2 March 2012

Northumberland Fusiliers - Regular battalions

This post will look at regimental numbers in the regular battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers between 1881 and 1914. The Northumberland Fusiliers was formed on the 1st July 1881 from the 5th Regiment of Foot (Northumberland Fusiliers).

The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Northumberland and started numbering from 1 in 1881. 

There are over 48,000 Northumberland Fusiliers service records which survive in various National Archives' series, and clicking on the link will take you to the results on Findmypast, although you will need a subscription or Pay-Per-View credits to actually get into the records.

21 joined on 29th August 1881
96 joined on 5th January 1882
253 joined on 23rd January 1883
518 joined on 17th January 1884
803 joined on 14th January1885
1314 joined on 23rd January 1886
1757 joined on 26th January 1887
2028 joined on 11th January 1888
2355 joined on 5th January 1889
2632 joined on 9th January 1890
2964 joined on 8th January 1891
3284 joined on 7th January 1892
3798 joined on 6th January 1893
4042 joined on 12th January 1894
4451 joined on 16th January 1895
4825 joined on 6th January 1896
5053 joined on 22nd January 1897
5307 joined on 10th January 1898
5695 joined on 7th January 1899
6341 joined on 10th January 1900

With Great Britain at war with the Boers, the Northumberland Fusiliers had been given permission to raise two more regular battalions. The 3rd Battalion was raised at York on the 10th January 1900 and the 4th Battalion at York on the 17th February 1900. Men joining these battalions were given numbers in the same series that was already in use for the 1st and 2nd Battalions. There was no numbering distinction between the four battalions.

The regiment’s volunteer battalions also contributed enough men for four volunteer service companies and one volunteer section. Numbers within the range 7400 through to 7742 were issued in early 1900 to men joining the 1st and 2nd VSCs. Numbers within the range 8891 to 9090 were issued in 1901 to men joining the 3rd and 4th VSCs. Numbers within the range 9401 to 9456 were issued in 1902 to men joining Number 3 Volunteer Section.

Men from the 1st and 2nd VSCs sailed with their officers for South Africa aboard the SS Avondale Castle on the 23rd February 1900.

7799 joined on 16th January 1901
8395 joined on 17th January 1902
9137 joined on 22nd January 1903

The addition of two regular battalions had had a dramatic effect on recruitment into the Northumberland Fusiliers and by October 1903, the regiment had passed 9800. Application was made to the Adjutant-General to obtain authority to commence a new series and on 2nd December 1903, the regiment issued number 9999 to a new recruit and then immediately commenced a new number series starting from 1.

236 joined on 7th January 1904
862 joined on 4th February 1905
1900 joined on 26th January 1906

The 4th Battalion was disbanded on the 26th January 1907, the 3rd Battalion in April 1907.

2069 joined on 7th June 1907
2326 joined on 30th July 1908
2501 joined on 13th January 1909
2845 joined on 28th July 1910
3090 joined on 1st June 1911
3356 joined on 14th February 1912
3544 joined on 9th May 1913
3883 joined on 1st August 1914

The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914, men joining the new wartime-service only battalions were issued with numbers from the same series that had, up until that point, been the sole preserve of the regiment’s two regular battalions. The Northumberland Fusiliers also raised a number of ‘Pals’ battalions and these battalions operated different number series again, all of these numbers prefixed by the number of the battalion. For instance, 22/96 was the 96th man to be issued with a number from a new series issued by the 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd Tyneside Scottish), Northumberland Fusiliers. He received his number in November 1914.

Recruitment rates 1881-1911

Between 1st July 1881 and 28th March 1891, The Northumberland Fusiliers recruited 3,039 men, an average of 312 men each year. Of the sixty-nine infantry regiments recruiting at this time, The Northumberland Fusiliers was the fifty-fourth most effective recruiter.

Recruitment rates leapt during the next decade, largely as the result of the addition of another two regular battalions during the South African War period. Between 28th March 1891 and 3rd July 1901 The Northumberland Fusiliers recruited a further 5,040 men, an average of 488 men a year. The regiment’s recruitment ranking leapt from 54th to 4th place.

Recruitment continued apace in the early 1900s and by 1st June 1911 the regiment had well and truly passed 9,999 and was issuing number 3090 from a new number series to its latest recruit, an average of 505 men recruited per annum during the decade, and an overall average of 435 men per annum since the regiment had been formed thirty years earlier. Overall, the Northumberland Fusiliers was the fifth most successful recruiting infantry regiment.

1st Battalion stations 1881-1914

1881 Portsmouth
1882 Ireland
1885 Dublin
1887 Colchester
1892 Dover
1894 Aldershot
1895 Gold Coast
1896 Gibraltar
1897 Egypt
1898 Sudan
1898 Crete
1899 Gibraltar
1899 South Africa
1903 Mauritius
1905 Peshawar
1912 Bombay
1913 Portsmouth
1914 France & Flanders (from August)

2nd Battalion stations 1881-1914

1881 Bengal
1888 Black Mountain expedition (NW Indian frontier)
1889 Hazara
1892 Peshawar
1894 Cherat
1895 Singapore
1896 Gibraltar
1897 UK
1899 South Africa
1903 Gravesend
1909 Dover
1912 Sheffield
1913 Sabathu (India)
1915 France & Flanders (from January)

3rd Battalion stations 1900-1907

1900 Raised at York on the 10th January
1902 Antigua
1902 South Africa
1907 England, disbanded in April

4th Battalion stations 1900-1907

1900 Raised at York on the 17th February
1901 Ireland
1907 Disbanded on the 26th January

Pictured, 237082 Sergeant Alfred James Woodley of the 1/5th Northumberland Fusiliers (formerly Welsh Regiment) who died on the 27th May 1918.

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

Further Reading

The following books can all be obtained from the Naval and Military Press. Click on the links to read more.
Northumberland Fusiliers

What the Fusiliers Did
An account of the 5th Regiment of Foot and the Afghan Campaigns of 1878-1880

A History of the Northumberland Fusiliers 1674-1902
One of the appendices contains extracts from the Army List between 1688 and 1900.

The Fifth in the Great War.
A History of the 1st and 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, 1914-1918. A rare history now reprinted by Naval & Military Press.

A record of the 17th and 32nd Battalions, Northumberland Fusiliers
The NER Pioneers 1914-1919.  Nominal rolls which consist of the embarkation roll of officers, a list of officers joining subsequently with dates, the roll of men who served with the battalion showing number, rank, name, company, whether embarked with the battalion, casualty details and any awards.

18th Service Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers
The volume includes this Pioneer Battalion's embarkation roll from January 1916; its Roll of Honour; honours and awards and appendices

Story of the Tyneside Scottish
The 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Battalions, Northumberland Fusiliers during the Great War

Tyneside Irish
The 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th Battalions, Northumberland Fusiliers during the Great War. Appendices contain the complete nominal roll of every man who served in these battalions.

Irish Heroes in the War
Includes alphabetical lists of officers of the Tyneside Irish brigade, with biographical details, along with lists of NCOs and men, all shown by battalion and by company within each battalion.


Ian Hudson said...

Thought you ought to know, this entry isn't appearing in the Index.

You've done some incredible work here, its really interesting.

Paul Nixon said...

Ian, thanks for pointing this out, and for your compliments; now rectified.


Draperju said...

Sorry if you have seen this post before but I posted it last week and I know that you reply virtually immediately.
I am interested in 283 Private William Hindmarch 2nd Battalion NF
Is this a 1904 enlistment
Best wishes

Paul Nixon said...

Draperju, apologies for the delay in replying, I've been travelling overseas.

Short answer is that yes, if he was a regular enlistment, 1904 sounds right and as you mention 2nd mention 2nd Battalion, that would seem to fit.

Best wishes


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your information on Hindmarch

Best wishes Draperju

Alan Grint said...

Good afternoon Paul
I have come across two Northumberland Fusiliers with special reserve numbers
3/8980 Private Joseph Whitfield
3/8993 Private William Curran
Both 1st Battalion
I am thinking that these two originally late 1902

Best wishes Draperju

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Draperju

No, they date to September 1914. Regular soldiers were being issued with numbers in this range in 1902 but these SR numbers are much later.


Draperju said...

Sorry about getting mixed up about Special Reserve I now understand they were similar to Territorials.

On another note I have a data base on 19 Battalion and a small database on Northumberland Hussars.

Are you interested


Paul Nixon said...

No worries, Draperju, it's a common error. Yes, I'd be interested in seeing the databases you mention. Could you send to me at paulcanixon AT yahoo.co.uk please. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am trying to find out about my Grandfather Charles Alexander Private 26/3485 who served in the Northumberland Fusiliers during WW1. What Batt was he in and why was he in a Northumberland Reg when he lived in London. Any info would help.

alain.grint@sfr.fr said...

I am little stuck on the military career of one of the men I am studying

Thomas Moscrop Hampshire Regiment
Died 20/10/1918 His SDGW refers to Formerly 2787 Northumberland Fusiliers. Do you know any information on whether this man was a pre war regular. confusingly his Medal rolls card says Serg Rifle brigade Hamps and Hamps. Suggests military experience.
Best wishes Draperju

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Alain, how are you?

Quite possible that he was a regular who joined in 1910. But the number could also belong to any of the TF battalions for that matter. Would be worth you dropping a line to Graham Stewart on the GWF as he is the NF expert.



Paul Nixon said...

Re 26/3485

I couldn't find a medal index card for this man but the number suggests 26th Battalion (that's the 26/ prefix) which was unofficially known as the 3rd Tyneside Irish.


Anonymous said...

We have inherited some items through my unmarried great aunt relating to T H Hall (we believe his full name to be Thomas Hay Hall) of the Northumberland Fusiliers no. 290339. He is mentioned in dispatches (supplement to the London Gazette May 22nd 1917) as being co. sergeant and acting regimental sergeant major at that time. Are you able to tell me anything about him from this? Thanks,

Anonymous said...

Oops! Just posted and I think I forgot to say he was in the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Sarah

There is another medal index card for this man which gives his original number 7/1891. This in turn indicates that he joined the 7th (Territorial Force) Battalion in August 1914. He was a sergeant when he landed in France on 21st April 1915 and was later promoted. If you find the war diary for this battalion (housed at the National Archives in London, or maybe online by now) you'll be able to see what the battalion was doing. He was obviously still with the battalion when it was re-numbered in 1917 (that's when his six digit number was issued) and he survived the war. I could not find a surviving service record for this man.


Paul Nixon said...

Thomas Hay Hall

Sarah, if you chance across this post again, please get in touch as I have been contacted by a chap who has acquired Thomas Hay Hall's medals and would like to make contact with you.


Anonymous said...

Hi, please could you help me interpereting a regimental number and its mapping to a battalion.
The number is NF 44305 and belonged to my late grandfather, Private Joseph Whitehill.

Many thanks,

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Pam. This would need to be researched. Please see the RESEARCH tab on this page.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the information. I have just found out that one of my grandfathers was a Corporal in the Fusiliers, and was mostly likely a Northumbrian/Geordie. I'm an East Anglian by birth and relations, and it's good to know that part of me originates from the north.

Unknown said...

Kia ora Paul

I have a distant relative who seems to have 3 Service Numbers with the Northumberland Fusiliers - Edmund Wanlace 6151, 5/6994 and 242217. Are you able to give me any more information on him or at least why he would have 3 numbers?


Paul Nixon said...

Without going over this with a fine tootchcomb, possibly regular/special reserve to start, then Territorial Force (5th Battalion), then re-numbered TF (the six-digit number). All of these numbers are 'researchable' and would tell you when he joined/transferred.

Anonymous said...


What a great site. I am trying to work out how to get the battalian that my great grandfather was in. His medal card says Northumberland Fusiliers 55758. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.



Paul Nixon said...

Mike, he served with the 11th Battalion; this from the medal roll.

Unknown said...

Hi there!
I don't really know how the categories work but I found a medal card of a distant relative and want to know more about what batallion he could have been in WW1. Could you help?
His Name was Walter Fearnehough and the card says he was service number 9192 in Northumberland Fusiliers.
It also states something underneath about being in 'South Lancs-R' which I guess is regiment. There's a number next to this: 63423 as well.

Hope you can Help!

Paul Nixon said...

This man was a regular soldier, Adrianne, who served with the 1st Bn NF and later the South Staffs. He would have joined the regiment in 1905 and probably appears on the 1911 census with his battalion.

Unknown said...

I am trying to trace my Great Grand Fathers brother Thomas Kennedy who was born in Dublin and was in the Northumberland Fusiliers. He fought and died in the 2nd Boer War I believe approx March 1901. He was in his 20's at the time. I think his army number was 3382. I am trying to find out where he was buried. Many thanks, Breda Monks

Paul Nixon said...

Regret I can find nothing for this man. Please make enquiries here: http://www.casus-belli.co.uk/

Anonymous said...

Hi I am researching my family tree and my great grandfather Robert Glass served in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 3/8753 T/309931 I believe he was killed in action and was wondering where he was buried?

Paul Nixon said...

Re Robert Glass, this man has a service record which you can downlaod, albeit you will need to pay Findmypast: https://britisharmyancestors.co.uk/search-result/?q=8753+glass.

Search the CWGC website for war deaths: https://www.cwgc.org/

Unknown said...

Hi. I saw the following name scratched out on a rock in Bloemfontein South Africa.
F Malone 2nd NF
Can it be one of the Nortumberland Fusiliers that was here during the Boer War? Jannie

Paul Nixon said...

Re F Malone: possibly; you could check the medal rolls in WO 100 (on Ancestry) to follow this through.

Unknown said...

Hi Paul
I am trying to research my grandfather Corporal William Edgar Colling who I believe was a POW from 1915 to the end of the war. Can you tell me which Battalion he served with as well as any other information you may have. Many thanks. Simon Maude

Paul Nixon said...

Thank you for your comment. Please see the Research tab on this blog if you are looking for specific information on a soldier.

Unknown said...

Hi my Great Grandad, from Moray in Scotland, seems to have served in the Northumberland Fusiliers as opposed to a local Scottish regiment. His service number was 47268, but no indication on his battalion. He thankfully survived the war, but was seriously injured on the battlefield and left for dead, only when someone was placing a bible in his hand they noticed slight movement in his fingers.

Paul Nixon said...

Andy, 47268 William McKenzie served with the 20th and 1/5th Battalions, Northumberland Fusiliers.

Richard Daniel said...

Paul, Absolutely amazing site! I am researching NF James McDonald #2862 captured during the Boer War. FindMyPast doesn't seem to have any attestation info. Is it your experience these can be missing and is it possible I would find this elsewhere - maybe the NF own archives perhaps? Any steer appreciated! Maybe this counts as further research...


Unknown said...

My grandfather was a sgt in the fuseliers and returned safely to Wooler to his family. I know nothimg more than that and would be interested in any information. William McQueen be was married to Isabella Bowman and kayer had 2 sons.

Paul Nixon said...

Richard, thanks for your kind words. Yes, service papers are very much incomplete. He will have a medal roll entry, at least one,in WO 100 on Ancestry but I wouldn't be surprised that no service record, as such, survives. Worth trying the regimental museum, if there is one, but they won't have papers for him.

Paul Nixon said...

Re William McQueen, there is a record for 1049 William McQueen who was doscharged from the 7th Bn in 1916 as time-expired. He was from Wooler and I wouldn't rule out that he is your man who subsequently re-enlisted.

AHJ said...

Paul, I thought these might be useful for your database, all Northumberland Fusiliers:

51151 Pte Thomas Harrison Horsfall, attested 17 November 1915, mobilised 25 June 1917, posted 3rd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers 26 June 1917

51154 Pte Charles Worrell, attested 8 December 1915, mobilised 26 June 1917, appointed/posted 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers following day

51158 Pte William Jarvis, attested 28 January 1916, mobilised 26 June 1917, posted 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers same day

51168 Pte William Waters, deemed to have been enlisted 3 March 1916, mobilised 27 June 1917 and posted to Northumberland Fusiliers, 3rd Battalion same day.

51172 Pte Sidney Arthur Lewis of Heaton, attested 1 February 1916

51176 Pte John Walker Blakey attested around 7 December 1915, mobilised 28 June 1917, appears to have been posted on mobilisation to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers

51179 Pte Joseph Slattery attested 12 December 1915, mobilised and posted 30 June 1917.

Paul Nixon said...

Many thanks for these regimental numbers; it's great when they fall into place isn't it?

AHJ said...

Yes indeed; I am researching a man with the number 51177, so his mobilisation date seems to have been bracketed nicely. I'm now working to establish his dates for posting overseas (1st Btn) and transfer to 12th/13th.

Incidentally I should say that I spotted an error in what Inhave listed above; 51172 is actually LUCAS rather than Lewis.

I have also turned up the following:

51201 Pte Alfred Edward Walton, enlisted 10 December 1915, mobilised 5 July 1917, posted 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers same date

Anonymous said...

Hi, I’ve just stumbled on your wonderful website, so interesting, thank-you. I’m here as I’ve recently received a marriage certificate for an ancestor (Robert Robson) and was looking to know what the abbreviations mean. It shows his rank/profession as Pte. 6th N.F - is there anything more I can find out please? Thanks in advance, Susie.

Paul Nixon said...

It looks like he's this man, Susie: https://britisharmyancestors.co.uk/search-result/?q=r*+robson+north*+fus*+*3469. No service record but he has medal records which you can download via Ancestry.

Tony said...

Could anyone help me to identify the enlistment date for 55385 Private Harry Clements Jays. He served with the 12/13th Battalion N.F..
I also believe he served with the 21st and 25th Battalions but I have no idea of these dates.

Many thanks

Paul Nixon said...

Tony, "Thank you for visiting this blog. I welcome insights about regimental numbering but I do not have time to respond to individual research queries here. If you want me to undertake paid research, please follow the instructions on the RESEARCH tab."

andy1909 said...

Been doing a bit of digging on my Great Grandfather, John Ruthen, Northumberland Fusilier pre-ww1 and during ww1.

Three numbers starting with 5237, wanted to query this because he joined in Sept 1899, while the site list would indicate the number should have been issued 1897/88. Attested to 3rd Btn then ended up in 5th Battalion at some point.
During ww1 he went 5/2240 to 240359 (1917 renumber) were these numbers consecutive starting from the 1st battalion as I presume 5/ was the battalion number.
One thing shows how you should always check. it was always taken for granted that he was in the Tyneside Irish. But it turned out it was his brother Robert Ruthen 27/600 who who served with them. Family oral history not always that reliable. Bit of an anomaly here as well, can't find a 1917 number for him, even though he was serving in 1918 during the 24/27th amalgamation.

Anonymous said...

Hi,I’m researching my g/grand fathers links to NF Fusiliers. Do have any info on the 3/5 NF service numbers & its transfer to 22nd Provisional Btn. Why would he as a l/cpl then become a private on the creation & transfer to the 36th Btn with a new service number.

Paul Nixon said...

Andy 1909, "Thank you for visiting this blog. I welcome insights about regimental numbering but I do not have time to respond to individual research queries here. If you want me to undertake paid research, please follow the instructions on the RESEARCH tab."

Paul Nixon said...

3/5th Bn numbers were taken from the same sequence used by the original 5th and later the 1/5th, 2/5th etc. I have this series in my database but have not published it here. "Thank you for visiting this blog. I welcome insights about regimental numbering but I do not have time to respond to individual research queries here. If you want me to undertake paid research, please follow the instructions on the RESEARCH tab."

Unknown said...

I notice above that the 4th battalion disbanded in 1907. My great grandfather regiment number was 4/1868 but he served 1914-1915 so any idea what battalion would he have been in?

Paul Nixon said...

The old regular 4th Bn was disbanded in 1907 but the 4th (Territorial Force) Bn, formed in 1908 was the one in which your great grandfather served from early September 1914.

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