14 September 2009

West Yorkshire Regiment - 1st & 2nd Battalions

This post will look at army service numbers issued to men joining the regular battalions (1st and 2nd Battalions) of the Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment between 1882 and July 1914. The regiment started numbering from 1 in July 1881 but my data starts the following year.

Prior to the British Army Reforms of 1881, the West Yorkshire Regiment had been the 14th Regiment of Foot and had been conferred with the title The Prince of Wales's Own just five years earlier in 1876.

There are over 64,000 West Yorkshire Regiment serviceand 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.

117 joined on 26th January 1882
535 joined on 17th September 1883
666 joined on 22nd March 1884
994 joined on 1st March 1885
1225 joined on 2nd January 1886
1823 joined on 18th June 1887
2212 joined on 14th March 1888
2484 joined on 26th July 1889
2646 joined on 11th February 1890
2953 joined on 28th July 1891
3314 joined on 26th September 1892
3534 joined on 20th February 1893
4066 joined on 13th June 1894
4509 joined on 9th December 1895
4678 joined on 4th March 1896
5000 joined on 16th July 1897
5241 joined on 12th July 1898
5283 joined on 27th March 1899
5895 joined on 6th June 1900
6106 joined on 21st May 1901
6284 joined on 25th January 1902
6624 joined on 7th January 1903
7705 joined on 1st November 1904
7942 joined on 8th May 1905
8279 joined on 3rd January 1907
8751 joined on 29th January 1908
9064 joined on 12th January 1909
9321 joined on 9th March 1910
9453 joined on 29th January 1911
9675 joined on 11th March 1912
9863 joined on 6th January 1913
10172 joined on 8th July 1914

Less than a month later, Britain was at war with Germany and the newly forming service battalions (with the exception of the Pals' Battalions) would draw their numbers from the same series (above).

The image on this post comes from the intriguingly named, the internet bandsman's everything within and shows men of the 3rd (Special Reserve) Batttalion in presumably the early 1900s. A number of ther men pictured wear the Queen's South Africa and King's South Africa medals.

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

From The Naval & Military Press:

The West Yorkshire Regiment in the war 1914-1918

Another weighty regimental history, two volumes, 820 pages in all covering the record of twenty-two battalions in France, Flanders, Italy and Gallipoli (all of them served on the Western Front). When war broke out the regiment consisted of two Regular battalions (1st and 2nd), two Special Reserve (3rd and 4th) and four Territorial battalions (5th to 8th); the 1st Battalion went to France with 6th Division in September 1914, the 2nd Battalion came home from Malta to join the newly formed 8th Division (Regular) and went to France in November 1914. Both battalions remained in the same brigades (18th and 23rd) and divisions throughout the war.

The four Territorial battalions each formed a 2nd and a 3rd line battalion; the four original battalions made up the 146th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division, arriving in France in April 1915, the second line battalions combined to make the 185th Brigade, 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division which arrived in France in January 1917.

Kitchener’s call to arms resulted in eleven Service battalions being raised, 9th to 18th (the 17th was formed as a Bantam battalion) and 21st; of these only 13th and 14th did not go on active service. The 21st Battalion became a Pioneer battalion in 4th Division and the 22nd was a Labour battalion which also went to France.

This history records events in chronological order, the dates of the operations being described are shown in the margin as are the identities of the battalions involved. Volume 1 (x + 355pp with 18 maps and 15 b/w photos) covers the period from the outbreak of war to the end of 1916, the close of the Somme offensive and includes the Dardanelles campaign where the 9th Battalion was in action with the 11th (Northern) Division. On 1st July 1916, the first day of the Somme, the 10th Battalion attacked at Fricourt and incurred the heaviest casualties of any battalion - 710, of whom 307 were killed including the CO, 2IC, adjutant and two company commanders. More than half of them are in in Fricourt New Military Cemetery which is in the No Man’s Land across which they attacked and where they died. The CO (Lt Col Dickson) and his adjutant (Capt Shann) lie side by side.

There is a Roll of Honour for the period covered in which the other ranks are listed alphabetically by battalions as are the Territorial battalion officers; the other officers are shown in one group in alphabetical order with the battalion number in front of the name. Although the note at the head of the officer casualty list states that the theatre in which death occurred is France and Flanders unless otherwise indicated, nonetheless ‘Gallipoli’ is not shown against the names of the officers of the 9th Battalion who died there, and so one is left with the wrong impression they died on the Western front. Volume 2 (xi + 494pp with 9 maps and 8 b/w photos) covers 1917-18 and Italy where the 11th Battalion served from November 1917 to the end of the war in 23rd Division, suffering only two officers wounded, 11 other ranks killed and 58 wounded in that last year of the war. There is a Roll of Honour for 1917-18, arranged as in Volume 1. In all the regiment had 12,700 dead and was awarded four VCs for which the citations are all at the end of Volume 2. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

Historical Records of the 14th Regiment... from 1689 to 1892

Despite the title the West Yorks came into existence in June 1685 at the time of the Monmouth Rebellion and, as then was the practice, was known after the man who raised it, Sir Edward Hales. Of immediate interest is the establishment of the regiment as at January 1686 showing the rates of pay for each rank and the numbers authorised, and the Regimental Roll of officers in 1687, the earliest roll that can be found. Hales unfortunately picked the wrong side in 1688 by supporting James II against William of Orange and ended up in the Tower; he was replaced by William Beveridge, appointed by the Prince of Orange who, in February 1689 was crowned William III with his consort Queen Mary.

In 1692 the regiment went on active service for the first time, joining the army in Flanders where it gained its first battle honour - Namur 1695. In 1751 with the introduction of the system of foot numbers the regiment became the 14th Regiment of Foot. and a few years later, in 1764, King George III directed their badge should be the White Horse of Hanover. Following the decision to affiliate regiments to counties to improve recruiting the regiment was, in 1782, styled the Fourteenth, or Bedfordshire Regiment of Foot, changed some twenty-five years later to Buckinghamshire. It wasn’t till the reforms of 1881 that the regiment became the West Yorks. A second battalion was formed in 1804 and between them they served in wars and expeditions across the globe, all carefully described. Lists of officers present for duty in either battalion are regularly featured - for example the complete roll of regimental officers as in the Army Lists of June 1873 and January 1893 are reproduced. The book is arranged on a year by year basis, each year being a heading. There is a detailed contents' list which is a great help in tracing events and appendices include biographies of Colonels of the Regiment from 1685 and of other eminent officers, copies of regimental correspondence and other matters of regimental interest. This is a very good example of what a regimental history should be. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.


Unknown said...

Another very interesting Blog.

I have a soldier I would like to track back can you help/
Name: George Blenco
Birth Place: Copt, Hewick, Yorks
Death Date: 19 Sep 1918
Death Location: France & Flanders
Enlistment Location: Ripon
Rank: Private
Regiment: Alexandra, Prince of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment)
Battalion: 5th Battalion
Number: 34124
Type of Casualty: Died
Theatre of War: Western European Theatre
Comments: Formerly 28930, Lincs Regt.

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Roger

Bit of a stab, this one but I'd say that Lincs Regt dates to between Aug and Oct 1916 and that the Yorks number looks to be around Sep 1916. Not entirley convinced by this but that's as close as I get.


Unknown said...

May well be correct and will go with your guesstimate.
George born 1880 and so would have thought that even if he didn't volunteer he would have been conscripted just after 27 Jan 1916 when conscription I thought was enforced.
He was a farm labourer and maybe his employer got him excluded for a period.

Those panels for exclusion would be great resource to answer this type of question do you know if online anywhere?


Paul Nixon said...

I'm not aware that those lists have survived but I wouldn't bet against some of them being tucked away in county archives somewhere.


Anonymous said...


I am looking at a man called Thomas cobbledick 11063 from Ashington Northuberland I am guessing this number was a August September enlistment. Cobbledick enlisted in Ashington and and this number with the Northumberland fusiliers would be at the same time. Any ideas why he should choose West Yorkshires when both the 8th and 14th Battalions NF were taking men at this time The 9WY and 8NF were in the same Division.

Any Ideas Best wishes Draperju

Paul Nixon said...


Yes, looks like a Aug enlistment for the West Yorks but no idea why he opted for that regt rather than the NF. Perhaps he joined up with a mate who was bound for the WY, or perhaps he encountered a particularly persuasive recruiting sgt for the W Yorks. There could be any number of reasons really, and even a surviving service record wouldn't explain the logic.

Draperju said...

Thank you for your reply Very helpful. just a small piece of information I have identified at least eight men from Ashington who enlisted in 9th WY Service numbers 11038 to 11121

Many to die at Suvla Bay 9/10 August 1915.

Thank you Draperju

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks Draperju; good luck with your continuing research.


Gerald said...

Trying to find information about
Private 40315 James Hadcock O’Brien 19th battalion West Yorkshire Regiment who was killed in action 13/11/1916

Gerald Tidswell
e-mail: tidtracer@blueyonder.co.uk

Bantams Lelant said...

Hi Paul

Would you have any thoughts as to why our family member, Lance Corporal Arthur Dewhirst, would arrive in France as part of the 2bn West Riding Regiment in August 1914 and when he died on December 13th 1917 he was listed as being in 1bn of the West Yorkshire Regiment? He had 4 different service numbers during this time, the last one being 235102, was this common? Also on his medal card notes section it says trans (transferred?) and kwa (killed while active?). Any help would be appreciated.


Paul Nixon said...


Thanks for commenting. I suppose it could look like kwa but it is actually, K in A; killed in action. He had four distinct periods of service with the regiments listed, and in the 1,2,3, 4 order indicated on the card. Without digging more deeply into the record it's not possible to say why this was the case, but it's possible that he was wounded, returned to the UK, recuperated, transferred to another regiment and issued with a new regimental number. All of these numbers and their issue dates could be researched.


Bantams Lelant said...

Hi Paul

Thanks for the reply

We're all really interested in following this thread, where would we go to research further? Is it likely Arthur had previous military experience as it appears the 2nd Battalion was classed as a regular army unit? There is a military record for an Arthur Dewhirst in 1904 when he would have been 18. His dad was a policeman in Bradford but he died in 1899. I have found a second medal card for him with the service number 235102 on its own which carries a bit more info but don't understand it fully:

It has the campaign as BEF 1914 and disembarkation date as WS/1/7868.

In the notes it says Col i/c No2 inf York makes application for 1914. Star due to L/Cpl A Dewhirst.

We've now discovered that his brother Harry was killed three months before, he was in the 109th Battery in the RA. Sad times.

Paul Nixon said...

Steve, please drop me a line to paulcanixon@yahoo.co.uk and I'll tell you what I can offer.


Anonymous said...

Iv came across a ww1 victory medal of a pte f brogden w yorks r number 11891 would like to know if hes any family who id like to return the medal to

Unknown said...

I am trying to find information on my grandfather Pte. William Buckley 1st West Yorkshire Regiment no 53137. I have tracked down his medal record card but am unable to find his service record. He survived a shell attack somewhere near Ypres 1917? and came back to England. I believe he then went to India. Any help would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
My wife had 2 great grandfathers who served in the West Yorkshire regiment. William Henry West, first was a corporal, Reg#1081, and then supposedly returned to England due to gas poisoning, and then was a private in the Labour Corps,Reg#605481. Does the Reg#1081 mean he served in the first battalion? We have never found any enlistment or discharge date for him. My wife's other great grandfather, was Harry West, a private, Reg#17166. I assume that this means he was in the 17th battalion? (yes, he was short) Any assistance about the Regimental numbers would be appreciated.
Paul W.

Paul Nixon said...

Paul W, the regimental number 17166 does not signify 17th Battalion. The medal roll on Ancestry may give you the battalion. The other great grandfather probably does not have the information you seek on his medal roll entry as Labour Corps rolls are generally unhelpful. Closer analysis of when he arrived overseas might help narrow down his battalion, as might mentions in casualty lists.

Sue said...

Hello, I wonder if you can help. My Grandfather, Fred Collyer was in The West Yorkshire regiment, we worked that out from cap badge. His service number is 58949. Is there any way to tell roughly when he joined up. His medal record says 1/5 W Yorks. I cannot find a service record so assume it is one of the lost ones.

Paul Nixon said...

Sue, Thank you for your comment. As you will hopefully have seen when posting on this blog, if your request is for information about a specific individual, please contact me via the research tab.

Robert said...

Hello, my great grandfather enlisted in The Prince of Wales's own in 1913 but was discharged due to illness in 1914. His service number is 4/7875. Does the 4 indicate that he was in the 4th battalion? Also according to numbers against dates on your page, his number indicates he enlisted in 1904!

Paul Nixon said...

Yes, the 4/ prefix indicates 4th Bn; no, the 4th Bn had it's own number series. The numbers I quote above are only those for the 1st and 2nd Battalions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul, my great grandad was in 1/5th and 21st West Yorks and had number 21/9, which I guess relates to the 21st bat, but we've also seen his number noted as 21/92119. Does this make any sense? Thanks. Vicki

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Vicki

No, it doesn't make much sense. His number was 21/9. It looks as though the forward slash has been mis-represented in transcription as the numeral 1, a simple error.

AHJ said...

Paul, a few more numbers I turned up when researching what I think was a 1/W Yorks Regular:

7849 Arthur Rix enlisted into 4th Battalion for 6 years (Special Reservist?) 1 March 1913. After two months Special course of instruction and one month's Recruits musketry course, enlisted into regular KOSB August 1913.

7844 Walter Rawling or Rawlings enlisted 10 January 1905 according to SWB Roll.

7847 Samuel Watson from the Militia(?) 16 January 1905. Posted to 2nd Battalion 13 April 1905.

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks for these numbers, AHJ. I am no longer adding to the database as I simply don't have enough hours in the day these days, but I appreciate your sentiments in passing these on. Paul.

Rob Wharton. said...

Hi there,I have just begun searching for my paternal Grandfathers war records.

His name is Ernest Wharton service number 58489.He was enlisted in Leeds in Dec 1914.

I have his recruiting certificate showing that he was enlisted into the Leeds battalion of the West Yorkshire regiment.

But I have also discovered a War pensions claim made by my late Grandmother which indicates he was a Rifleman in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

I've just started and am confused,can anyone assist me please???

Thanks in advance.


Paul Nixon said...

He served with three different regiments, Rob. See here: http://www.britisharmyancestors.co.uk/search-result/?q=58489+wharton

I do reserach soldiers, drop me a line if you need help: paul@britisharmyancestors.co.uk

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