7 July 2010

The Cheshire Regiment - 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion

I've been looking a little more closely at the Special and Extra Reserve Battalions, and thought that I'd post something about the Cheshire Regiment's 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion.

To understand numbering in this battalion, we need to go back beyond 1908 and look at numbering in the regiment's 3rd and 4th Militia Battalions. Both of these battalions had each started an independent number series which began at 1 in July 1881 and continued sequentially from then. By 1907 however, recruitment into the 3rd Battalion had well and truly outpaced recruitment into the 4th.

The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907 reduced the British Army's 124 Infantry Militia battalions to 101, with the surviving Militia battalions converted into Special and Extra Reserve battalions. The 4th Cheshire Regiment was one of the 23 infantry Militia battalions which was disbanded. As for the men who had served in those battalions, they were offered the chance to transfer into the new Special Reserve and Extra Reserve battalions, that 'transfer' taking the form of a new attestation.

Unlike the majority of newly created Territorial Force battalions which did - despite an apparent lack of instruction from County Associations or elsewhere - start new number series from 1 in 1908, the vast majority of Special and Extra Reserve battalions simply carried on with the number series that had been in use by their Militia predecessors. The Cheshire Regiment was no exception.

Those men who had served in the 3rd Militia Battalion retained their numbers. Those men who had served in the 4th Militia Battalion were, to all intents and purposes, regarded as new recruits and were re-numbered from the point at which numbering in the 3rd Battalion had ceased in January 1908. We also see of course, men with no prior military service joining the newly formed Special Reserve battalion.

In terms of attestation dates, men joining from the 3rd Militia Battalion all have the same date recorded on their papers - 21st June 1908 - whilst other recruits had their actual attestation dates recorded. I've compiled the following list of men joining the Cheshire Regiment's 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in 1908 by digging through surviving pension (WO 364) and service (WO 363) records. These are accessible on microfilm at the National Archives in London and also on-line via Ancestry.co.uk (which is STILL offering a FREE 14-day trial).

Dates in square brackets are the dates on which the men originally joined the miltia battalions.

6248 John Andrews ex 3rd Militia Bn, [circa 1901] attested 21/06/08
7117 Henry Bennett, 3rd Militia Bn [04/02/1904], attested 21/06/08
7320 James Barnes, 3rd Militia Bn [05/03/1905], attested 21/06/08
7599 Joseph Breeze, 3rd Militia Bn, [25/09/1906]attested 21/06/08
7838 Alfred Beswick, 3rd Militia Bn [02/01/1908], attested 21/06/08
7853 Fred Oldham, 3rd Militia Bn [13/01/1908], attested 21/06/08
7860 John Booth, No prior service, attested 22/01/1908
7867 Frank Jones, No prior service, attested 29/01/1908
7876 James Dixon, 4th Militia Bn, attested 03/02/1908
7879 Edmond Burns, 4th Militia Bn, attested 03/02/1908
7900 Reuben Wilkinson, 4th Militia Bn, attested 04/02/1908
8039 John Kelly, 4th Militia Bn [1897], attested 03/02/1908
8072 Samuel Anderson, 4th Militia Bn, attested 01/05/1908
8180 Frank Atherton, 4th Militia Bn, attested 03/02/1908
8300 George Ainscough, No prior service, 28/07/1908
8325 John Robbins, No prior service, 07/10/1908

This numbering procedure was certainly adopted by other regiments - see my recent post on the 3rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers for instance - although I have yet to uncover any official instruction (it it exists) informing regiments that this was what they should do.

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