Working with army service numbers

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Working with army service numbers

Postby Don Ranson » 14 Sep 2008 04:31

Could someone tell me how men were numbered in a Regiment? I'm aware that in WW1 some were batched and assigned to certain recruiting centres. But how did numbering work in the 1880s? Were certain numbers assigned to 1st and 2nd Battalions and between Home and Overseas? Were they chronologically ordered?

How to explain a man who joined up on 2nd January 1881 and was numbered 2365. Yet a man in the same regiment numbered 2371 (ie 6 numbers after) was killed at the Battle of Mazina on 20 May 1880 (7 months earlier)?

Thanks

Don
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Army Service Numbers 1881-1918

Postby Paul Nixon » 23 Jan 2009 08:27

Just thought I'd bring members' attention to a blog which I've been running for a little while - and which will in due course play second fiddle to a larger web project (once the developers designing the thing get everything working correctly).

Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 is an information resource for British Army service numbers issued between the years 1881 and 1918. Its aim is to provide information which will help researchers and family historians determine - from a soldier's army service number - the date he joined a particular unit of the British Army.

Paul Nixon
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Re: Working with army service numbers

Postby Paul Nixon » 11 Mar 2009 06:22

Don Ranson wrote:Could someone tell me how men were numbered in a Regiment? I'm aware that in WW1 some were batched and assigned to certain recruiting centres. But how did numbering work in the 1880s? Were certain numbers assigned to 1st and 2nd Battalions and between Home and Overseas? Were they chronologically ordered?

How to explain a man who joined up on 2nd January 1881 and was numbered 2365. Yet a man in the same regiment numbered 2371 (ie 6 numbers after) was killed at the Battle of Mazina on 20 May 1880 (7 months earlier)?

Thanks

Don


Don

As you know, The 1881 Cardwell Reforms ushered in major changes as far as the county regiments were concerned. However, these changes didn't come into effect until July 1881, county regiments numbering new recruits sequentially from 1 from 1st July that year. My data only extends from 1881 so I don't know that I can be of much assistance to you.

It may be worth your while popping into the Great War Forum - http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums - and searching through posts there as I know that some members have done significant research on numbering during the period you're interested in. Maybe also contact the regimental museum of the regiment concerned?

Paul
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Retention of Regimental numbers

Postby geoffallan1 » 17 Apr 2009 07:43

I've been trying to track through the Muster Rolls to determine an ancestor's Army service. With the 26th Regiment he was discharged in 1878 as Sjt 354 James YOXALL (from WO16/1594), but he just does not appear as such in some Musters, (including the Depot Musters) even though I know he was with the Regiment. However, I noticed in some earlier Musters an entry for Corporal 354 James ALLEN (eg, in 1870 (WO12/4313)).

Did a man keep his regimental number whatever his rank as he was promoted? Is it possible that there was a mistake in the Muster Rolls and the Paymaster used the wrong surname for him? MIght he have decided at some point to use an alias?

thanks for any advice

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Re: Working with army service numbers

Postby Paul Nixon » 29 Apr 2009 05:25

Geoff

I don't know about the regimental numbering system pre 1881 but certainly from 1881 once the number had been issued to you, it was yours and remained with you for as long as you were a soldier (unless of course you were commissioned). As a Private soldier or NCO, the number remained the same regardless of rank and once issued it was not to be re-issued (so if you were unlucky enough to be killed in action or die during service, that number was not to be re-issued).

However, and again I'm talking about post 1881, numbers were allocated within certain ranges and once a regiment approached the end of a particular series, application had to "be made to the Adjutant-General in sufficient time to obtain authority to commence a new series."

Up until 1904, that limit, for infantry of the line, was 9999. Once that figure was reached the numbering commenced from 1 again. All this is a roundabout way of second guessing why you could see two identical numbers in the same regiment.

I've covered this topic (ie numbering series post 1881) in a couple of posts which may be of interest:

Regimental numbering series
The Queen's & King's Regulations - Regimental Numbers

Aliases were sometimes used at the time of enlistment but your man wouldn't have been allowed to change his name mid-way through his service. I think you're looking at two different records here.

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Re: Working with army service numbers

Postby johnsmith » 26 May 2010 10:38

Paul

My great grandfather John Smith enlisted as John Hunt and was a private in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps Army Number 1969. In his army records there is a letter confirming that he enlisted under the name John Hunt but that his true name was John Smith. I have the originals of his discharge papers which show his name as John Smith with no mention of John Hunt. Just to confuse things further John names as next of kin his mother Mary Hunt. From John Smith's marriage certificate I know that his father was a Joseph Smith who I think I have been able to trace back through Census information which shows his wife was called Mary - it may be that they were not actually married or that Hunt was Mary's maiden name.

I corresponded with Garen some time ago about John Smith/Hunt but the recent publication of the army records cleared up the mystery.

Bernard
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Re: Working with army service numbers

Postby Paul Nixon » 26 May 2010 11:33

Bernard

1969 for the KRRC is a good example of the same number appearing many times.

For the regular battalions, between the years 1881 to 1918, it was issued first around July 1884 and then, after the regiment had started a new number series in 1897, issued again in 1899. I say, "issued again" but of course this wasn't the same number being issued but a new number from a new series which had also started at 1.

When Britain went to war in 1914, good old 1969 still had a few more appearances in store for KRRC recruits:

A/1969 would have been issued In August 1914 to Army Reservists whose numbers had been re-allocated, or previously discharged Army Reservists
R/1969 would have been issued to a KRRC war-time only recruit in September 1914
C/1969 fell within the series being issued to men joining the 16th (Church Lads Brigade) Battalion or the 19th (Reserve) Bn which was a reserve for the 16th. This dates to post Jan 1916.

It's quite possible too that the same number also appeared in one or more of the militia battalions although my data doesn't currently cover this.

I presume your great grandfather was one of the Victorian 1969s?

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Re: Working with army service numbers

Postby Bernards » 01 Jul 2010 16:47

Paul

Sorry for delay but for some reason I know not whaat I have been unable to access the Forum.

My Great Grandfather John Smith enlisted as John Hunt in the 60th Regiment (KRRC) in Sheffield in 1877 and was discharged - as John Smith 18 October 1889. He re-enlisted again in Sheffield on 4 November 1889 and was subsequently discharged 3 November 1893 in Winchester. He died in Sheffield in1898.

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Regimental Number

Postby Osprey » 29 Oct 2012 21:28

I got my grandfather's MIC from Kew - He was on the reserve list following previous service and went to France with the BEF in 1914. His RFA Regimental Number in WW1 was 31660 - would this have been the same number as per his previous service in the RFA circa 1902/3 - 1909 - or did soldiers in WW1 get a new number rather than a continuation of the one during previous service?

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Re: Regimental Number

Postby Frogsmile » 30 Oct 2012 09:53

Osprey wrote:I got my grandfather's MIC from Kew - He was on the reserve list following previous service and went to France with the BEF in 1914. His RFA Regimental Number in WW1 was 31660 - would this have been the same number as per his previous service in the RFA circa 1902/3 - 1909 - or did soldiers in WW1 get a new number rather than a continuation of the one during previous service?

Osprey


You can learn a lot about service numbers at this link Osprey: http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.co.uk/

Its author is also a member of this forum.
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Re: Regimental Number

Postby grumpy » 30 Oct 2012 10:29

Artillery numbering is a minefield but as a matter of principle a reservist retained his previous regular number [and indeed substantive rank and good conduct badges if any] and used it throughout his service even if recalled.
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Re: Regimental Number

Postby Osprey » 30 Oct 2012 18:53

Thanks to you both for your helpful replies.

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