offer this service now on a commission basis so please contact me through the research tab if you want to progress this.

Unknown said...

My great granfather was in the same regument pte j bull 3/7776

He also was in the beds 4th reg in the boer war

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