This post will look at numbering in the two regular battalions of The Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Service records for all of the sample numbers and dates below survive in the series WO 363 and WO 364 at the National Archives (and also online at Ancestry.co.uk) and WO 97 (also on line courtesy of Find My Past).
There are over 49,000 Royal Welsh Fusiliers service andpension 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 Welsh Fusiliers ancestor would have joined up. Note though that these numbers are only for regular enlistments. Special Reserve and Territorial Force battalions operated completely separate regimental number sequences.
The Royal Welsh Fusiliers was formed on the 1st July 1881 from the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fuzileers). and was established as the county regiment for Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Merionethshire. It started numbering from 1 in July 1881.
25 joined on 16th November 1881
73 joined on 15th January 1882
486 joined on 29th May 1883
644 joined on 8th January 1884
907 joined on 7th January 1885
1310 joined on 16th January 1886
1896 joined on 8th April 1887
2153 joined on 11th May 1888
2326 joined on 16th January 1889
2681 joined on 5th March 1890
3181 joined on 9th May 1891
3511 joined on 26th March 1892
3913 joined on 18th March 1893
4309 joined on 5th June 1894
4568 joined on 7th January 1895
4896 joined on 20th January 1896
5287 joined on 7th May 1897
5548 joined on 27th January 1898
5980 joined on 21st March 1899
6281 joined on 5th January 1900
During the South African War, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers raised three volunteer service companies and allocated numbers to the men joining these as follows:
1st VSC: numbers within the range 7301 to 7517
2nd VSC: numbers within the range 7343 to 7593
3rd VSC: numbers 8000 to 8039
6669 joined on 24th July 1901
7039 joined on 10th January 1902
7753 joined on 4th May 1903
8061 joined on 18th May 1904
8636 joined on 31st January 1905
9016 joined on 16th January 1906
9353 joined on 7th February 1907
9725 joined on 1st January 1908
10255 joined on 25th August 1909
10307 joined on 8th January 1910
10543 joined on 4th January 1911
10959 joined on 19th February 1912
11063 joined on 29th December 1913
11415 joined on 17th April 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 9th May 1891, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers recruited 3,181 men, an average of 321 men each year. Of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at this time, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers Regiment was the forty-seventh most successful infantry recruiter.
The pattern improved the following decade and up until the 24th July 1901, the regiment added close to 3,500 men to its books, an average of 343 men a year and a change in fortunes which saw the regiment finishing the decade as the twenty-seventh most successful infantry recruiter during this period.
Recruiting in the regiment improved still further in the 1900s and by 4th January 1911, the regiment issued number 10543 to its latest recruit. On average, since the regiment was formed in July 1881 it could boast an annual recruitment rate of 357 men.
1st Battalion stations 1881-1915
1881 Dum-Dum (India)
1891 Hazara expedition
1899 South Africa
1914 France & Flanders (from September)
2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914
1891 North Wales
1899 Hong Kong
1900 Tientsin and Beijing
1900 Hong Kong
1914 France & Flanders (from August)
3rd (Special Reserve Battalion) Royal Welsh Fusiliers
7th (Merioneth and Montgomery) Battalion (TF) Royal Welsh Fusiliers
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Old Soldier Sahib - Frank Richards DCM, MM
Old Soldiers Never Die - Frank Richards DCM, MM
Nothing of Importance - 1st RWF October 1915 to June 1916
Frank Richards DCM MM
Essential reading for anybody with an interest in life in the British Army in the early years of the twentieth century. Frank Richards joined the 2nd Bn, RWF in 1901 serving in India and Burma during the first period of his "seven and five" and later, recalled to the regiment as a reservist on the outbreak of war in 1914, serving on the Western Front until 1918. I have read and re-read both of Richards memoirs many times and the two editions above, both from Naval & Military Press, are as good a place as any to start. My personal favourite is the less well known, Old Soldier Sahib.