13 October 2009

Royal Munster Fusiliers - 1st & 2nd Battalions

This post will look at army service numbers and the dates on which these were issued to men joining the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. The period covered is 1881 until 1913 which is where my data - currently - runs out.

The regiment was born on 1st July 1881. The 1st Battalion was previously the 101st Regiment of Foot (Royal Bengal Fusiliers), whilst the 2nd Battalion was previously the 104th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Fusiliers). Both new battalions drew their numbers from the same series which started at 1 on 1st July 1881.

There are over 13,000 Royal Munster Fusiliers 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 Royal Munster Fusiliers ancestor would have joined up. Note though that these numbers are only for regular enlistments. Special Reserve and Extra Reserve battalions operated completely separate regimental number sequences.

125 joined on 13th December 1881
973 joined on 4th November 1882
1023 joined on 2nd June 1883
1252 joined on 2nd January 1884
1573 joined on 8th June 1885
2025 joined on 26th August 1886
2257 joined on 31st January 1887
2634 joined on 10th September 1888
2814 joined on 10th April 1889
3344 joined on 22nd February 1890
3540 joined on 17th February 1891
3933 joined on 14th January 1892
4378 joined on 17th July 1893
4652 joined on 23rd April 1894
4840 joined on 17th January 1895
5201 joined on 17th February 1896
5434 joined on 22nd February 1897
5576 joined on 13th January 1898
6212 joined on 6th January 1899
6435 joined on 29th January 1900
6738 joined on 6th March 1901
6979 joined on 27th February 1902
7263 joined on 14th January 1903
7569 joined on 15th February 1904
8037 joined on 21st January 1905
8409 joined on 19th July 1906
8509 joined on 20th February 1907
8844 joined on 24th September 1908
8973 joined on 15th March 1909
9303 joined on 31st January 1910
9522 joined on 13th February 1911
9725 joined on 4th January 1912
10045 joined on 2nd June 1913

By the time Britain went to war with Germany in August 1914, the Royal Munster Fusiliers had five battalions: the regular 1st and 2nd Battalions, the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion and the 5th (Extra Reserve Battalion). The 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions each maintained separate number series.

With the call to arms, the Munsters started forming new battalions. The 6th and 7th were formed in August 1914, followed by the 8th and 9th the following month. Two garrison battalions would also be formed in April and November 1917. All of these new battalions were allocated numbers from a new number series which started from 1 in August 1914. This series appears to have been reserved solely for men joining these battalions for war-time service only.

The number series detailed above, that was originally the preserve of career soldiers joining the 1st and 2nd Battalions, continued to be maintained for men who wished to join up during war-time under regular terms of enlistment. Thus, for example, you have number 10596 being issued to a regular enlistment in March 1915 whilst men joining the New Army battalions at this time were being issued numbers in the 4000s.

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From the Naval & Military Press:

The History of the Bengal European Regiment

This history is dedicated to The Royal Munster Fusiliers whose origins go back to the very early days of the East India Company when each of the three Presidencies (Bengal, Madras and Bombay) had their own armies of Native and European troops. The latter were initially organised in companies and it was as a small guard of honour (an Ensign and thirty men) that the Bengal Regiment began life in 1652. This grew into several companies till 1756 when, under Clive’s orders, they were grouped to form the regiment, then known as “The Bengal European Battalion.” In 1839 a second Bengal European Regiment was formed so we now had the 1st and 2nd Regiments. In 1858 the Presidencies’ European regiments were taken over by the Crown and the two Bengal regiments became the 1st and 2nd Bengal Fusiliers, redesignated in 1861 as the 101st Royal Bengal Fusiliers and the 104th Bengal Fusiliers.

As detailed above, it was in 1881 that they became the 1st and 2nd Battalions The Royal Munster Fusiliers and this book is really an account of the conquest of India by the British. The narrative covers all these events which involved the regiment in frequent fighting. At the beginning of the book is a list of the Regiment’s war services from 1756 to 1858 - no less than 83 wars, battles and engagements, all are described in these pages and at the end of each chapter is a select list of references or bibliography. From time to time lists of officers serving in the regiment are given as are casualties in various actions. There are also interesting details on reorganisation, on pay and conditions of service and on dress and establishments which, altogether, make this a very comprehensive history. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.
History of the Royal Munster Fusiliers from 1861 to 1922
This history relates the story of one of the British Army’s fighting Irish units from the middle of the 19th century to its disbandment on the attainment of Irish independence in 1922. Originating in India as the 101st Regiment of Foot (Royal Bengal Fusiliers) the Munster Fusiliers subsequently served in the Boer War. The bulk of this history, however, covers their distinguished record in the Great War when they were deployed at Gallipoli - being among the units that landed on ‘V Beach’ from the ‘River Clyde’ on April 25th 1915. The Munsters subsequently landed at Suvla Bay in August 1915, and continued to serve in the Dardanelles until the evacuaion in January 1916. After being re-deployed to France in March 1916, the Munsters served at Ginchy on the Somme; at Wytschaete in the battle of Messines in June 1917; at Cambrai in November 1917; and resisted the German offensive in March 1918. They took part inn the final Allied advance to victory from July 1918, serving on the Drocourt-Queant Line; and the Canal du Nord. The Munsters were formally disbanded in July 1922. This is a handsome unit history, with colour illustrations, which will fascinate any student of the Great War - particularly Gallipoli- and anyone interest in the Irish units of the British Army. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting Paul. After a few years of not looking, I'm back on the trail of my Great Uncle, Lance Serjeant Patrick O'Keeffe, 2nd Batallion Royal Munster Fusiliers, killed in action 22 March 1918. Would you be able to have a stab at his enlistment date from his regimental number; 1052?

Paul Nixon said...

Yes, I could do, but this is not a free service. Please note that if your comment concerns research about a particular individual, you should read the RESEARCH tab at the top of the page.

Unknown said...

My 3 great grand uncles served with the Munster fusiliers during the Boer War and went on to serve in WW1. Charles, Daniel and James Duggan. My great grandfather Thomas also joined them in WW1 but served with the Leinster regiment

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