29 September 2009

Rifle Brigade - regular battalions

This post will look at army service numbers issued to men joining the four regular battalions of the Rifle Brigade. The regiment was unaffected by the 1881 Cardwell Reforms and thus continued with the numbering sequence it had been using up until that point.

Note however, as David Langley points out, that the King's Royal Rifle Corps was also "unaffected" by the 1881 Cardwell Reforms and yet it started numbering from 1 in 1881. As David suggests, the Rifle Brigade's refusal to toe the line would appear to be down to either arrogance or ignorance - unless of course, somebody else knows better.

Service records for the following Rifle Brigade regimental numbers survive in the WO 363 (Burnt Documents) and WO 364 (Pensions) series at the National Archives in Kew, London. These records can also be viewed on-line on Findmypast which is currently offering a FREE 14 day trial.

In fact There are over 70,000 Rifle Brigade service and pension records 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. Findmypast has by far the most comprehensive service record collection.

Use the regimental numbers and dates on which these were issued, below, to determine parameters for when your own Rifle Brigade ancestor would have joined up. Note though that these numbers are only for regular enlistments. Special Reserve and Territorial Force battalions operated completely separate regimental number sequences.

5037 joined on 19th November 1881
5185 joined on 7th January 1882
5539 joined on 10th April 1883
6764 joined on 30th June 1884
7779 joined on 23rd October 1885
7978 joined on 18th January 1886
8831 joined on 12th March 1887
9549 joined on 10th March 1888
9919 joined on 12th January 1889

With the numbering sequence fast approaching the 9,999 limit, application would have been made to commence a new number series. Approval was duly given and number 1 in the new series was issued in February 1889.

Also see my post on Queen's and King's Regulations regarding numbering in the British Army.

520 joined on 21st February 1890
1291 joined on 25th June 1891
2155 joined on 7th March 1892
2660 joined on 16th March 1893
3148 joined on 2nd March 1894
3629 joined on 8th March 1895
4475 joined on 6th March 1896
4839 joined on 11th January 1897
5478 joined on 21st January 1898
6571 joined on 28th March 1899
7297 joined on 1st January 1900
8475 joined on 25th June 1901
8989 joined on 7th April 1902
9565 joined on 6th January 1903

With its numbering sequence again approaching the 9,999 limit, application was again made to commence a new number series. Approval was duly given and number 1 in the new series was issued, probably in late December 1903 (number 9996 was issued to 18-year-old Albert Edward Garrett when he joined up on the 28th December 1903).

27 joined on 7th January 1904
658 joined on 4th January 1905
1472 joined on 20th January 1906
1831 joined on 1st January 1907
2459 joined on 7th November 1907
2607 joined on 16th January 1908
3340 joined on 16th January 1909
3586 joined on 4th January 1910
4186 joined on 21st March 1911
4413 joined on 2nd January 1912
4960 joined on 14th January 1913
5363 joined on 4th February 1914

By 24th July 1914, the Rifle Brigade was up to 5568 and when Britain went to war with Germany two weeks later, the regiment maintained this number series for men who still wished to enlist as career soldiers for regular terms of enlistment. Those men joining service battalions were given numbers from different number series (and often different number prefixes depending either on their status or the battalion in question).

Pictured above, my great uncle S/18321 Private John Frederick Nixon. Jack, as he was known to his friends and family, joined a service battalion of the Rifle Brigade in 1916 and was killed in action on 3rd October 1918 whilst attached to the Post Office Rifles. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois memorial in France. Read more about Jack Nixon here.

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

From: The Naval & Military Press:

Verner's History & Campaigns of the Rifle Brigade 1800-1813

History of the Rifle Brigade in the War of 1914-1918


Anonymous said...

This is misleading. At first it states and implies that all searches are free but as one gets into the search one finds that to continue, one has to register and agree to pay a fee to get the information one is searhing for.

Paul Nixon said...

If you're referring to the FREE search on Ancestry, it's not misleading. It is a FREE search for two weeks. You just have to remember to be proactive and terminate your account before that two weeks is up.

Unknown said...

Paul I have a John Blencowe unknown origins who was Private S 13914 qualified for the Star 12/12/1915 . I guessing 1915 enlistment can you pin point closer. Any like region that he would have joined in?

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Roger

I'd have said that he joined in October 1915 but difficult to pinpoint a Bn I'm afraid.


alain.grint@sfr.fr said...

Good day Paul

I am looking at a number of 3410 in the Rifle Brigade
I am right in believing that this number corresponds to a enlistment date sometime in the middle of 1909

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Alain

Short answer would be that 3410 for the regular battalions would date to about the 20th February 1909. Bear in mind though that the same number also crops up for the regular battalions in September 1894 and again in 1878. I'm sure you could discount the two earlier dates but the fact of the matter is that the Rifle Brigade regulars went through the number series at a rate of knots.

Then again, the number you're looking at could belong to a service battalion and, broadly speaking, could have been issued in September 1914. What's the name of the man you're looking for? There are four candidates that I can see: Joseph Aspin, W Rooney, Frank Spain and Cecil Wilkinson. All of these men had 3410 as their regimental number.

alain.grint@sfr.fr said...

Thanks Paul for your reply. Joseph Aspin is the man that is of interest.

Thanks again

Paul Nixon said...

Alain, you can rule out the regular enlistment in 1909 because that was Frank Spain who arrived overseas in 1914 and was subsequently KiA. I'd therefore plump for a Sept 1914 enlistment but I'm afraid I can't suggest which battalion - or which number prefix, for that matter - he'd have been allocated.


alain.grint@sfr.fr said...

Thank you for your help.

Jackie said...

Hi Paul

not sure if this is the best place to post this query as it most probably refers to the Territorial battalions of the Rifle Brigade

I am currently researching a soldier from the Rifle Brigade but have found nothing that indicates his battalion. His medal card (Ancestry) is very plain and only shows the British War medal

Ernest William BUSH 571 and 200530

I have checked some of the numbers either side and they are sequential 567/200526 - 573/200532

all are very plain cards except for one I found (earlier number)

Eugene W BROWN 557/200518 whose card shows an entry date for India 25.11.15

are you able to identify the battalion ??

I have read that territorial batts went to India to replace some of the regular troops to free them up for fighting and that these terries were not eligible for the Victory medal (??)

any help you may be able to provide would be much appreciated

I have some further details ie names etc for the others in the sequences if it would be of interest to you

all the best,


Paul Nixon said...

Hello Jackie

The number belongs to one series which was shared between the 18th-25th Battalions of the RB inclusive but my evidence of numbers for these battalions is too scant to make assumptions. I would be interested to see what you have found and could then apply your research to my own to see if we can get any closer. So please do post and I'll pick this up again.

Best wishes


Paul Nixon said...

Jackie, thank you for the additional information which I have posted on a new post dedicated to the 18th-24th Rifle Brigade battalions.


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