26 October 2011

South Wales Borderers 1881-1914 - 1st and 2nd Battalions

The information contained this post has been compiled as a result of looking at service records in WO 97, WO 363 and WO 364. All of these series, joy of joys, are now online via subscription or pay per view. Clicking on the links will take you to these pay-sites. My online correspondent, Greenwich Pensioner (GP), has also contributed data for 1907-1908 and I am grateful to him for his research.

There are over 28,000 South Wales Borderers pensionand 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 South Wales Borderers' 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 South Wales Borderers was formed on the 1st July 1881 from the 24th (the 2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot.

The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire and Radnor and started numbering from 1 in 1881.

12 joined on 12th August 1881
263 joined on 29th June 1882
732 joined on 26th June 1883
985 joined on 8th January 1884
1433 joined on 7th April 1885
1725 joined on 21st January 1886
2169 joined on 5th April 1887
2355 joined on 16th February 1888
2621 joined on 26th April 1889
3237 joined on 28th April 1890
3598 joined on 13th January 1891
3910 joined on 22nd January 1892
4150 joined on 13th March 1893
4520 joined on 10th January 1894
4851 joined on 10th January 1895
5188 joined on 25th January 1896
5551 joined on 12th January 1897
5894 joined on 18th March 1898
6076 joined on 13th January 1899
6623 joined on 9th March 1900

The South Wales Borderers raised two complete volunteer service companies during the South African War and one volunteer service section comprising one officer and 31 men. Numbers were allocated as follows:

1st VSC: numbers within the ranges 6720 to 6738 and 7502 to 7612
2nd VSC: numbers within the range 7613 to 7727
3rd VSC: numbers 7731 to 7761

The 1st VSC departed home locations on 29th January 1900 and by May that year had joined the 2nd Battalion at Osfontein in South Africa. The 2nd VSC was mobilized at Brecon on the 15th February and arrived at Cape Town on the 16th April 1901.

6977 joined on 1st April 1901
7257 joined on 16th April 1902
7358 Thomas William Boon oined on 6th August 1902
7848 John Potter Booty 
oined on 29th December 1902
7868 joined on 8th January 1903
8313 Frederick Davies joined on 29th December 1903
8341 joined on 28th January 1904
8634 James Williams joined on 28th December 1904
8841 joined on 31st July 1905
9003 Albert Edward Webber joined on 30th December 1905
9246 joined on the 3rd July 1906
9488 Godfrey Charles Tomkins joined on 31st December1906


By 1905, the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers was in Karachi and a number of drafts from the UK were sent to Karachi during the time frame 1907-8 (about 450 men in all). When it was time for the 1st to come back to the UK, and for the 2nd Battalion to deploy overseas to South Africa (Pretoria), around 250 men were transferred to the 2nd so that the new overseas battalion was well up to strength.

The majority of the following numbers and names from 1907 and 1908 are reproduced here thanks to research undertaken by GP.

9495 Thomas Thomas joined on 8th January 1907
9510 joined on 29th January 1907
9579 Alfred Walker joined on 11th July 1907
9605 Ernest Charles Andrew joined on 24th August 1907
9607 Morgan Hopkins joined on 21st August 1907
9610 Harry Jenkins joined on 26th August 1907
9613 Albert William Powell joined on 22nd August 1907
9614 John Carlton joined on 29th August 1907
9616 Noah Francis joined on 30th August 1907
9617 William Gabb joined on 29th August 1907
9621 William Gough joined on 4th September 1907
9624 Walter Nash joined on 2nd September 1907
9630 Bedwin Robert Watson joined on 3rd September 1907
9637 David Williams joined on 3rd September 1907
9641 Arthur Ernest Peacock joined on 5th September 1907
9642 William Storer joined on 5th September 1907
9643 Joseph Humphries joined on 6th September 1907
9644 Osborn James Hales joined on 4th September 1907
9645 Will F Manning joined on 4th September 1907
9648 Alfred Smith joined on 5th September 1907
9656 James Camplin joined on 7th September 1907
9664 William Pope joined on 9th September 1907
9669 Eugene McCarthy joined on 11th September 1907
9679 Alfred E Box joined on 11th September 1907
9680 Henry George Spencer joined on 12th September 1907
9683 Sidney Ernest Collins joined on 12th September 1907
9686 William Joseph Powell joined on 12th September 1907
9690 George Warner joined on 16th September 1907
9696 William Suggett joined on 16th September 1907
9700 Isaac Rees Evans joined on 18th September 1907
9704 Peter Blake joined on 19th September 1907
9715 Evan John Davies joined on 23rd September 1907
9720 Eric Leslie Bowyer joined on 23rd September 1907
9726 Edgar William Wall joined on 23rd September 1907
9729 Nathan John Goat joined on 24th September 1907
9739 Alfred Ernest Mayhew joined on 12th October 1907
9745 Alfred Gibbons joined on 19th October 1907
9746 Thomas Davies joined on 21st October 1907
9750 John Hudson joined on 22nd October 1907
9752 Francis John Court joined on 24th October 1907
9758 Joseph Jennings joined on 5th November 1907
9769 Thomas Jones joined on 22nd November 1907
9785 John Dillon joined on 30th December 1907
9789 Michael Reed joined on 31st December 1907
9790 Robert Carver joined on 4th January 1908
9791 William Ludwick joined on 4th January 1908
9805 Ernest Cruise joined on 17th January 1908
9818 Fred Round joined on 16th January 1908
9861 Ernest Reuben Loveridge joined on 29th April 1908
9908 Gerbert Cockeran joined on 20th July 1908
10226 James Joyce 
joined on 18th December 1908
10238 joined on 15th January 1909
10296 Arthur Richard Hall joined on 13th December 1909
10492 joined on the 12th August 1910
10586 Ernest Jones joined on 2nd January 1911
10648 joined on the 6th July 1911
10723 William David Price joined on 29th December 1911
10818 joined on 28th May 1912
10966 Charles Edward Powell joined on 11th December 1912
11041 joined on 5th May 1913
11103 Timothy Burke joined on 24th November 1913
11109 Cecil Jones 
joined on 14th January 1914
11115 joined on 5th February 1914
11213 Edward Timbury joined on 27th July 1914
11218 Hector Clapton 
joined on 7th August 1914

The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914 an attempt appears to have been made to differentiate between those men who were enlisting for war-time service only and those men who were enlisting during war-time, but under regular terms of enlistment.

By August 1914, The South Wales Borderers had three separate number series running: one for the two regular battalions, one for the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, and one for the Territorial Brecknockshire Battalion. Quite a simple differentiation on the face of it, but the South Wales Borderers numbering is far from straightforward from August 1914 onwards.

Numbers prefixed with the number 3/ start appearing on attestation papers of men who were joining up for a career in the army. The 3/ appears to be a red herring, a way of differentiating perhaps, between war-time only enlistments and regular enlistments. However, the same prefix also appears – as it might be expected to do - on some 3rd Battalion numbers. Thus, for example 3/11283 joined up for seven years with the colours and three years on the reserve on the 2nd September 1914. However, the same number had already been issued to a man joining the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in March 1913.

At the same time, some men who were joining up for war-time service only were issued with numbers from the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, even though their papers are clearly not those of Special Reservists but rather men signing up for active service for three years or duration.

In summary, and ignoring the 3/ prefix, it looks as though numbers up until around 12300 were held back for men who wanted to join the SWB as career soldiers whilst numbers higher than this were issued to war-time only recruits.

Recruitment rates 1881-1911

Between 1st July 1881 and 25th February 1891, The South Wales Borderers recruited 3,598 men, a good average of 375 men each year. Of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at this time, The South Wales Borderers was the seventeenth most successful infantry recruiter.

Recruitment in the 1890s dipped for the regiment and by April 1901 it was issuing number 6977 to its latest career soldier, an average recruitment rate of 330 men per annum and put the regiment in thirty-eighth place out of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at the time.

Recruitment in the regiment picked up in the first decade of the twentieth century and by July 1911 the regiment had issued number 10648 to its latest recruit; an above-average recruitment rate for the 1900s of 358 men.

1st Battalion stations 1881-1914

1881 Colchester
1883 Kilkenny
1885 Curragh
1887 Dublin
1889 Aldershot
1893 Egypt
1895 Gibraltar
1897 Chakratta
1903 Dalhousie
1905 Karachi
1909 Quetta
1910 Chatham
1913 Bordon
1914 France and Flanders (from August)

2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914

1881 Sheffield
1883 Mullingar (India)
1888 Cork
1891 Devonport
1892 Secunderabad
1897 Bellary
1899 Ahmednagar
1901 Subathu
1904 Quetta
1906 South Africa
1908 (Sep) - 1910 (Jan) Pembroke Dock
1910 (Jan) - 1912 (Oct) Pretoria
1912 (Oct) - 1914 (Sept) Tientsin, China

1914 Tsingtao / Hong Kong
1915 (Jan) UK

The photo on this blog is an anachronism and shows men of the 24th Regiment of Foot in 1879.  Image taken from Historik Orders.

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

Further reading:

The South Wales Borderers, 24th Foot 1689-1937

Historical records of the 24th Regiment (South Wales Borderers)

History of the South Wales Borderers 1914-1918


Unknown said...

My grandfather James Welch served in India sometime between the mid 1880s and the early 1890s He was a corporal drummer and was stationed in Allahabad I was wanting to know more about his posting I know there was a cholera epidemic at the time he was there. The story told to us was that my grandfather was on sentry duty as the dead were being taken out of the compound when my granddad noticed a soldier moving The soldier was returned to the hospital. It must have been horrible for the people serving and living there. If anyone could tell me what other things my grandfather may have faced I would be very grateful to know the history.

Thank you
Rhonda Lawson Australia

Paul Nixon said...

Having lived in India for a number of years I have an affection for the people and the country, and a fascination with soldiers of the Raj who served there. For a good account of life in India for the British soldier you should read Richard Holmes's "Sahib" which will give a good overview. For a compelling account of life in the ranks, read Frank Richards's "Old Soldier Sahib".

June said...

Your blog on SWB service numbers is interesting and in relation to this I wonder if you have any thoughts on a man I have found on the IWM lives of the First World War site. He is listed twice, first as Pte Frederick Edmunds 15023 and as acting Sgt. Frederick Edmunds 7/15023. It would be good to remember this man and correct the entry and merge the records in the IWM site.

Paul Nixon said...

You should take that up with LOTFWW, June. It's duplicated because he has two cards at The National Archives and it's the cards that have been used to create the database.


Mehefin said...

Thank you Paul. I contacted National Archive about the apparent duplication. They say there are 2 cards for 15023 Edmunds. 1 as Pte for his campaign medals and one for his award of a Military Medal when Cpl acting Sgt.

Keith said...

Confusingly, a similar number range was running for those who served under Special Reserve terms of service to that of the range in use for men who served under Regular terms. Fortunately, the BWM & VM medal roll does separate those men of the Special Reserve. Here is a link to a listing of men identified as having enlisted in the Special Reserve prior to the outbreak of war


Paul Nixon said...

Many thanks for this, Keith, I will check it out.


Unknown said...

My late grandad jack howell Williams from talyllyn near brecon Powys was a colour sergeant (military police)
I’m trying to find any information I can please

Paul Nixon said...

Try Ancestry and Findmypast for men who served up to 1920; the MoD for men who were in the army from 1920.

6diddy6 said...

Hi Paul,

This is a most helpful and excellent site.

I am trying to pin down the date a soldier was transferred to SWB from Essex Regiment. His SWB s/n was 45562 and it looks as though he was indeed transferred to 4th Battalion. Intuitively, I think this might have been in 1915, prior to the 4ths going to Gallipoli?

Many thanks in anticipation.


Paul Nixon said...

Paul, re 44562 it will be a later transfer than 1915; certainly no earlier than 1916 according to the few records that I have.

Unknown said...

It is rumoured my grandfather served with SWB prior to joining the Machine Gun Corps in WW1 but we cannot find any record of this.
His name is Herbert Spence and it was also rumoured he became a RSM but again no luck trying to track that down! Any tips?

Paul Nixon said...

There is certainly a medal index card for this man: https://britisharmyancestors.co.uk/search-result/?q=herbert+spence+machine. Perhaps he served with the SWB prior to arriving overseas with the MGC. I can't explain the RSM bit though.

Unknown said...

Some further service numbers and enlistment dates

7358 Thomas William Boon enlisted 06-Aug-1902
7848 John Potter Booty enlisted 29-Dec-1902
8313 Frederick Davies enlisted 29-Dec-1903
8634 James Williams enlisted 28-Dec-1904
9003 Albert Edward Webber enlisted 30-Dec-1905
9488 Godfrey Charles Tomkins enlisted 31-Dec-1906
9789 Michael Reed enlisted 31-Dec-1907
10226 James Joyce enlisted 18-Dec-1908
10296 Arthur Richard Hall enlisted 13-Dec-1909
10586 Ernest Jones enlisted 02-Jan-1911
10723 William David Price enlisted 29-Dec-1911
10966 Charles Edward Powell enlisted 11-Dec-1912
11103 Timothy Burke enlisted 24-Nov-1913
11109 Cecil Jones enlisted 14-Jan-1914
11213 Edward Timbury enlisted 27-Jul-1914
11218 Hector Clapton enlisted 07-Aug-1914

All data available via FindMyPast

Paul Nixon said...

Many thanks, I'll add those in to ther main post. I do have a lot more data but only post sample numbers on this blog.

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