This post will look at numbering in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.
The battalion was formed in January 1908 on the demise of the militia. Up until that point the Norfolk militia had had two battalions, the 3rd and the 4th, but the 4th was one of 23 infantry militia battalions which was ordered to be disbanded. Thus when the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment was formed, it took in men from both the 3rd and 4th militia battalions, these men retaining their old militia numbers. In theory then, it would have been possible for two men to share the same number: 1234 Tommy Atkins joining from the 3rd Militia Battalion and 1234 Bill Smith joining from 4th Militia Battalion. I have not so far come across any examples of duplicates but I wouldn’t bet against it.
New recruits to the 3rd Battalion start at around the 627* range in 1908 but there are plenty of examples of men with far lower numbers joining in 1908 who had already seen many years service in the militia.
By August 1914 numbering had reached 9999 and then there appears to have been a bit of confusion, men numbering after this point first being given numbers starting from 1 again; thus SR/1 (or 3/1), SR/2 (or 3/2) for example. This system can clearly be seen on the front of some attestation papers from this period although appears to have been rectified later on, men’s numbers appearing as 3/10001, 3/10002 etc.
Many of the men joining in August and September 1914 were old soldiers who had seen service in the regular army or in militia or volunteer battalions (and in some cases a combination). These men generally joined up for one year’s service (or duration) and many of these men would shortly find themselves rushed out to France to fill in gaps in the regular 1st Battalion.
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The Holy Boys
A history of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and the Royal Anglian Regiment 1685-2010.
The History of the Norfolk Regiment 1685-1914
Covers the period up until the outbreak of war.
The History of the Norfolk Regiment
History covering the period 4th August 1914 to 31st December 1918