27 May 2009

The 11th Royal Sussex Regiment (1st South Down)

This post will look at army service numbers issued to original members of the 11th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment; also known as the 1st South Down Battalion.

There was method in the general numbering madness when it came to numbering the volunteers of the South Down battalions. Men were grouped alphabetically by surname (but only broadly alphabetically by the first letter of their name) and then numbered sequentially. Those men who had previous soldiering experience and were probably deemed to be good NCO material, appear to have been grouped separately. I'll explain.

Numbers SD/1 to SD/22 follow no alphabetical pattern and at least six of the men with numbers in this range were old soldiers, including at least three time-expired Royal Sussex Regiment men (one of whom had originally enlisted in 1897), a Royal West Kents regular (discharged for misconduct) and two men with prior service with the RGA and the RFA Territorials. One of these men - SD/4 Nelson Victor Carter - would go on to win the Victoria Cross and would later be killed in action. His service record can be viewed on-line.

Read the service record of a Sussex Regiment VC - SD/4 Warrant Officer 2nd Class Nelson Victor Carter VC.

SD/23 to SD/132 are, with a few blips, ordered alphabetically by the the first letter of the man's surname. SD/25 George Braiden's medals, his memorial plaque and his brother's medals were sold on eBay in March 2007, probably for a hefty sum.

As far as possible then, I'll group these numbers as accurately as I can but I should stress that my data has been compiled from medal index cards, surviving service records and data on Soldiers Died in the Great War. I have not had access to the medal rolls which would undoubtedly help fill some of the gaps in my data. As always I will be pleased to hear from anybody who can correct any errors in the following list.

11th (1st South Down) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
September 1914

SD/1 - SD/22
Men with prior service. Eastbourne enlistments.
SD/23 - SD/132
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. Eastbourne enlistments.
SD/133 - SD/137
SD/138 - SD/264
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. Mostly Eastbourne enlistments.
SD/270 - SD/273
Four sergeants. SD/270 Sgt Robert Budd would later win the DCM. SD/272 Alfred Simmons was a time-expired militiaman. Eastbourne enlistments.
SD/274 - SD/378
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. Mostly Eastbourne enlistments.
SD/380 - SD/387
Probably men with prior military experience. SD/386 Frank Harmer who would be killed in action in August 1916, had previously seen service with the Royal Sussex Volunteers.
SD/388 - SD/493
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. Mostly Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells enlistments.
SD/494 - SD/498
Men with prior military experience. There are at least two sergeants and a Warrant Officer 2nd Class in this sequence. One of these men was ex DLI, invalided from India, and another was a National Reservist and time expired Ox and Bucks regular.
SD/500 - SD/562
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. Worthing enlistments.
SD/563 - SD/570
Men with prior military experience. SD/568 CSM Thomas Coleman was an Army Pensioner in 1914 and had served in India, holding the Indian General Service medal with clasps for the Punjab and Tirah campaigns. He attested with the 11th Battalion on the 9th September 1914, was quickly promoted to Colour Sergeant on 29th September and then to Company Sergeant Major on the 14th October. A hardened old soldier, he was was tried for drunkeness by a Field General Court Martial on 26th April 1916, found guilty and reduced to the ranks the following day. Remarkably, he then worked his way back up the military ladder. He was appointed lance-corporal on 3rd July 1916 (three days after the battalion's heavy losses at The Boar's Head), promoted to corporal on 7th July 1916 and then to sergeant three days later. By the time he went missing in action on 3rd September 1916 he held the rank of acting CSM and it is this rank which is inscribed on his medals. These were received by his former widow in 1921. Thomas Coleman's body was never found and his date of death is officially recorded as 3rd September 1916. Read his record on Ancestry. The touching letter below is included in Thomas Coleman's surviving papers:

SD/572 - SD/635
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. Hurstmonceux enlistments.
SD/636 - SD/637
SD/638 - SD/646
Men with prior military experience.
SD/650 - SD/755
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. Mostly Horsham enlistments but also including men from outside the county.
SD/758 - SD/769
Men with prior military experience.
SD/770 - SD/872
Mostly alphabetical, A to Y. Mostly Bognor and Brighton and enlistments.
SD/873 - SD/879
Men with prior military experience.
SD/880 - SD/985
Mostly alphabetical, A to Y. A variety of enlistment location including Brighton, Hastings and Lewes.
SD/986 - SD/988
SD/989 - SD/999
Men with prior military experience.
SD/1000 - SD/1114
Mostly alphabetical, A to W. A variety of enlistment location including Bexhill, Hastings and Uckfield.
SD/1115 - SD/1199
This last group appears to buck the previous alphabetical trends and there are no discernable patterns that I can make out. Enlistments appear, from the information recorded on Soldiers Died, to be mostly from Bexhill and Worthing.

The original composition of the battalion was as follows:

A Company : Eastbourne
B Company : Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings.
C Company : Worthing, Herstmonceux, Horsham and Newhaven.
D Company : Bognor and Chichester.

The above company information taken from Paul Reed's page on the 1st South Downs. See also, the southdown battalions website which, at the time of writing, is till in development but promises to be a very useful resource.

This concludes numbering for the initial intake of men to the 11th (1st South Down) Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment. I'll deal with the 12th Royal Sussex, 13th Royal Sussex and 14th Royal Sussex - as well as subsequent drafts to the South Down battalions - in future posts.

The image used on this post comes courtesy of the trustees of Seaford Museum and is also reproduced on my Chailey 1914-1918 websiteLooking for medals? I have Royal Sussex Regiment medals for sale,including medals to men who served with the South Down battalions.

Find South Down battalion service records on the Ancestry website. CLICK HERE.

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


Alan Grint said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

My great uncle was Roy Lower SD81 Corporal somtime Acting Sgt of the 11th Battalion killed at Ypres on 1st August 1917 no body found name on Menin Gate we are desperately trying to find a picture and as much info as possible joined up at Eastbourne in 1914

Paul Nixon said...

For advice on finding photos, please see here: http://armyancestry.blogspot.com/2016/12/finding-photo-of-your-british-military.html

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