30 August 2021

Devonshire Regiment, 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion

This post will look at regimental numbering in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Devonshire between 1908 and 1914. The Special Reserve and the Extra Reserve were the natural heirs to the militia battalions which, for the most part they replaced in 1908. My 2009 article on the Creation of the Special Reserve in 1908 may be helpful here.

With the creation of the Special Reserve in 1908, the Devonshire Regiment effectively lost a battalion. Prior to this date, as well as its two regular battalions, it also fielded two militia battalions, the 3rd and 4th Battalions. Wiht the creation of the Special Reserv, the 4th Battalion was abandoned, men now being given the option to sign up to the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion. As far as regimental numbering in the battalion was concerned. Men who were still serving with the 3rd (Militia) Battalion simply joined the 3rd (Speical Reserve) Battalion with their old regimental numbers. 4th (Militia) Battalion men who now opted to join the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion were given new numbers from the 3rd Battalion series which was, itself, a continuation of the militia number series. There are many examples in surviving service records of serving militia men joining the Special Reserve in 1908 but only signing up for the unexpired portion of their militia service.

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 Militia and 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.

The first 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion number I have on my database - and there will be many earlier ones thatn this - is 4893 Samuel Rowe who was a time-expired soldier with 12 years' service under his belt. He was also a serving member of the 4th (Militia) battalion and when he joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion on the 27th June 1908 he only signed up for 2 years and 200 days which was the unexpired portion of his militia service. The new number he was issued with was from the series which had been in use for the 3rd (Militia) Battalion. 

Here then, are some sample numbers for the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Devonshire Regiment:

4956 joined on the 27th June 1908 
3/5749 joined on the 12th May 1909
5947 joined on the 24th January 1910
6206 joined on the 18th April 1911
3/6597 joined on the 29th October 1912
3/6679 joined on the 12th February 1913
3/7040 joined on the 15th August 1914
3/7180 joined on the 1st September 1914
3/7743 joined on the 7th October 1914

The regimental number series was unique to the 3rd Miltia/Special Reserve Battalion but care needs to be exercised when determining if a man's number belongs to this series or to the series that was issued from the regimental depot to men joining as career soldiers. For example, looking at the sequence above, it can be seen that the number 7000 would have been issued to a 3rd Bn man between February 1913 and August 1914 (and more likely to have been July or August 1914 for that matter). However, the same number would have been issued to a career soldier who joined the regiment in July 1902. See my article on regimental numbering in the 1st & 2nd Battalions of The Devonshire Regiment.

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 Devonshire Regiment photos, check my British Army Ancestors website 

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