23 September 2017

Regimental Numbers - a 60 second overview

Army Order 338 of 1920 introduced a new system of  'army numbers'. Up until that point, men were issued with regimental numbers by the regiment or corps that they joined.

Over the last nine years this blog has detailed regimental and corps numbers issued between 1881 and 1918, with the majority of the focus on the period 1881 to 1914. I chose 1881 as my starting point because this was then the majority of the old infantry Regiments of Foot were officially re-designated along county or 'territorial' lines, and men joining these newly named regiments were, from 1st July 1881, issued with a number from a new number series which began at 1. 

Such a system invariably meant that there was massive duplication of regimental numbers in the British Army. Furthermore, the regimental number series operated by the regular battalions of each regiment would prove to be just one of several series operated by the regiment. 

A typical line infantry county regiment could expect to administer one regimental number series for its regular battalions, and a separate number series for each militia battalion. Volunteer Force battalions also each had a separate regimental number series and later, so too would each Territorial Force battalion - yes EACH Territorial Force battalion, and with some battalions running multiple number series to boot.

On this blog you will find regimental number pointers for ALL line infantry regiments, ALL cavalry, ALL yeomanry, and a good deal more besides.  Use the INDEX to find the regiment you are interested in BUT be careful.  As I said, regiments operated multiple regimental number series and understanding which battalion a man served with is the key to understanding what his service looked like.

The extract below shows regimental numbers issued by the King's (Liverpool Regiment) between 1908 and 1912. Here, straight away, you can see that there were nine separate series in use between those years. Later, in 1917, when the Territorial Force was re-numbered, serving members of the TF were all issued with new regimental numbers, the lowest number in each series being issued to the longest serving member of that battalion or TF unit. This re-numbering, designed to cut some of the confusion with duplicate numbering would have been better had not the new number series also been duplicated across battalions.  By my reckoning, when the new number blocks were introduced in 1917, 61 regiments started re-issuing numbers from a series which began with 200001!

So using the example above, if your King's (Liverpool Regiment) British Army Ancestor had the regimental number 10030, he could have been a regular soldier who joined the regiment some time before 1908, or he could have been a man who joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in January 1912.  Similarly, if your ancestor was in the Territorial Force and had the number 1100, he could have served with any of the six TF battalions listed here - and he could have therefore joined up in either 1908, 1909 or 1910 depending on which battalion he joined.

I have published a fraction of the information from my database on this blog. Contact me via the RESEARCH tab if you need help with your British Army Ancestors.

Some other points to bear in mind; this from Queen's Regulations for 1889:

There are two key points to bear in mind here. The first is the scope of the number series expressed in paragraph 38, particularly the point about applying to start a new series. As an example, between 1881 and 1914, the Rifle Brigade reached 9999 on two occasions and therefore started a new number series beginning with 1. So if we see a Rifleman from the Rifle Brigade with the number 5000, that number could date to 1882 (the Rifle Brigade did not start numbering from 1 in 1881) or 1897 or 1913.

The second point to note is paragraph 41. Regimental numbers were not re-issued. If a man was discharged from a regiment, walked around the block and then re-enlisted with the same regiment he would be issued with a new regimental number. I have published extracts from King's and Queen's Regulations on this blog.

There is a lot of information that i have published over the years and I am happy to answer general questions. Post a comment and I'll post a response. For individual RESEARCH projects, contact me via the RESEARCH tab.

The photograph on this post is from my collection and shows two unnamed KRRC rifleman in 1912.

No comments: