30 May 2011

Royal Welsh Fusiliers 1881-1914 - 1st & 2nd Bns

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)

1885 Burma
1887 Lucknow
1891 Hazara expedition
1892 Bengal
1894 Nowshera
1896 Aden
1897 Devonport
1899 South Africa
1903 Lichfield
1905 Aldershot
1907 Cork
1910 Dublin
1912 Portland
1914 Malta
1914 France & Flanders (from September)

2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914
1881 Plymouth

1883 Templemore
1885 Fermoy
1887 Galway
1889 Curragh
1891 North Wales
1892 Aldershot
1896 Malta
1898 Crete
1899 Hong Kong
1900 Tientsin and Beijing
1900 Hong Kong
1902 Chakratta
1907 Schwebo
1911 Quetta
1914 France & Flanders (from August)

See also:

3rd (Special Reserve Battalion) Royal Welsh Fusiliers
7th (Merioneth and Montgomery) Battalion (TF) Royal Welsh Fusiliers

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

Frank Richards DCM, MM

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.


Paul Nixon said...

David Langley notes:

"Formed" is surely a misnomer. All that happened was a change of title. The old title was '23rd or Royal Welch Fusiliers' according to the regiment nb spelling. The newly-titled regiment had four battalions officially, 1st and 2nd regular, 3rd and 4th Militia. No mention of VF. The original new title proposed was 'The North Wales Regiment' and the matter was debated in the House of Lords. Reason prevailed. Source Rgtl Records McCary and Cance."

Thank you, David.

SharonImmelman said...

I wonder if you can help me. I have a war medal belonging to my great great grandfather William Davies. It has the number 17255 Pvt W Davies RWF. Would you be able to tell me more about this number, date of enlistment etc?

I am a member of Ancestry and findmypast but have not been able to find any information.

Thank you
Sharon Immelman (South Africa)

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Sharon

From the information I have, it looks as though the number would have been allocated around the first half of November 1914. Unfortunately, it's not possible to tell from the number alone, which battalion he joined.


Unknown said...

Hi, My father - Corporal Oliver Casson joined the RWF in 1910 his number 10340 - is there any way to find out where he joined the regiment? He was living in Clydebank at the time of his enlistment so I am curious as to whether the RWF were recruiting in Scotland...
Fiona Kersey

Paul Nixon said...


He would actually have joined the regiment - and been issued with the number - at the regimental depot in Wales. However, it is quite possible that the regiment was recruiting in Scotland at the time and therefore not a surprise that a Scotsman would find himself joining a Welsh Regiment; a little unusual given the fact that the HLI or Cameronians (both fine regiments) would have been the natural choice; but men joined other regiments for any number of reasons, and the RWF also had a fine military tradition. My suggestion would be to look for other men with numbers close to his and see where they were recruited. Check service and pension papers on findmypast and Ancestry - links on this blog.


Unknown said...

Firstly, I would like to say thank you for the huge amount of information on this excellent site.
Now to my question.

In researching my great uncle, who served and died with the RWF, I noticed that many of the service numbers (including my great uncle's) were changed. I initially thought this was because the soldier had been wounded, discharged and then re-enlisted but there seems to be a pattern which makes this seem unlikely to me.

Here are some examples:
Pte Hugh Hughes, service no’s 8521 and 201113.
Pte Hugh Jones, no’s 8525 and 201115.
L/Cpl Caradoc Roberts (my relative), no’s 8527 and 201116.
Hugh Jones, no’s 8528 and 201117.
Pte Alexander Jones, no’s 8530 and 201119.
Pte John Griffiths, no’s 8531 and 201120.

As far as I can tell, most of the original (8500 series) service numbers were for 2nd battalion but the 201110 series seem to be for more than one battalion.
Caradoc Roberts, 201116, was in 16th battalion whereas Hugh Jones, 201115, was in 3rd battalion.

Do you know what was going on here?

I'm intrigued because I would ideally like to find out whether my great uncle was discharged and re-enlisted or whether this was just some bureaucratic exercise.

In the end, I don’t suppose it made any difference to the men. Caradoc’s number was up in October 1918 and he died as 201116, just another of so many.

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Dave

These numbers belong to the 4th (Territorial Force) Battalion of the RWF. The reason for two numbers is that the TF was re-numbered in 1917 and all men who were then on the TF's books were given new five or six digit numbers. The 4th RWF was given numbers in the range 200001 to 240000.

I'm not sure why your relative's number was carried into the 16th Bn but he was definitely a 4th Bn man to start with.

Glad you have found the blog useful and hope this helps to partly solve the mystery.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Paul. Its really helpful to get an authoritative answer.


pattaffy1979@gmail.com said...

I have a great uncle who was in 8th battalion 1915 he died of his wounds 1917 on the 26th jan his reg number was 15378 name private hugh John Powell do you know of anything about this man he seems to be one of the forgotton ones

Paul Nixon said...


Please drop me a line to paulcanixon@gmail.com

Unknown said...

What's the best way to find out what battalion a soldier served in?

All I know about my Great Grandfather (via his discharge documentation) is that he enlisted on 11 Nov 1914 in Wrexham and was discharged on 20 September 1917 (after being shot in his shoulder).

His service number was 17302.

Would that normally give me enough to conduct further research?

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if anyone can give me info on service number 4202995
name of SQMS A. Byrnes

Paul Nixon said...

I'm sorry but that number is beyond the scope of this blog as it dates to 1920 or later.

Anne Anglesey said...

Hello. Thanks for a very informative website. I have a general question - is it possible to tell from a soldier's service number when he enlisted? I have an ancestor who was in the RWF 2nd Battlion with the service number 267298. He died in Flanders May 1918. Thank you. Anne

Paul Nixon said...

Very much so, Anne. That's what this blog is all about.

Jill Wrexham said...

My Grandad was in the 2nd Battalion RWF during ww1. He joined up in 1907 in bristol and in 1911 was at Quetta barracks in India .I know he was a prisoner of war but cannot find anything out regarding when he was captured and when and where he was held as a pow. His service number was 4784.

Paul Nixon said...

Have you checked the ICRC website? https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/

Unknown said...

Hi I am also trying to decipher the service record of my great grandfather. He was initially in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry (having retained the same service number from serving in the Boer War of 6232, upon re-enlisting at the outbreak of WWI he went in as a private) he then was transferred to 6/Garr/R.W.F with a service number of 62148 and became a corporal. Was this normal to transfer between regiments, and receive a promotion?

Paul Nixon said...

It could happen, yes; as proved by your great grandfather's service.

Carl Pickering said...

Hi Paul,

My Great Grandfather was in the RWF before over to the Cheshire 13th. His service numbers were 52090 & 8469. I’m unable to find out his battalion in the RWF and was hopeful you may be able to help me please?

Best Regards,


Paul Nixon said...

You'll need to check the medal rolls on Ancestry, Carl. Failing that, check the records of other men with numbers in those ranges to see if any patterns emerge. You'll need access to Findmypast - and patience.

Unknown said...

Hi Paul I have found a photograph of my grandfather in uniform on the back he has written that the kilt is green red and white stripe and the belt is white the kilt has a badge and two have you any idea what regiment this is from I was told he was in the welsh guards !!!

Paul Nixon said...

Not without seeing the photo, no. Your best bet is probably to identify the badge on the sporran. Also look for insignia on head gear and shoulder titles.

Anonymous said...


I am researching my wife's great-grandfather. It would appear that he was killed in WW1 date unknown. His name was James H Davies, RWF and numbers 11972/3465. Any info would be appreciated

Paul Nixon said...

Re James Davies this would be a research project. Please see the RESEARCH tab on this blog and then drop me a line at paulcanixon@gmail if you want to progress this further.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to give a date for signing up to RWF . Service number 12854 Herbert Goldsby MM
Thank you

Lel said...

Hi, I am researching my grandfather Henry William Thomas b. 1880 in Birmingham. Reg. No. 6369. He joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers c. 1900 and left c. 1910 but I have been told he spent much his time in India which would put him in the 2nd Battalion. However, during WW1 he was captured at the battle of Ypres/Ypern on 21 Oct 1914 which puts him in the 1st Battalion. So, my question is was it possible/usual for personnel to change battalions?

Secondly, how/where can I find out more about his time in India?

Thank you for any help you can give me,
Best Wishes

Paul Nixon said...

@Lel. Yes it was, men freely interchanged between the Regimental depot and the regular battalions (typically the 1st and 2nd). For his time in India read Frank Richards' Old Soldier Sahib. Frank would have been in India at about the same time. Also read Frank's Old Sioldiers Never Die about his time with the regiment during WW1.

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