24 June 2009

Border Regiment recruitment in 1906

This post will look at recruitment in the regular battalions - the 1st and 2nd Battalions - of the Border Regiment in 1906.

As I mentioned yesterday in my post on Border Regiment recruitment 1881-1914, 1906 was a bumper year for the regiment. In the period 31st January 1905 to 3rd January 1906, less than two hundred men had joined the regiment. Number 8088 had joined on 31st January 1905 and number 8164 joined on 3rd January 1906. And yet by 19th December 1906, the regiment had reached number 9211, an astronomical rise in recruits if all of those numbers had been allocated.

So what happened in 1906 to so dramatically improve the fortunes of Border Regiment recruitment, and where did all the men come from?

I've compiled the list below by looking at surviving Border Regiment service records for 1906. All of these survive in the WO 363 and WO 364 series at the National Archives (the vast majority of these in WO 363) and all are now available via the Ancestry website. I've indicated in square brackets, the place where the men attested.

8164 John Arthur joined on 3rd January [Stratford]
8183 Arthur George joined on 12th January [London]
8187 Edmund Baxter joined on 15th January [Jersey]
8188 George Bygrave joined on 15th January [London]
8199 Dick Button joined on 19th January [Stratford]
8200 Ernest Beale joined on 19th January [Stratford]
8210 Edward Day joined on 23rd January [Leicester]
8218 Henry Batt joined on 1st February [Stratford]
8220 Thomas William Emsworth joined on 2nd February [Stratford]
8243 Joseph Kiggins joined on 26th February [Stratford]
8247 William Charles Brown joined on 2nd March [Stratford]
8274 William Malyon joined on 24th March [Barnet]
8312 James Johnson joined on 23rd April [Workington]
8315 Alfred John Alford joined on 27th April [London]
8317 Harry Gallaway Mayo North joined on 21st April [Hastings]
8327 Alfred Charles Campbell joined on 30th April [Stratford]
8332 John William Harris joined on 4th May [Stratford]
8334 Frank Le Bontilier Harris joined on 4th May [Stratford]
8339 Edward Edwin Barrett joined on 23rd May [Stratford, London]
8348 Robert Alfred Brandon joined on 6th June [London]
8353 John Stanley Mitchell joined on 5th June [London]
8357 Phillip Davis joined on 16th June [Stratford]
8370 George Frederick Hanson joined on 21st June [Pontefract]
8372 Robert Douglas joined on 19th June [Carlisle]
8373 James Godden joined on 20th June [London]
8380 Charles Edward Ellicock joined on 22nd June [London]
8386 Conrad Burrows joined on 27th June [Stratford]
8429 Edward Hester joined on 11th July [Stratford]
8433 Andrew Mcmanus joined on 9th July [Carlisle]
8435 William Lake joined on 10th July [London]
8450 Walter Frederick Fox joined on 16th July [London]
8451 John Bow joined on 16th July [Nottingham]
8457 Charles Horwood joined on 16th July [London]
8475 John Gardner joined on 23rd July [London]
8479 William Harding joined on 24th July [London]
8486 John Tom Brown joined on 30th July [Nottingham]
8491 William Moore joined on 1st August [Nottingham]
8501 John Richard Coleman joined on 7th August [Walthamstow]
8504 George King joined on 9th August [Nottingham]
8511 Alfred Marks joined on 9th August [Stratford]
8521 Joseph James Giles joined on 4th August [Coventry]
8522 Percy John Evans joined on 10th August [Manchester]
8524 John Barry joined on 13th August [London]
8525 William Grace joined on 9th August [Hounslow]
8532 Albert Muncey joined on 13th August [London]
8533 Edward Clarke joined on 13th August [Coventry]
8544 Harry Hellwig joined on 13th August [London]
8615 Charles Cornelius Barnard, alias Charles Cornelius Berning joined on 26th August having transferred from Northumberland Fusiliers (number 1419) [Stratford]
8663 Arthur Berham Cox joined on 29th August [Chatham]
8682 George Harris joined on 10th September [London]
8698 Herbert Squelch joined on 12th September [London]
8715 Robert Johnson joined on 20th September August [Halifax]
8798 George Davis joined on 27th September [Stratford]
9011 Christopher Riley joined on 22nd October [Workington]
9211 Joseph Francis Doonan joined on 19th December [Workington]

Again, this is a snapshot, 55 men from a series embracing over a thousand numbers, but it's interesting to note that the vast majority of these enlistments took place in London - and most of these in the East End. Thirty-five men signed up at Stratford, Walthamstow or simply "London". Add in men from other parts of south England (and one man from Jersey), and the total rises to 40. The majority of the remaining men joined up in the Midlands (Coventry and Nottingham) with only a handful coming from what would tradionally be regarded as the Border Regiment recruiting area.

These recruiting locations are in marked contrast to recruitment the previous year which for the most part, according to my records at least, took place pretty much where you'd expect it to have done - in Border Regiment territory. Without having documentary evidence to hand, it's difficult to know exactly what went on but it would appear that after a poor showing in 1905, a decision was taken to spread the Border Regiment recruitment net and, if the recruits wouldn't come to the Borders, go and find the recruits. That's all guesswork on my part but the logic, based on the locations above, appears sound.

All of the men above signed up for seven years with the Colours and five on the Reserve. That means that excluding those men who'd extended their period of service, and those of course who had been discharged early, the majority of these 1906 enlistments would have been on the Reserve when Britain went to war with Germany in August 1914. It stands to reason therefore that the majority of these men would also have been recalled to the Colours when Britain went to war.

I had a quick look at Soldiers Died in The Great War and counted up the number of men with numbers in the range 8164 to 9210. By my reckoning, there were 236 men, 59 of whom are recorded on SDGW as having enlisted in London. The true total will be higher. Furthermore, numbers in that range for the Border regiment can only have been issued to men who joined up in 1906. If he had a number in the range 8164 to 9211 he must have joined up during the Border Regiment's bumper year.

For informed Border Regiment discussion, visit the Border Regiment Forum.

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Books about the Border Regiment during WW1

The Border Regiment in the Great War

Before the Great War the Border Regiment, primarily recruited from the Lakeland counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland, consisted of two Regular and two Territorial battalions, plus the Regimental Depot. During the war this was increased to a total of thirteen battalions by the raising of volunteer service battalions. This history tells the story of all 13 battalions.

The regiment saw service in France from 1914, while the 1st battalion was at Gallipoli the following year. In 1916, six of the regiment’s battalions took part in the battle of the Somme, and in 1917 the regiment fought in the battle of Arras, at Bullecourt, and at the Battle of Messines. Six of its battalions took part in the third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) while other battalions fought on the Salonika front in Macedonia and in Italy.

In this excellent and tightly written history, as the regiment’s Colonel, Maj.Gen. E.G. Sinclair MacLagan writes in his preface, the author “has recorded the doings of the different Battalions in six separate theatres of war, and has merged them into one consecutive narrative”. lllustrated by 14 photographic plates and seven maps.


Graham Stewart said...

Hi Paul,
Have read yor blog regarding the Border Regiment and in particular your comment regarding the regiments "traditional" recruiting area. However I have to say that despite the Cardwell reforms of 1881 and the idea that regiments would recruit from within their set boundaries, in reality it was a total "myth" and virtually all regiments were forced to seek recruits well beyond their territorial borders as set by the Cardwell system.

My conclusions are based upon many years of research into the Northumberland Fusiliers and recruiting in general and for a better idea as to how regiments were recruiting you have to look at their "Digest of Service", which is usually a brief resume of the regiments history, but includes lesser known details on recruitment, desertion, as well as changes in uniform and clothing.

Sadly being located out here in Saudi I have none of my notes with me, but can well recall the Northumberlands did infact recorded that they had more men serving from the Home Counties than from Northumberland itself. Also on more than one occassion it was announced that London was closed to recruiting for the Northumberlands, such was the regiments popularity.

I also own a "Pamphlet for Recruiters" dated 1895 for Coalville, Leicestershire. In that pamphlet are a list of regiments which can be regarded as "target" units, i.e. units for which recruiters are given preference to fill.

If a "Digest of Service" for any regiment can be found you'll find some interesting observations not found elsewhere.

Love the site and all the best,

Paul Nixon said...


Thanks for your helpful insights as ever. I did check through some of the recruitment areas for the Border Regiment for 1905 and although there is a Stratford (London) enlistment there, most of the other men who joined up that year, came from the areas I'd have expected them to come from.

But there was certainly a surge in recruitment for the Border Regt in 1906 and that happened well away from Border country. I reckon that Jersey is about as far south as you can go, without recruiting for French regiments!

The NF man in the list I published was also a Londoner. There was another too, not included in that list because I couldn't identify his original number. But he joined up in 1905 and then transferred to the Border Regt the following year.

Fascinating stuff as usual though, Mr Stewart, but like you, being many miles away from likely sources for Digest of Service documents, I'm going to have to put that quest on a back-burner for the time being.


Chris said...


Another informative blog on the Borders, very interesting and I will definitely agree with your thoughts on the recruiting process including men from other counties, often counties at the other end of the country.

Generally, from reading articles, browsing websites etc. this almost exclusively seems to be the case with several other regiments where recruitment was lacking and so if men from a regiment's home county were not interested in joining, a search for those who were would have to have come from somewhere else....and the bigger poplations were almost always going to yield better recruiting results.

Graham's comment sort of confirms your theory.

Methinks you are correct!

Chris - Border Regiment Forum

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks Chris

I've just posted again on recruitment in the 19th Century and quoted from Alan Kelley's book on the Victorian Soldier at Home which supports what you and Graham are saying.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul
Interesting reading - thanks.
However I question your reasoning that they extended their recruiting net in 1905 - my grandfather (roll 7415) enlisted in Stratford in April 1904

Paul Nixon said...


All regiments recruited outside of their 'local' recruitment areas and at different times, according to the strenght of their establishment, that recruitment may have been more vigorous than on other occasions. Perfectly natural therefore, that your grandfather should have joined up at Stratford outside the snapshot period that my post dealt with.


Anonymous said...

Being a Norfolk family through and through for at least five generations it always caused much confusion as to why my great grandfather spent around twenty years in the Border Regiment. Research has revealed that after enlisting in the Norfolk Regiment and a very brief spell in the Northumberland Fusilers, Robert James NEWBY 8784 transferred to Border Regiment in around 1906, surviving WW1 as an Old Comtemptible, continued to serve the Border Regiment as a Serjeant Instructor in Aspatria Cumberland into the 1920s. Whilst I understand the reasonings in the blog and comments for new recruits being drawn from across the UK, what would have been the motivation or reasoning for transfers between three regiments in such a short space of time? Keep up the good work.

Paul Nixon said...

Re inter-regimental transfers. Thanks for commenting. I have seen men transferring in order to serve with family members. Men could also buy themselves out of the army (if they could afford to do so) and then re-enlist. My own 2x great uncle did this, enlisting in the Wiltshire Regt in 1894, buying himself out within three months and then immediately enlisting again, this time with the 20th Hussars. However, despite the fact that his papers survive, his motivations remain a mystery. Inter-regimental transfers could also occur if a battalion was under-establishment and due for service overseas. This seems to have been particularly common with cavalry but may also have been relevant for infantry - and the NF and Border Regt were effectively neighbours.

Captain Obvious said...

Thanks for this information. I wondered why my grandmother's uncle ( Bert Price 8338) had joined the Border Regiment 15th May 1906 when he was born and raised in Islington. I though Royal Welch Fsiliers would be logical for a a London Welsh lad. I see by his attestation papers he signed up in Stratford. He was soon posted to Burma and was there with the rest of the 1st Battalion when war broke out. One good thing about him joining up is he became pals with my grandfather John Rowntree ( 9078) who signed up in Nov 1906 in Durham where he was born. Bert took grandad home on leave during the war and he met my grandmother. It's nice to have gaps filled in the family story by information like this.

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