9 September 2009

Seaforth Highlanders - 1st & 2nd Battalions

This post will look at army service numbers to men joining the regular battalions - the 1st and 2nd Battalions - of the Seaforth Highlanders between 1881 and August 1914.

The Seaforth Highlanders were born in July 1881. The 1st Battalion was formerly the 72nd (Duke of Albany's Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, whilst the 2nd Battalion was formerly the 78th (Highlanders - Ross-shire Buffs) Regiment of Foot. The newly created 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion was born out of the old Highland Rifle Militia.

The regiment started numbering from 1 in July 1881 and continued steadily and sequentially over the next 33 years. In 1908, and for some reason which I am yet to get to the bottom of, the regiment, by now numbering in the 10500s, abruptly abandoned the series which had served it so well since 1881, and started a new series from 1. It wasn't alone in doing this: the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and the Gordon Highlanders also did exactly the same thing that year. There was no reason - that I can see - for the three regiments to have done this. By 1908 King's Regulations permitted infantry regiments to continue with the same regimental number series until they approached 19,999, and all three regiments were well short of that figure.

It would be tempting to suggest that this was a highland regiment phenomenon, but the argument soon falls down. The Gordons, The A&S Highlanders and the Seaforths were the only three infantry regiments in the British Army to (unnecessarily) commence new number series for their regular battalions in 1908.

The records that follow are just a small sample from a far larger database. There are over 26,000 Seaforth Highlanders service and pension records (for this regiment - and its antecedents) 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. Some of these records can also be viewed on-line on Ancestry although 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 Seaforth Highlanders 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.

70 joined on 6th September 1881
587 joined on 11th February 1882
704 joined on 8th January 1883
947 joined on 12th January 1884
1500 joined on 7th January 1885
2041 joined on 5th April 1886
2447 joined on 18th May 1887
2738 joined on 10th January 1888
2985 joined on 2nd March 1889
3344 joined on 28th July 1890
3486 joined on 19th January 1891
4229 joined on 7th May 1892
4470 joined on 9th January 1893
4783 joined on 3rd January 1894
5220 joined on 18th May 1895
5467 joined on 11th January 1896
6145 joined on 25th May 1897
6356 joined on 5th December 1898
6869 joined on 30th November 1899
7361 joined on 26th March 1900
7604 joined on 5th June 1902
7827 joined on 2nd January 1903
8716 joined on 5th February 1904
9295 joined on 27th November 1905
9343 joined on 26th January 1906
10118 joined on 22nd January 1907
10584 joined on 29th January 1908

New number series begun in 1908. See above.

209 joined on 7th January 1909
462 joined on 4th January 1910
733 joined on 19th June 1911
982 joined on 12th January 1912
1228 joined on 7th August 1913
1435 joined on 5th August 1914

By 5th August Britain had been at war with Germany for precisely one day. When the new service battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders were formed, they too would draw their numbers from the same series that had, up until that point in time, been used by the two regular battalions. War-time enlistments though, would have their numbers prefixed with S/.

Finally, a word of warning. Whilst the numbers I have shown above follow a sequential pattern, it would be wrong to assume that this was always the case. It wasn't. As far as the Seaforths are concerned, from March 1900, numbers in the 8000s began to be used and from March 1901, numbers in the 9000s. I've expanded upon this HERE.

The image on this post is taken from The Regimental Records of the British Army 1660-1901, an excellent reference work by J S Farmer (illustrated by R Simkin), first published in 1901 and re-printed by Crecy in 1984.

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