1 June 2009

The 13th Royal Sussex Regiment (3rd South Down)

This post will look at army service numbers issued to original members of the 13th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment; also known as the 3rd South Down Battalion.

As with numbering in the 11th Royal Sussex (1st South Down) and the 12th Royal Sussex (2nd South Down), men were - for the most part - grouped alphabetically by the first letter of their surname and then numbered. There are plenty of surviving service and pension records for men of the 3rd South Down battalion and a lot of these are now available on-line via the Ancestry website.

Numbering in the 12th Battalion had ceased at SD/2453 and would begin again, for the 13th Battalion, at SD/2600. SD/2604 Pte William Farquhar Allen is the lowest numbered 13th Battalion man to lose his life whilst serving with a Sussex Regiment battalion. He died of wounds on 20th September 1916.

Here then, following the same formula that I've adopted for the 1st and 2nd South Down Battalions, are the numbering patterns for the 13th Battalion.

13th (3rd South Down) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
November 1914 - February 1915

SD/2600 - SD/2830
Alphabetical A to W. Principally Sussex county enlistment locations.
SD/2832 - SD/3052
Alphabetical A to Y. Principally Sussex county enlistment locations.
SD/3054 - SD/3265
Alphabetical A to Y. Principally Sussex county enlistment locations. Chailey man Tom Clarkson joined the 13th Royal Sussex on 17th December 1914 and was given the number SD/3078. Read his story on my Chailey 1914-1918 site and view his service record on the Ancestry website.
SD/3267 - SD/3503
Alphabetical A to Y. Principally Sussex county enlistment locations. SD/3427 Albert Plummer of Chailey died of wounds on 2nd July 1916; wounds which were almost certainly received three days earlier on the 30th June. Read his story on my Chailey 1914-1918 website.
SD/3504 - SD/3506
I could find no information for SD/3504 or SD/3506 and SD/3505 Corporal Charles Elliston has no surviving documentation in WO 363 or WO 364. His medal index card notes the 13th Battalion and his entitlement to the British War and Victory medals.
SD/3507 - SD/3725
Alphabetical A to W. Principally Sussex county enlistment locations.
SD/3726 - SD/3798
Alphabetical A to K. Principally Sussex county enlistment locations.

The 13th Royal Sussex Regiment had recruited 1200 men between November 1914 and February 1915. However, a significant proportion of these volunteers appear to have been subsequently rejected and, according to Paul Reed's web page on the 13th Battalion, it was not up to strength until mid 1915. By this stage, men with numbers in the 4000s were joining the battalion.

SD/3799 - SD/3874
I have no information for SD/3799 but it looks as though this range of numbers was issued to men joining the 11th Battalion. For instance, SD/3808 and SD/3825 were issued to men joining the 11th Battalion in April and May 1915 respectively.
SD/3875 - SD/3968
Again, this range of numbers was issued to men joining the 11th Battalion. All men within this Royal Sussex Regiment number range had been transferred from the Army Cyclist Corps.
SD/3969 - SD/3999
I have no convincing South Down army service number data for this range and it's possible that this series of numbers was not used.

SD/4000 - SD/4134
Alphabetical B to W.

The battalion arrived in France on 6th March 1916 and on 30th June 1916, at The Board's Head at Richebourg, D Company sustained heavy losses. Even today, 90 odd years later, recording the casualties sustained by the South Down Battalions on this one day, is depressing work.

See also: South Downs Battalions websiteLooking for medals? I have Royal Sussex Regiment medals for sale,including medals to men who served with the South Down battalions.

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


Trevor Purnell said...


Private T G Bridgewater of 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment has two numbers on his medal card 1. 2988 and 2. G/17765. The 3rd Southdowns became the 13th Battalion in July 1915 when they were taken over by the war office. Do you know if they were re-numbered at this time and hence the two numbers?
Many thanks
Trevor Purnell

Paul Nixon said...

I don't think the first number is a Southdowns number. There is no SD/ prefix, but moreover his surname doesn't fit the pattern (all the men either side of this number had surnames beginning with the letter P). So I'd suggest that the first number belongs to one of the TF battalions, probably the 4th (the men either side of his number, and others clse by were previously 4th Battalion men), and that he later transferred to a service battalion. The G/ number dates to September 1916 and there are loads of postings to all of the southdown battalions at this time.

Trevor Purnell said...


Are you saying that Private Bridgewater was posted to the 13th in September 1916 and given the number G/17765 at that time? Or was he already in the 13th at that time and had his number changed. It makes the difference of when he went to France. The 13th went in March 1916, but if he was only posted to the battalion in September 1916 he must have been sent out with a party of reinforcement. Your views very much appreciated.

Kind regards


Paul Nixon said...

Trevor, he was already in France with, I believe, the 4th Royal Sussex, and was transferred to the 13th with other men from the 4th & 5th Battalions in September 1916. The war diary for the 13th may well give a precise date or more information generally.


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