21 December 2012

Royal Fusiliers - Regular Battalions

The Royal Fusiliers (City of London) Regiment was formed on the 1st July 1881 from the 7th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot.  (The Derbyshire title, granted in 1782, was never used and in 1823 had been re-granted to the 95th Regiment). 

There are over 55,000 Royal Fusiliers service and pension 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.

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

14 joined on 3rd October 1881
335 joined on 9th June 1882
976 joined on 11th June 1883
1191 joined on 31st January 1884
1827 joined on 15th May 1885
2363 joined on 30th January 1886
2798 joined on 18th March 1887
3078 joined on 17th April 1888
3224 joined on 25th June 1889
3465 joined on 25th January 1890
3701 joined on 7th January 1891
4049 joined on 9th January 1892
4579 joined on 2nd February 1893
4964 joined on 3rd April 1894
5283 joined on 19th April 1895
5479 joined on 13th June 1896
5800 joined on 20th October 1897
5929 joined on 15th March 1898

On the 1st April 1898 a 3rd regular battalion was raised at The Curragh, Ireland, from the nucleus of two companies from the 2nd Battalion.  Recruits joining the 3rd Battalion were issued with numbers from the same series that was being used by 1st and 2nd Battalion men.  The 3rd Battalion would eventually be disbanded on 16th July 1922.

7173 joined on 22nd February 1899 [L/ prefix added later]

On the 30th January 1900, The Royal Fusiliers raised a 4th Battalion from the nucleus of the 3rd Battalion.  This battalion also shared the same number series that was in use for the other three regular battalions.  The 4th Battalion would eventually be disbanded on the 16th July 1922.

The Royal Fusiliers also fielded two volunteer service companies during the South African War.  Numbers issued to VSC recruits were within the range 8901 to 9144. Numbers 8901 through to 9026 were all 1st VSC men.  Numbers 9040 through to 9144 were all 2nd VSC men.  Numbers 9027 to 9039 are a combination of 1st and 2nd VSC men. 

7825 joined on 5th February 1900 [L/ prefix added later]
8635 joined on 10th January 1901
RF/9364 joined on 24th January 1902 [L/ prefix added later]

In 1901 alone, and with four regular battalions in place, The Royal Fusiliers recruited well over 700 men and recruitment showed no signs of slowing in 1902.  Queen’s Regulations stated that, “When the [number] series approaches 9,999, application should be made to the Adjutant-General in sufficient time to obtain authority to commence a new series.”  This instruction was either overlooked or ignored by the Royal Fusiliers, or the application was submitted too late.  Although a revised King’s Regulations would extend numbering in infantry regiments to 19,999, this wouldn’t come into effect until 1904, and by November 1902, the Royal Fusiliers had passed 9,999 and just kept going.  The regiment would recruit over 800 men in 1902 alone.  

The L/ prefix was introduced for regular enlistments into regiments administered by the Number 10 Grouped Regimental District at Hounslow around October 1902.  This practice was also adopted by The Royal Fusiliers at the same time.  An RF/ prefix was already in use for the Royal Fusiliers and certainly appears to have been more consistently used than the L/ prefix when this was introduced for regulars joining the regiment. The numbers above and below are as they appear on attestation papers.  In all cases the L/ prefix appears to have been added some time after the man had attested.

RF/10145 joined on 1st January 1903 [L/ prefix added later]
RF/10830 joined on 23rd January 1904
RF/11128 joined on 16th January 1905
RF/11891 joined on 1st January 1906
RF/12477 joined on 4th February 1907 [L/ prefix added later]
RF/13039 joined on 15th January 1908
RF/13742 joined on 6th July 1909
RF/14193 joined on 20th October 1910
RF/14344 joined on 4th January 1911 [L/ prefix added later]
RF/15158 joined on 12th June 1912
RF/15459 joined on 11th January 1913
RF/16125 joined on 27th July 1914 [L/ prefix added later]

The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914, men joining the new Royal Fusiliers service battalions for wartime-service only were issued with numbers from new number series. The number series outlined above, continued to be used but was reserved for those men who wished to join the Royal Fusiliers on regular enlistment terms. 

This practice was adopted by The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), The Royal Fusiliers, The East Surrey Regiment, The Royal Sussex Regiment, The Royal West Kent Regiment and The Middlesex Regiment. With the exception of the Royal Fusiliers, these regiments were all administered by the Number 10 Grouped Regimental District at Hounslow. The Royal Fusiliers also raised a number of Pals-type battalions, most of which operated separate number series, many of these being additionally differentiated by letter prefixes.   

Recruitment rates 1881-1911

Between 1st July 1881 and 17th January 1891, The Royal Fusiliers recruited 3,701 men, an average of 386 soldiers a year and the fourteenth best recruitment rate of all the British infantry regiments that decade. 

The following decade showed further improvement with a grand total of 8635 men recruited by 10th January 1901 and an average recruitment rate for the decade which stood at 493 men per annum. 

Recruitment into the Royal Fusiliers showed no sign of abating during the period 1901 to 1911 and by 4th January that year, the regiment had issued number RF/14344 to its latest recruit.  By 1911 The Royal Fusiliers was the fifth most successful recruiter of all the British infantry regiments and could claim a high annual average of 483 men recruited per annum between 1881 and 1911.
The well-known photo that I've used to illustrate this post shows men of A Company, 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers at rest on the 22nd August 1914.  The following day they would be in action at the Battle of Mons. Photo source: Wikipedia.

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

Further Reading
Royal Fusiliers - regimental histories

Historical Records of the Seventh or Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
Covers the period form the raising of the regiment in 1685 to 1875. Includes a roll call of every officer who served in the Regiment during these 190 years with his record of service, listed in alphabetical order.
Royal Fusiliers in the Great War
The appendix gives the Roll of Honour of officers (1054 names); a table showing the numbers of Warrant Officers, NCOs and Men on the Roll of Honour, by battalions; a table summarising decorations awarded, including foreign awards; brief biographies or notes on a number of RF general ranking officers; and several accounts of soldiers who took part in the various operations.2nd City of London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in the Great War 1914-1919
The Roll of Honour lists 1,345 dead and the summary of awards shows 65 British decorations to officers and 246 to other ranks, excluding MiDs.The War History of the 4th Battalion The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) 1914-1919
Includes a list of Honours and Awards, including foreign decorations, as well as a list of officers and men of other regiments who won their awards serving with the 4th London Regiment.The History of the old 2/4th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)
There is no Roll of Honour nor list of Honours and Awards, all these are noted in the text and the last ninety pages contain the service records of every officer and man of the battalion where such information can be found, including details of any wounds received.The Kensington Battalion
This books draws on first hand material (diaries, letters and official documents) as well as interviews from the 1980s. History of the 22nd (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (Kensington)
A Roll of Honour gives dates of death of the officers, and in the case of other ranks, they are grouped by companies for each year of the war without number, rank or date of death. There is also a list of recipients of honours and awards, which includes mentioned in despatches. Names are grouped alphabetically for each medal, but no number, rank or date of award. Hard as Nails: The Sportsmen's Battalion of World War One
Michael Foley's history of the 23rd (Service) Battalion.


Ellen Jones said...

I'm currently researching 1279 J Delaney of the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, which I know was created for Kitchener's New Army in 1914. Unfortunately it seems that his service records didn't survive so I'm enjoying piecing together his army career from different sources. My current item of research is approximating his date of joining. I found this entry on your blog (if you addressed the K1 battalions elsewhere, my apologies) and I wondered if you had any knowledge on service numbers and dates of joining for this battalion. Thanks.

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Ellen

It's an early number for the RF; probably between 21st and 28th August 1914 and he appears to have been an original member of the battalion.


Anonymous said...

My great grandfather Alfred Levett (regimental number 14349)was a regular in the RF. He signed up 6th January 1911. I am still trying to establish which battalion he served with. Before WW1 I believe he was stationed in Ireland which would put him in the 1st Battalion. He also served in Gallipoli which would put him in the 2nd Battalion. Was it normal to switch between Battalions?

Paul Nixon said...

Re 14349 Levett

Yes, very normal. A recruit's typical journey pre Aug 1914 would be:

1. Enlist and posted to depot
2. Basic training at Depot
3. Posted to whatever the Home battalion was
4. Having thoroughly trained with the Home battalion, posted to the overseas' battalion

In pre war Britain, the function of the depot and the home battalion/s was essentially to provide fit and well-trained soldiers for garrison duty overseas. This is probably a good subject for a blog post in its own right.

Anonymous said...

Paul Thank you for responding re 14349 Levett.


alain.grint@sfr.fr said...

Good morning Paul
I am looking at a man
G/93466 James Sinclair 17 Battalion Royal Fusiliers.

What does the G denote

and secondly any idea when he was posted to the RF

Best wishes Draperju

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Alain

The G/ is General Service; ie wartime enlistment only, and the number is late on in the war, certainly post June 1918.


Chris C said...

Hi Paul

I am invesigating Henry James Johnson, service number 19982, Corporal in Royal Fusiliers. In addition I have also have service number 60398, the Labour Corps. Any help in identifying RF Battalion would be much appreciated. I am aware that 33rd to 37th Battalions did become Labour Corps and maybe this would explain change.

Many thanks


Paul Nixon said...

Hello Chris

I can't be of much assistance, I'm sorry to say. I would guess that the RF number dates to around October 1915 if he was a General Service enlistment; a little earlier if he joined up on regular terms. I couldn't find his medal index card though and so couldn't see whether the RF number had a prefix. In any event, I'm afraid that the number is not specific to a particular battalion although you could probably rule out the 22nd - 27th Battalions which had different number series (although note that that Bankers' Battalion, the 26th Bn, was also issuing numbers - prefixed with a B - in the high 19000 range by November 1915).

I'm struggling with the Labour Corps as I haven't made a study of LC numbers. Try the Great War Forum though as there are experts there who may be able to assist.


Chris C said...

Hi Paul

Many thanks for your help. I realised after my post that I should have said there was no prefix to RF number. Will continue to investigate.


Anonymous said...

My grandfather Private 13177 James Morton Robertson served with 25th Royal Fusiliers in Africa. He related events in German South West Africa of ambushing German supplu=y columns.
Prior to that, he served in South Africa during the Boer war, probably joining his regiment about 1898. He was at the relief of Ladysmith and perhaps at Mafeking. Would he have served with the Royal Fusiliers in the 7th Battalion during the Boer War?
Submitted by James Morton Robertson

Paul Nixon said...


The 1st, 2nd and 5th Battalions all served in South Africa during the Boer War and so if he did serve there, it would not have been with the 7th Battalion. If he did serve in South Africa he would also have had a different number as the one you quote indicates a much later joining date.


dday said...

hi paul
do you have any info on fusiliers service before 1881

Neil Barber said...

Hi Paul

Thank you for your work in creating an interesting and valuable research tool.

My grandfather Walter Ernest Judd served in the 5th Royal Fusiliers, L/14390. I'm new to searching for military records but family history suggests he was gassed at some point, I know he was awarded the SWB B168496 under the Para.392 XVI regulations and was classified as 'sick'. Can you suggest where I can find out the war record of the 5th Batt Royal Fusiliers or find his service record. I believe the 5th was a reserve battalion and at the outset of WW1 was garrisoned at Dover.


Neil Barber

Paul Nixon said...


The 5th Battalion never served overseas and furthermore his number indicates a regular enlistment in 1911. He served with the 2nd and 22nd Battalions and so you'd need to check those diaries which you'll find on Ancestry or on The National Archives website. No service record appears to survive for this man.

Unknown said...

Hello Paul
I'm interested in a man, Arthur Leslie James, from the 7th Bn number PS/9942. Could you tell me what the PS denotes and have you any idea when he would have enlisted please?

Paul Nixon said...


PS/ was the prefix used by the Public School battalions. The 7th Battalion was not one of the Public Schools battalions but rather an extra reserve battalion which was never intended to serve overseas but which did so anyway from 1916. The PS/ number and your man'service could be researched - please drop me a line via the research tab if you wish to take up this option.

Unknown said...

Thanks Paul
I got the 7th Bn info off the CWGC site and the PS number from his Medal Card. It appears that initially only public school educated men were taken but later on it was opened to 'ordinary' volunteers. As the family were all miners, he was very unlikely to have gone to public school, and looks to have been a later recruit.
As I'm researching about 260 men I can't unfortunately afford to check much more than the basics.
Thanks for your help.
Regards Steve

Cliff Ward said...

Hello Paul
The Victory Medal Roll for my grandfather - 229715 BEARE, James Francis 13th Royal Fusiliers shows that he was sent to France on 2nd October 1917 along with 40+ others for the same battalion all with near-consecutive service-numbers (he'd enlisted 20 Sep 1915 [from SWB roll] - but no record of what he was doing in-between nor any other service.number for him). I had assumed they'd all been drafted into the 13th RFus at about the same time (when they started training?) but on looking at the Victory Medal Roll again, I noticed some others (e.g. 229685 PRINCE, William) who had been transferred into 13th RFus whilst IN France from another regiment (with a number change) AFTER 2nd Oct when my Gfather was sent out, but with a 13th RFus service number EARLIER in the number series than his.
I'm now bewildered, were numbers only assigned once they joined their units in the field?
Grateful for any insight you can provide.

J Feona King said...

Hello. I have just learnt my Grandfather was a Royal Fusilier. He signed up March 1916 in Guildford Surrey, Army no., G/41950. I am aware a number of soldiers worked on the railways and I think I have found a reference to Private Slater working on the Midland Railway as a Floor Porter(?). Anyway I do not seem to be able to find a reference to his discharge from the service. Could you point me in a direction. Ancestry.co.uk does not have anything.
Thank you for your time and attention.
J F King

Paul Nixon said...

Re Walter Slater, Findmypast has his service record so you should sign up and download from there. here's the link: http://search.findmypast.co.uk/results/united-kingdom-records-in-military-armed-forces-and-conflict?lastname=slater&soldiernumber=*41950

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul, I'm trying to do research on Pte Archibald Thomas Grimmett who served with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers from 1900-1912 (No. 8238) and again in the Great War (Findmypast has his papers from his first period of service). Basically I have a couple of questions..
a) He was discharged in September 1912 on completion of his first period of service, does that mean that he would have been recalled for War Service in 1914 or would he have simply had to await "call-up"
b) His service no. during the Great War was GS/37105, are there any clues there to when he re-joined?

Paul Nixon said...


a) His obligation to the army ended in 1912, he would not have been recalled to the colours
b) It would be possible to work out when this number dates to, yes. Please see the RESEARCH tab.


Martin Gillott said...


I am doing some research on the 4th Bn Royal Fusiliers using the 1914 Star Medal Roll as my base. The roll shows lots of men DTE (Dishcharged on Termination of Engagement) with dates. We know Terms of Engagement were 12 years (+ 1 if the Army required) = 13 years in times of war. Using a few samples it should be possible to use the DTE day and net off 13 years to get their exact enlistment dates.

Example 1: No. 10009 Pte W Arthur was DTE on 30/11/1915. This would imply he enlisted on 1/12/1902. Cross checking against your framework it is a good fit.

Example 2: No. 9825 Pte G E Abbott was DTE on 9/10/1915 implying he enlisted on 10/10/1902...again a good fit with your framework.

No really surprising but possibly an alternative methodology/technique to trawling Service Records and Pension Records to quickly establish a framework or a way of cross checking.

Separately I am trying to establish how many RF men on the 1914 Star Roll might have served in the Second Boer war. the 'earliest number I have on the roll is No. 6 Pte Purvis... and the next earliest is No.11, No. 28, No. 46 etc...all would implicitly have enlisted in 1881 (aged @ 18) meaning they would have been in their very late 40s or early 50s (unlikely for Regulars?) and have served 33 years (again unlikely, particularly for Private soldiers....so i am thinking they might be 5th and 6th Reserve Bn men (presumably numbering started in 1908...whose SR prefix was not recorded. I have 100 men whose Army Number (with no prefix) is less than 1,000 - the numbers required to fill a Battalion.

IF (as I suspect) they are SR men it is worth flagging as anyone researching the RF might easily be tripped up by the coincidental numbering. For context the most senior soldiers on the roll were:

No. 5336 SM E W Tyler who was commissioned in the Filed in Oct 1914
No. 5307 CSM G D Attwell ditto.
No. 5914 CSM A G Richardson

Who would have enlisted in the mid 1890s...

Logically speaking there should be very few men with earlier numbers as almost all would have been time expired. the exceptions of course being men who were long service or who extended, but the numbers would have been small. numbers serving 21 years would be counted on two hands.....Your excellent Blog shows No. 4049 joined on 9th Jan 1892. It is almost impossible for any man who enlisted earlier than this date to have served in Aug 1914...However the 1914 Star Medal Roll has 252 men with earlier numbers (below 4,000). Again I strongly suspect they are SR men without their SR prefixes. If they were re-enlisted men they would have been given new numbers.

A third cross-check is to see how many of these men died. We have No. 575 Pte C E Burkinshaw killed on 17/11/1914....It would be impossible for him to have enlisted in 1881 (33 years before his death) as he was just 27.

So, for a number of reasons I think the medal rolls are awash with un-prefixed SR men.

Just wondered if you had any thoughts on this?

Regards, Martin

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Martin

We have corresponded separately since you posted this, and thank you for doing so. The SR/ or 3/ prefix seems to have been infrequently or irregularly used on medal rolls and so I suspect you are right. You have obviously made a study of this regiment; I have not, but I have seen many similar conundrums in casualty lists for 1914 and 1915 where the SR/ or 3/ prefix is omitted. The clincher is when you find two men with the same number.

Keep plugging away....


John Fitzgerald said...

Hi Paul,

I am trying to trace what Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles my Great uncle, John Surgenor (rgt no's 26265 & 90127 when he enlisted in the Liverpool Regiment). Unfortunately, most of his army records were destroyed other than his medal award & index cards. On the former it states:- 20n.LiverpoolR.90127 and 2gn R.Ir.Fus.26265 - Sgt.

Is there anyway of finding out what Battalion he belonged to? I have a photo of him in his Sgt's uniform on which some long dead member of the family wrote Belgium 1916 on the back!

His younger brother James also enlisted in the 2/5 (Reserve) Bn. Kings Liverpool Regiment before he joined the NGC. Fortunately his service records survive so I can trace his whereabouts when I go to France & Belgium next week. Incidentally, he enlisted on 21 Nov 1914 and his Rmt NO'S was 42221.

I have photos of them both in full uniform if that would assist.

Fortunately, both survived the war.

Look forward to hearing from you.


Paul Nixon said...

20th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regt; 2nd Garrison Battalion RI Fusiliers by the sounds of things, John.

Unknown said...

Hi Paul, I have just been to visit the war grave of my 2nd cousin 201013 1st Battalion London Regiment (Royal Fusilier) S Watson who died 18.05.1917 aged just 21. I wonder if you could tell me whether he would have been conscripted to this regiment or voluntary joined by his number please. He is buried at Achiet le Grand cemetery. Thanks, Helen

Paul Nixon said...

201013 volunteered in September 1914, Helen.

John Carter said...

Hi, I would like to know when my grandfather joined the army, the only info. I have in on the rear of a medal.

6991 PTE. A. Carter R. FUS


John Carter

Paul Nixon said...

Re A Carter. Thank you for your comment. As you will hopefully have seen when posting on this blog, if your request is for information about a specific individual, please contact me via the research tab.

Arcadia said...

Hello helen, I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
We have an Attestation Ledger entry for your grandfather - this keeps brief (but not complete) details of service. It gives the following information:
-Harold J Cheetham, enlisted 11/6/1917, aged 14 (presumably as a boy recruit - he would have been trained and given some education before joining a unit when he was old enough)
-Had no previous occupation.
-Place of birth - Maryhill, Glasgow, Larnark
-Next of kin - mother, Florence, of 38(?) Cumbodden Drive(?), Glasgow
-Enlisted initially for 9 years in the regulars and three years in the reserve (this was fairly common)
-Extended his service on 11/5/26 (presumably to stay in the regulars)
-Discharged on 10/6/1929, following the end of his period of service, but re-enlisted on the 26/6/29
-Discharged on the 30/6/1939.
-Re-enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers (not the Royal Artillery) on 9/3/1940
-There are not further details
His full service record will still be held by the MoD, and you might want to try ordering it (they will charge): www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records. If you can find out what Regiments/Brigades/Batteries he belonged to, so i can move forward in my grand fathers service as we have no pictures or medals we do know my mothers brother smashed and burnt his millitary records during his actovist days sadly so now in australia im trying to find out information this is what i have to go on many thanks julian edwards n

Unknown said...

I'm trying to find a regiment number for Lance Corporal Thomas Daniel, wounded in 1918 and mentioned in a local newspaper May 1918 as being in hospital in England and awarded a Military Medal for bravery. He was a Royal Fusilier (from Scotland). The war diary for April 1918 mentions T. Daniels (rather than Daniel)in a list of those awarded Military Medals so it could possibly be him but I can't find anything further under the number 205630 against his name. There is no record of this number on Ancestry and I wonder where else I can look?

Unknown said...

Hi, i am trying to find information on my great grandfather owen hunt born 1884. I have found a service fecord for him which states his service number was 78755 in the royal fusileers. However there appears to be another service record showing a possible discharge in July1914. My great grandfathef lost a leg in the war, is there anywhere i can find which battles he fought in and where he received his injuries. Sadly there is no one left in the family to know this information. Many thanks

Paul Nixon said...

Re Thomas DANIEL. I confirm that 205630 is the correct number and this is the only man called T DANIEL/DANIELS who won the MM with the RF.

Paul Nixon said...

Re OWEN HUNT. This would be a research project. Please see the information on the Research tab: https://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/p/research.html

Stephen Binks said...

Hi Paul,
My great uncle George Binks had the service number GS/73058. His medal roll states previous service with the 4th RF prior to serving with the 13th battalion. On the same sheet are other RF men who had also served with the 4th and also have GS/***** numbers.
I think this is a typo and should be "24th battalion"; I have a picture of him with this battalion number patch.
To your knowledge did the 4th battalion receive GS men, later transferred out?

Visited and used your site information for many years. Well done!

Stephen Binks

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks for following, Stephen, glad the blog has been useful.

In your shoes I think I'd try and find service records for any of the other men who appera with him on the medal roll. Hopefully you'll find a servcie record which gives you that Eureka moment.

I am not aware that the 4th Bn received GS/ men, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out and it's almost certainly more likely than not. For that matter, clerks were not immune from making errors either. You really need to build up some evidence from other service records, I think.

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