18 August 2009

Middlesex Regiment - Football Battalions

This post will look at army service numbers allocated to the 17th (Service) and 23rd (Service) Battalions of the Middlesex Regiment; also known as the 1st Football and 2nd Football Battalions.

Last week I picked up a copy of When the Whistle Blows: The Story of the Footballers' Battalion in the Great War and I have been reading about the formation of the 17th Middlesex, and the initial difficulties - as can be seen from the numbers below - in actually getting enough men to join up.

Service records for all of these numbers survive in the WO 363 (Burnt Documents) and WO 364 (Pensions) series at the National Archives in Kew, London. They can also be viewed on-line via Ancestry.co.uk which is currently offering a FREE 14 day trial.

Here then, is a sample selection of numbers for the two Footballers' battalions. All numbers were prefixed with the letter F/.

F/13 joined on 22nd December 1914
F/81 joined on 14th January 1915
F/507 joined on 2nd February 1915
F/973 joined on 4th March 1915
F/1264 joined on 10th April 1915
F/1497 joined on 10th May 1915
F/1626 joined on 14th June 1915

The last number I have for the 17th Middlesex is F/1635 which was issued to a man joining on the 29th June 1915. F/1649 was allocated to a man joining the 23rd (2nd Football) Battalion on the 12th July 1915, and the following numbers are all 23rd Battalion issues:

F/1716 joined on 5th August 1915
F/1876 joined on 11th September 1915
F/1987 joined on 6th October 1915
F/2228 joined on 1st November 1915
F/2779 joined on 3rd January 1916

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

British Military History Bookshop

Click the link above to see Middlesex Regiment related literature.

The cartoon on this post originally appeared in Punch on 29th September 1915, and also appears on the Spartacus Educational site which is where I have borrowed the image from.


Unknown said...

Oscar Linkson was in the 17th Middlesex (1st Football) and his regimental number was F/1723

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks for commenting Zoe. That tells me that Oscar initially attested with the 23rd (Reserve) Battalion and was then posted to the 17th.


Christine said...

Pte Norman Balderson's regimental number was F/130. He enlisted in the 17th Middx in January 1915 stating his age as 19 yrs - in fact he was 16 yrs old. He was killed on 28th July 1916 during the Battle of Delville Wood.

Paul Nixon said...


F/121 joining on the 4th January is as close as I get to Norman Balderson's number. The numbers and dates in Jan 1915 are not always strictly sequential, and actually, a precise date probably doesn't matter hugely. Thanks for commenting though. Norman Balderson RIP.

Sue Light said...

Hallo Paul - I thought I'd better start checking out your site before posting any more of my men. But a little puzzle I don't fully understand. F/2779 is one of 'mine' - James Howarth - and you have him as joining on 3/1/16. The information I originally took from his service record says he enlisted at Worthing at 17 November 1915. Does this signify that he was, perhaps, a 'Derby' man, or have I taken some wrong information from the records somewhere along the line?

Paul Nixon said...

Hi Sue

Yes, you're right. He attested at Worthing on the 17th November 1915, probably under the Derby Scheme, and was immediately placed on the Army Reserve. He joined the 23rd Battalion at Aldershot on the 3rd January 1916. So his military service reckons from the 15th Nov 1915 but his number dates to the time he actually joined the regiment.

Sue Light said...

Thanks Paul - for some reason I couldn't find him earlier, but of course now he's there in the index complete with 'Lancing College.' Age marches on!

Iain McMullen said...

Hi Paul

I am currently researching the former Manchester City and United footballer Alexander 'Sandy' Turnbull who was killed with the 8/East Surreys at Cherisy on 3 May 1917, however I have run into a few problems.

He initially joined the 23/Middlesex, but I haven't been able to ascertain exactly when he enlisted and when he was transferred across the the East Surreys (although 'When the whistle blows' says "towards the end of 1916").

His medal roll gives his Middlesex number as 3001 and his East Surrey one as 28427 - would you have any ideas?

I believe he enlisted in Wendover, Hampshire.

Many thanks


Paul Nixon said...

Hello Iain

Gosh, I don't have anything to offer really. My data for the Footballers ends at the point I indicated on my blog post. I'd concur with end of 1916 for the East Surreys but this number requires more research as my data is a little thin here. I did have a quick check earlier on but could not find anything conclusive for this number range.


Iain McMullen said...

Hi Paul - thanks for the prompt response.

Looking at the previous numbers for the 23rd Battalion, it seems as if his enlistment was around February or March 1916 maybe? I suppose it also depends on the enlistment levels during that period however.

Thanks for your help.


Iain McMullen said...

Confusingly, I've just read in "When the Whistle Blows" that Turnbull wasn't allowed to play for the 23rd Middlesex against Birmingham City in a game on Christmas Day 1915 due to his FA-imposed ban for match-fixing. That implies he joined in 1915, but I'm yet to find anything to clarify this.

McQmoto said...

F/2403 was Pte. Albert Edward Byng. Born 8 March 1897 at Alvechurch, Worcestershire. Enlisted at Aldershot. Died 24 September 1917 in hospital at St Omer - of cancer. Buried CWG Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenier Cemetery.

Unknown said...

1420 Pte Leonard Janson was a member of the 23rd battalion (2nd Football). He died 16 June 1916. Would love to know more but thats all I have.

Carol said...

Hi, my paternal grandfather joined 23rd service battalion Middlesex regiment on 19th July 1915, his service number was F1681. His name was John Allen. He was discharged on 7th September 1916 as no longer physically fit for war service, I am not certain why but I know he suffered with lung problems thereafter. He died in 1950 aged 54. I have a photograph of him with 5 other soldiers, it would be lovely to know who they were but I have no idea how to find out.

Paul Nixon said...

If you send me the photo, Carol, I will re-publish it which may, in turn, invite other responses in due course, But it's a VERY long shot. Email to paulcanixon@yahoo.co.uk

Unknown said...

My Great Grandfather Cpl Thomas Heller F/770 17th Middlesex rgt. He was not a footballer but Goalkeeper at Preston marathon rink hockey team (World Champions) as mentioned in the book "When the whistle blows). Killed in action 28th July 1916 at the battle of Delville Wood.

Grab a book bargain - 1000s of titles