29 July 2021

Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) - Regimental numbering in the 3rd (Special Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions 1908-1914

Having concentrated a lot in recent months on various Territorial Force battalions, I'm going to look at regimental numbering in Special Reserve and Extra Reserve battalions. As I have written before, the Special Reserve and the Extra Reserve were the natural heirs to militia battalions which, for the most part they replaced. My 2009 article on the Creation of the Special Reserve in 1908 may be helpful here.

As far as the Scottish Rifles was concerned, its new 3rd (Special Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) replaced the 3rd and 4th Militia Battalions and the new battalions just continued with the same regimental numbering systems that had been used by their militia predecessors.

Remember, the men joining the militia and special/extra reserve were not career soldiers. They were men who had completed a period of training alongside career soldiers at the regimental depot but they then went back to their homes, turning out annually for drills and camp. Men of the Special Reserve signed up for six years' service and knew, in the event of war, that they would be called upon to fill gaps in the regular battalions. A glance at most 1914 Star rolls will show plenty of evidence of Special Reserve men who served alongside career soldiers. Sometimes their numbers are prefixed by the number of their battalion - typically a 3/ or 4/ in most line infantry regiments - but just as often there will be no prefix.

My summary below shows enlistment into the 3rd (Special Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). All of these men would have lived locally, within the recruiting area for the Cameronians. 

3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Scottish Rifles

3/6298 joined on 9th August 1908. This man had already been serving with the 3rd Militia Bn with this number.
3/6965 joined on 27th April 1909
3/7207 joined on 25th January 1910
3/7339 joined on 19th June 1911
3/7439 joined on 1st February 1912
3/7639 joined on 3rd December 1913
3/7753 joined on 11th August 1914

4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, Scottish Rifles

6510 joined on 9th August 1908
6740 joined on 14th February 1909
6979 joined on 12th April 1910
7052 joined on 16th October 1911
7077 joined on 10th January 1912
7094 joined on 6th March 1913
7234 joined on 17th February 1914
7453 joined on 11th August 1914

You can see from the sequences above that there was very little difference between the 3rd and 4th Battalions in terms of when numbers were issued. By the 11th August 1914 the 3rd Battalion had has 7753 men through its books, whilst the 4th Battalion had recruited precisely 300 fewer men. But the regimental number sequences were unique to both battalions and it is important to understand this.

Practically, this means that when looking at medal rolls and trying to work out enlistment dates, if your man had the number 7000 he could have been a 3rd Battalion man who joined between April 1909 and January 1910 or a 4th Battalion man who had joined between April 1910 and October 1911. On the other hand, he could have been a career soldier who had joined between February 1900 and May 1901. (See my post on the 1st & 2nd Battalions, Scottish Rifles).

And if all of this is still confusing, have a read of some of the articles towards the bottom of the Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 index.

Remember. I research soldiers!

To search for Scottish Rifles photos, check my British Army Ancestors websiteThe image shows men of the 1st Cameronians at Portsmouth in 1894 and is reproduced by courtesy of the Cameronians Museum.

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