31 December 2010

Somerset Light Infantry 1881-1914

Prince Albert’s Light Infantry (Somersetshire Regiment) was formed on 1st July 1881 from the 13th (1st Somersetshire) (Prince Albert’s Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot.

The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Somersetshire and started numbering from 1 in 1881. On the 13th December 1881, Prince Albert’s Light Infantry (Somersetshire Regiment) became Prince Albert’s (Somersetshire Light Infantry). Numbering in the regiment was unaffected.

This post will look at army service numbers issued to men joining the regular battalions of the Somerset Light Infantry between the regiment's formation in 1881 and the outbreak of war in August 1914. As with all my other posts on army service numbers, what follows should be considered a snapshot of numbering in the regiment; a series of break points published here to help researchers determine when their own Somerset Light Infantry relative joined the regiment.

There are over 20,000 Somerset Light Infantry serviceand pension records (for this regiment - and its antecedents) in various War Office series held at the National Archives. Clicking on the link above 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.

I've compiled the list below as a result of looking at service records in the WO 97, WO 363 and WO 364 series (and the majority of these records are in WO 364). These are held at the National Archives in their original state (WO 97) and on microfilm, although the WO 363 and WO 364 records are now available via both the Ancestry website and Findmypast. Findmypast has indexed far more of these records than you'll find on Ancestry so their version of these crucial records is well worth checking out. Ancestry is also currently offering a FREE 14 day trial. The WO 97 Chelsea Pensioner records (and many other smaller series) are accessible through Find My Past.  

19 joined on 13th September 1881
238 joined on 21st December 1882
501 joined on 11th October 1883
846 joined on 5th December 1884
1059 joined on 22nd January 1885
1377 joined on 8th January 1886
1841 joined on 1st January 1887
2229 joined on 16th February 1888
2449 joined on 14th January 1889
2744 joined on 6th February 1890
3163 joined on 30th May 1891
3486 joined on 14th January 1892
3960 joined on 13th March 1893
4047 joined on 22nd January 1894
4359 joined on 18th March 1895
4665 joined on 9th June 1896
4823 joined on 22nd April 1897
5101 joined on 15th April 1898
5388 joined on 15th February 1899
5891 joined on 15th February 1900

During the South African War, the Somerset Light Infantry raised one volunteer service company and allocated numbers within the range 6781 to 6915 to the men who joined it. The 1st VSC started numbering in January 1900 and was complete by February.

6049 joined on 18th June 1901
6398 joined on 9th April 1902
6753 joined on 19th February 1903
7262 joined on 7th March 1904
7628 joined on 25th January 1905
7880 joined on 22nd January 1906
8097 joined on 9th January 1907
8583 joined on 20th January 1908
8881 joined on 3rd December 1909
8936 joined on 14th February 1910
9182 joined on 25th April 1911
9347 joined on 21st February 1912

In 1912 the regiment became Prince Albert’s (Somerset Light Infantry). Numbering was again unaffected.

9546 joined on 3rd February 1913
9748 joined on 9th June 1914

The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914, men joining the new service battalions were issued with numbers from the same series in use by the two regular battalions.

Recruitment Rates 1881-1911

Between 1st July 1881 and 30th May 1891, The Somerset Light Infantry recruited 3,163 men, an average of 319 men each year. Of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at this time, the Somerset Light Infantry was the fifty-first most effective recruiter of infantry.

Recruitment dropped away further over the next decade and up until the 18th June 1901, the regiment added just under 2,900 men to its books, an average of 286 new recruits a year.

Recruiting in the regiment picked up in the 1900s however, and by 25th April 1911 the regiment was issuing number 9182 to its latest recruit. For the decade, the regiment recruited at an average rate of 319 men per annum, and for the years since July 1881 it had averaged 308 new soldiers each year.

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

Further Reading

The following titles have been re-printed by The Naval & Military Press.

History of the Somerset Light Infantry 1685-1914

History of the Somerset Light Infantry 1914-1919

The History and the Book of Remembrance of the 1/5th Battalion (Prince Albert's) Somerset Light Infantry
In actual fact this history covers the 1/5th and 2/5th Battalions and includes a roll of honour for each.

9 December 2010

Northamptonshire Regiment - 4th Battalion

This post will look at numbering in the 4th (Territorial Force) Battalion of The Northamptonshire Regiment between 1908 and 1916. It is respectfully dedicated to the two officers and 88 other ranks who died as a result of operations on Gallipoli.

The 4th Northants Regiment was formed on the 1st April 1908, its initial composition largely drawn from men who had previously served with the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. There seems to have been an enthusiastic take-up in Northamptonshire with close to a thousand men joining the battalion by the end of that year. Numbering began at 1 in 1908.

73 joined on 8th April 1908
1045 joined on 17th February 1909
1339 joined on 16th February 1910
1478 joined on 24th January 1911
1670 joined on 31st January 1912
1889 joined on 21st January 1913
2276 joined on 5th August 1914
2407 joined on 10th September 1914
2618 joined on 1st October 1914
3215 joined on 10th November 1914

A reserve battalion was formed at Northampton on the 27th November and this became the 2/4th Battalion whilst the original 4th Battalion now became the 1/4th.

3684 joined on 14th December 1914

As well as recruits into the 2/4th Battalion, I have men in my Northants database who were also signing up for service with supernumerary companies. These men were also numbered in the same number series as the regular TF recruits, albeit their four digit numbers were converted to five digit numbers in 1915 by prefixing their original numbers with a 2. So for instance, 3893 George Gossage who joined on the 2nd March 1915, was later re-numbered 23893.

3761 joined on 5th January 1915
3851 joined on 8th February 1915

A second reserve battalion - designated the 3/4th Battalion - was formed at Northampton on the 12th February 1915.

3908 joined on 15th March 1915
4005 joined on 16th April 1915
4135 joined on 3rd May 1915
4369 joined on 7th June 1915
4475 joined on 2th July 1915
4531 joined on 7th August 1915
4712 joined on 10th September 1915
4762 joined on 8th October 1915
4917 joined on 8th November 1915
5059 joined on 2nd December 1915
5275 joined on 28th January 1916
5341 joined on 8th February 1916
5463 joined on 3rd March 1916
5473 joined on 4th April 1916
6210 joined on 24th June 1916
6549 joined on 3rd July 1916
6994 joined on 29th September 1916
7319 joined on 14th November 1916

A word of warning. Whilst the numbers presented here run in a sequential order, there are gaps and it is quite possible that blocks of numbers within this sequence of 7000 numbers were taken out of sequence and issued overseas to men transferring in from other regiments.

All of the number / enlistment date information above has come about as a result of trawling through service records, pension records and medal index cards. These can be viewed at the National Archives or accessed on line via Ancestry.co.uk. Other acknowledgements due on this post are to The Long, Long Trail website for information regarding the formation of the second and third line battalions, and to Martin Kender whose correspondence suggested this post.

The photo of the young second lieutenant on this post comes courtesy of Martin Kender and shows Alban Goderick Arthur Hodges photographed in 1915 shortly before his departure for Gallipoli. He was born in 1893 and happily survived the war and a good many years after that. His medal index card notes that he arrived overseas as a lieutenant with the Northants Regiment in August 1915 and later transferred to the RAF. He received the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals and silver war badge. The latter was sent to him at 10 St Barnabas Street, London SW1.

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

Grab a book bargain - 1000s of titles