4 March 2010

Manchester Regiment - Volunteer Service Companies

Special Army Order 29 of 2nd January 1900 stated:

"The regimental numbers given to the members of the Volunteer companies will form a portion of the regimental series, but, in order to avoid the confusion which would result from the assignment of numbers to Volunteers and ordinary recruits indiscriminately, and also to simplify future reference, the Volunteer numbering should run consecutively, with an interval of a clear thousand between the last number received by an ordinary recruit, at the date on which the Volunteer numbering begins, and the first Volunteer number."

The following year there was another Army Order. On 25th January 1901, Special Army Order 41 stated that fresh companies could be raised as above and those already in South Africa could stay if they wished to.

The Manchester Regiment fielded four Volunteer Service Companies during the Boer War and this post will look at numbering in those companies and how that numbering fitted in with numbering in the - at that stage - four regular battalions.

For some reason, the WO 363 class at the National Archives is awash with service records for the Manchester VSCs. Some other regiments appear to have no surviving VSC records at all. All the records mentioned below are at the National Archives and can also be viewed on-line at the Ancestry.co.uk website which is currently offering a FREE 14 Day Trial.

1st Volunteer Service Company
This VSC comprised numbers from 7001 through to 7197. First numbers were issued on the 9th February 1900 and the final numbers by 10th March 1900. Men joining the 1st VSC joined in sequential order according to the Volunteer Battalion they were serving with at the time. So 7001 through to 7026 are all 1st VB men; 7032 to 7057 are 2nd VB men, and so on. All Volunteers, in all VS companies, enlisted for one year only.

2nd Volunteer Service Company
Numbering in this VSC is a little more complicated. Numbers 7113 through to 7224 are all 2nd VCS men. So too are numbers from 8225 through to 8325, and the single number 8367.

7224 was issued to a VSC on the 10th March 1900. Meanwhile, numbering in the four regular battalions continued apace and by October 1901 the regiment was approaching 7000 (ie, the series of numbers that had already been allocated to VSC men the previous year).

Numbers 8225 through to 8257 were all issued in 1901. 8227 was issued on the 4th February 1901 and I'm guessing that the other numbers also date to close to that time. Presumably the authorities realised that numbering in the regular battalions would soon reach 7000 and they took the decision in early 1901 to give a clear break of 1000 from the last VSC number they had issued in March 1900 (7224).

3rd Volunteer Service Company
This VCS comprised numbers from 8236 through to 8366, all of which were issued in February and (I'm guessing) March 1901.

4th Volunteer Service Company
This VSC comprised numbers from 8376 to 8462. These numbers were issued between 17th February and 4th March 1902.

8463, the next number in line, was issued to a regular soldier who joined on the 2nd January 1903.

My thanks to Stuart Wilson, David Langley, Graham Stewart and Mike C in Canada, for their input - via correspondence on this blog and elsewhere - regarding VSCs generally and the Manchester Regiment specifically. The AO reference above is taken from the privately published Regimental and Army Numbers of the British Line Infantry Soldier from AD. 1800 to 2008 by Langley and Stewart.

Also see my blog post on the regular battalions of The Manchester Regiment.

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