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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

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I'm curious to know - if a private soldier started the war in 1914 with a particular unit, kept his nose clean without necessarily being officer-material and survived the war, what's the chances that he ended the war in the same battalion he started with ?

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Let's not forget that transfers often occured at the soldier's request. My grandfather transferred from the 7th Ox & Bucks to the ASC, having passed a trade test. A carriage maker at Wolverton railway Works in civilian life, he applied his skills in the Heavy Repair Shops of 660 Company in Kalamaria from 1917.

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Without injury or illness a very good chance - but we can't always identify whether or not they suffered any of those! (especially illness).


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Hello Steve

Absent Voters' Lists were compiled in 1918 for use at the General Election. If you check the list for the soldier's home town, and he is shown as belonging to the same unit as 1914, the chances are very high that he stayed with it throughout (apart, possibly, for periods in hospital).

If on the other hand he is shown as belonging to a different unit in 1918, then clearly he had moved.

The AVLs are usually held by the relevant County Record Office.

If the unit is known to have served in different theatres of war, the soldier's medal index card may show corresponding theatres.

Generally, your assumption would be a good starting hypothesis but it is diffucult to put a high percentage on it: there were a number of reasons, especially in the artillery, engineers and supporting arms, where units were fairly small and men, particularly specialists, might move more frequently than in the infantry.

If his original unit was cavalry (including yeomanry) or infantry, a look at E A James' British Regiments 1914-18 will show if the unit was disbanded, amalgamated or converted into something else.


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My wife's grandfather was a preWar Territorial in the Civil Service Rifles, and went overseas with the 1/15th London in 1915. He was wounded twice, posted to the 3/15th in England and rejoined the 1/15th in France.

On the other hand I have medals to other London regiments where they transferred between regiments.

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Hi Lachlan07,

I have been working on this question for some time now. I have not yet finished, so figures are approximate at the moment. Though they are very close to the mark. Bear in mind, as Chris says the rate of attrition varied from Battalion to Battalion. I am working on the 2nd and 3rd Bn. 's of the Worcestershire Regiment. The chances of a man starting in either of these Bn.'s in 1914 and being in the same Bn. in 1918 are almost zero!

In August 1914 the 3rd Bn. sent 1264 men to France. I have been tracking each man's fate. Approx 400 died, 200 got discharged with a Silver War Badge. Another approx. 200 got discharged with sickness or wounds and did not apply for a S.W.B.. !50 Transferred to other regiments. I do not yet have a full list of prisoners of war but the figure is at least 100. This reduces the original 1264 to about 200 men or 15%. These 200 men were active throughout the whole regiment, very few were still in the 3rd Bn. I often think that if I was one of the originals and saw this rate of attrition, I would get out of this Battalion somehow.

Regards Mike jones

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