20 June 2011

Worcestershire Regiment - regular battalions - 1881-1914

This post will look at numbering in the regular battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment between 1881 and 1914. 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 (on line courtesy of Find My Past).

In fact, there are over 43,000 Worcestershire Regiment pension and service 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 Worcestershire Regiment 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 Worcestershire Regiment was formed on the 1st July 1881; the 1st Battalion from the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot, and the 2nd Battalion from the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment of Foot. The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Worcestershire and started numbering from 1 in 1881.

23 joined on 10th September 1881
146 joined on 30th January 1882
370 joined on 28th March 1883
924 joined on 16th September 1884
1119 joined on 16th March 1885
1960 joined on 24th November 1886
2044 joined on 26th January 1887
2268 joined on 3rd December 1888
2494 joined on 30th July 1889
2665 joined on 26th March 1890
2991 joined on 24th August 1891
3225 joined on 13th April 1892
3597 joined on 3rd February 1893
4020 joined on 13th March 1894
4358 joined on 10th June 1895
4640 joined on 15th July 1896
4750 joined on 12th January 1897
5123 joined on 1st February 1898
5460 joined on 5th January 1899
5678 joined on 1st January 1900

The Second South African War 1899-1902

The Worcestershire Regiment raised two more regular battalions, the 3rd and 4th Battalions, in 1900. The 3rd Battalion was raised on the 14th February and the 4th Battalion on the 10th March. Men joining these battalions were numbered from the same series being used for the 1st and 2nd Battalions. The regiment maintained its additional two battalions after the war with South Africa had ended and thus went to war with Germany in 1914 with four regular battalions.

Volunteer Service Companies
During the South African War, the 7th and 8th Volunteer Battalions supplied enough men to enable the regiment to raise two volunteer service companies (VSCs). One hundred and thirty of these men came from the 8th Volunteer Battalion. Numbers were allocated to VSC recruits as follows:

1st VSC: numbers within the range 6693 to 6855
2nd VSC: numbers within the range 6808 to 6878

... back to the numbering:
6383 joined on 3rd June 1901

6656 joined on 13th January 1902
7445 joined on 2nd January 1903
8196 joined on 29th January 1904
9259 joined on 27th May 1905
9813 joined on 21st February 1906
10335 joined on 9th January 1907
11042 joined on 17th February 1908
11586 joined on 5th January 1909
12064 joined on 8th January 1910
12458 joined on 31st May 1911
12887 joined on 27th January 1912
13285 joined on 11th February 1913
13476 joined on 19th March 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 four regular battalions.

Recruitment rates 1881-1911
Recruiting in the Worcestershire Regiment was a slow and often tedious affair in the 1880s. Between 1st July 1881 and 24th August 1891, the regiment recruited just 2991 men, an annual average of 294 men per annum. This however, was to be the regiment’s worst showing and its fortunes would improve dramatically over the next twenty years.

Between 1891 and 1901 the regiment recruited close to 3,400 men, improving its recruitment rate for the decade to an average of 345 men per annum, and finishing in twenty-sixth place.

The addition of two more regular battalions in 1900 had a marked effect on recruitment rates and between June 1901 and May 1911, the regiment added over 6000 men to its books; an annual recruitment rate of 613 men per annum for the last ten years and one which saw recruiting in the regiment surpassed only by The King’s Royal Rifle Corps and Middlesex Regiment.

Overall, after a slow start in the 1880s, the Worcestershire Regiment finished as the sixth most successful recruiter of British Army infantry between 1881 and 1911.

1st Battalion stations 1881-1914
1881 Bombay

1885 Karachi
1888 Quetta
1891 Poona
1893 Kemptee
1894 Burma
1895 Aden
1896 Devonport
1899 Guernsey
1900 South Africa
1903 Templemore
1906 Dublin
1908 Parkhurst
1913 Egypt
1914 France & Flanders (from November)

2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914
1881 Kinsale
1885 Jersey
1888 Pembroke Dock
1890 Curragh
1895 Malta
1897 Bermuda
1899 Halifax (Nova Scotia)
1900 South Africa
1904 Ceylon
1906 Ahmednagar
1909 Jhansi
1913 Aldershot
1914 France & Flanders (from August)

3rd Battalion stations 1900-1914

1900 Raised in Ireland on the 14th February
1900 Tipperary
1904 Aldershot
1907 South Africa
1908 Tidworth
1914 France & Flanders (from August)

4th Battalion stations 1900-1915

1900 Raised in Ireland on the 10th March
1903 Bermuda
1905 Malta
1909 Bareilly
1914 Burma
1915 Gallipoli (from April)

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

Further reading:
Try the excellent
Worcestershire Regiment website which, amongst other things, carries a complete roll of honour for Worcestershire Regiment men between 1808 and 1960!

I've borrowed the image on this post from the Worcester City Museums website. According to the caption, it shows a sergeant and a private in 1897.

The Naval & Military Press has re-published The Worcestershire Regiment in The Great War (above) and writes:

"Arguably the finest regimental history even written. A magnificent publication it is with its profusion of maps, illustrations and photos - each page of photos contains several. The Worcesters was one of the five regiments that had four regular battalions before the war, with two special reserve and two territorial battalions. By the end of the war another fourteen battalions had been raised for a total of twenty-two of which twelve went on active service. 9,460 officers and men gave their lives, 71 Battle Honours were awarded and eight VCs one of whom, attached to the RFC, was the airman Leefe Robinson, famous for shooting down a zeppelin. Battalions served on the Western Front, in Gallipoli, Macedonia, Mesopotamia, Italy; one battalion ended the war in North Persia. Appendices provide the Roll of Honour; Honours and Awards including Mention in Despatches, with date of Gazette (for ‘Companion' of the British Empire read ‘Commander'); details of Badges, Colours and Distinctions of the regiment; and the music for regimental marches. Illustrations are by well-known artists depicting battle scenes including each VC-winning action - apart from Leefe's zeppelin. After considering various factors, explained in his very informative preface, the author decided to present this history as one general story in which the number of the battalion concerned is printed in the margin of the pages dealing with its deeds. Attention is paid to minor actions such as trench raids, which usually find no place in compressed official histories; they are recorded in this history. The plans illustrate the engagements recorded in the book, and are designed to depict the part played by the several battalions in their battles and to enable the visitor to the battlefields to recognise the ground on which each fight took place, as much as to make clear the general course of those actions. The book opens with a very interesting account of the regiment in the years before the war, beginning at the turn of the century, and there is a very comprehensive index of 25 pages. This is a great piece of work and must rank as one of the finest of the Great War regimental histories, many would say the finest, and I wouldn't argue." Order it HERE.

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