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Regimental/Battalion Numbering Questions


saw119
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I have a couple of questions that have been nagging at my brain for several weeks now and I hope someone here can help me out. Firstly, on my Great Grandad's Short Service Attestation for the East Yorkshire regiment his regiment number prefaced by a 3/, so it reads 3/19744. What does the 3/ refer to? I have seen it on some other service records but have been unable to trace its meaning. Also, I have pretty much completed work on my Great Grandad and was pondering the possibility of researching the numbers that go before and after his. Is it likely that recruitment officers worked consecutively, or do the numbers carry no signifigance? It would be interesting to know who signed up on that day, 3 August 1915, and find out what happened to them. They could have been his friends or am I just being woefully romantic and barking up the proverbial dead end?

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The 3/ denotes the Battalion he joined after attestation. In this case -

3rd (Reserve) Battalion

August 1914 : in Beverley. A training unit, it remained in UK throughout the war. Moved within a few days of declaration of war to Hedon, for duty as the Humber Garrison. Made the short journey in April 1916 to Withernsea.

http://www.1914-1918.net/eastyorks.htm

from which he would have joined a fighting Bn. normally when his training was completed.

John

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3rd battalions [and sometimes 4th] were Special Reserve battalions [if a 4th Extra Reserve].

Created 1908 from the old Militia, because there was hitherto no efficient way of augmenting the regular battalions [usually 2 of] in time of war other than the Regular Reserve [ex colour service soldiers on half pay].

SR battalions were, in time of war, to act as holding and training units for: regulars under age, not fully trained, returned from wounds or sickness men. They were usually collocated at the Depot and some moved on declaration of war for defensive duties. Some went to Ireland .... none were meant to fight as formed units. As war progressed [in many cases from the first days] the old SR men all went to join the regular battalions, and the men who signed regular engagements before the war went their separate ways on passing the medical and other tests. This left new war time 3SR recruits and wounded soldiers as the battalion. Until Service battalions were formed soon afterwards, the SR battalions became enormous, often 2 or 3 times the size of a normal unit, and 5 or 6 times the SR peace strength.

One further point: pre-war SR officers and men had a higher perceived social status than the Territorials and were officially senior, rank for rank.

Very early in the war SR battalions were urged to add the 3/ before each man's number: a fair few disobeyed, which is a curse to modern historians.

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Using Geoffs Engine here are the East Yorks casualties between 19700 and 19799

1 ARMITAGE A 19755 8TH BN 13/06/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

2 BARKER A 19773 7TH BN 01/07/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

6 CARR F 19779 8TH BN 08/03/1917 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

7 CARR P 11977 7TH BN 27/08/1918 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

9 CLARKE J 19733 10TH BN 28/03/1917 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

10 COPLEY WH 41976 7TH BN 18/09/1918 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

14 GRAY A 19740 8TH BN 09/04/1917 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

15 HALL J 19715 1ST BN 01/07/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

16 HARGREAVES JH 19725 10TH BN 13/04/1918 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

19 HUDSON J 19753 7TH BN 12/07/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

20 HUNT FW 19758 7TH BN 23/07/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

21 JEANES WG 19711 7TH BN 01/07/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

26 TAYLOR CE 19770 6TH BN 12/09/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

27 WILES JR 19736 7TH BN 10/07/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

29 WILSON A 19775 8TH BN 19/07/1916 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT

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Sorry I 've just noticed I've left two in there not applicable. The search parameter was East Yorkshire and 197 and therafter deleting those not applicable (31 returns).

Hywyn

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Simple as that with the 3/ eh! Oh well, you live and learn. I was unaware of Geoff's search engine Hywyn, you've certainly given me lots to work on there thanks a lot.

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Thanks for the summary of the Special Reserve, Grumpy. That has answered a few questions of my own.

Barrie

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Thanks for the summary of the Special Reserve, Grumpy. That has answered a few questions of my own.

Barrie

I should have said

THE SPECIAL RESERVE.

The Special Reserve was created as part of the Army Reserve Class I by Act of Parliament in 1907 and the units succeeded the Militia in 1908. In the Royal Welch Fusiliers the old 3RWF and 4RWF Militia battalions ceased to exist as such, and 3RWF “transferred” [according to Regimental Records] to the Army Reserve as a Special Reserve battalion on 28th June 1908, thus creating 3rd Battalion [Royal Denbigh and Flint Militia] Royal Welsh [this spelling until 1920] Fusiliers. Seemingly, individual Militiamen were offered the opportunity to attest under the new terms and conditions of the Special Reserve. 3RWF’s first and most pressing war time task was to act as a reinforcement pool for the battalions in combat: these were firstly 2RWF, then 1RWF, then just possibly 4 RWF by December [although TF battalions were supposed to be reinforced from TF resources, there were desperately few of these trained and ready at that time]. 2RWF, from examination of the Medal Roll of the 1914 Star, appear to have used few if any SR men in the early days of the war. Infantry Special Reserve battalions were, on mobilisation, to take over surplus reservists and the men and boys left behind by the regular battalion. Depôts were to continue to receive recruits and, after clothing them, to despatch them to the Special Reserve battalion to be trained. There was a major expansion of 3RWF, stationed at the Depôt at Wrexham [although it was training at Pembroke as war broke out], and it was originally obliged to camp in the football field at the back of the barracks. At this time it was between 1500 and 2000 strong. On 19th September 1914 it sent six officers and 342 other ranks [many of them special reservists] to 1RWF at Lyndhurst, en route to Belgium from Malta 21 Third battalions of infantry regiments were soon ordered to recruit to a strength of 2600, thus creating a large proportional number of officer posts and promotions, but at the end of October the surplus above 1500 men were sent to create 12RWF. By the end of the year, 35 officers and 2429 other ranks had been sent from 3RWF to 1RWF and 2RWF. This more or less committed all the regular and special reservists available.

The other ranks

Special Reserve other ranks of the RWF can not be identified by their regimental number. This is because, unlike many other regiments, RWF did not prefix its Special Reserve numbers with “3/ ”. It is likely that 3RWF numbers were parallel to, and thus often identical to, those of men of the regular battalions. Number 4225 was issued in 1910, and 7855 early in 1914. Enlistment into the Special Reserve was initially for six years, for men between 17 and 35 years, with an option to re-engage for a further four years, up to age 40. The recruiter earned himself 1/6-. Civil Servants, apprentices, foreigners and criminals were excluded. Reservists wishing to leave the United Kingdom or go to sea had to obtain permission from their officer in charge of records 2. Recruiting Regulations stipulated a schedule of permissible build, being at age 17 years 5ft 2ins minimum, 110lbs weight, 32 ½ inch expanded chest. At age 18 and over, the criteria were as for regulars but with a ½ inch smaller chest accepted. Both ex-regular soldiers [after the expiry of their regular reserve liability] and civilians were eligible, but the number of ex-regulars was limited. This limit was removed on 6th August 1914 [AO 295/14] to allow re-enlistment, for one year or the duration of the war, of those between 30 and 42 years of not less than ‘fair’ character.

CSM 5874 J Bowen 2RWF signed for one year [or the duration] under this amendment on form B 248 9. His surviving documents demonstrate that he managed to retain or get back his old “Regular” number. Other numbers issued and erased on his papers were 7965 [an SR number] and 22293 with 62 Training Reserve battalion.

Special reservists had exactly the same liabilities as regular reservists, and thus could be despatched readily to the front line. Training was initially for five months, followed by 27 days annually. For this, a soldier received the same pay as a regular when training and serving, and was eligible for bounties both during the year [£1..10..0 on completing initial training, one on completing annual training of £1, and three more separate £1 bounties, payable on 1st October, 1st December, and 1st February]. A total of 4000 men of the infantry were allowed to agree in writing to be liable for call out for up to 12 months service outside the British Isles. This was Section A. They had to be over 20 years of age, to have attended two annual training camps, be at least 2nd class shots, be fit for service abroad, and could only leave the Section at three month’s notice. For this extra commitment, they received 6d per day reserve pay, and, of course, normal rates when called out. The remainder of the SR was Section B. NCOs of the SR were junior to regular NCOs of the same rank, and senior to the TF.

The officers.

The Special Reserve officers accepted liability to serve anywhere in emergency, and serve permanently [ie indefinitely, ‘until his services are no longer required’ as the regulation stated] 2. They were to officer the battalion, complete the numbers of officers of regular battalions on mobilisation, and to make good casualties in the regular battalions [the exact equivalent of the other ranks]. There was no provision for SR commissioning from the serving ranks of SR battalions.

OTC membership was not a prerequisite for a SR commission, but ‘efficient’ membership reduced the probationary training period to be undertaken with a regular battalion from 12 to six months at most, and to three months at best [Certificate B].

A large proportion of 3RWF officers had been OTC members: Lieutenant RMJ French, Second Lieutenants GR Gore, EJV Collingwood-Thompson [all original members of 2RWF as it went to war], HM Robertson, R von R Graves, SL Sassoon, GF Wolff, WIG Farren , EL Orme and many others 24.

Lord Reith, when an OTC sergeant holding Certificate B, was approached by no fewer than three TF commanding officers, but, having expressed a preference for the Special Reserve, was told by his father that the Special Reserve was “a bit above his form”, and settled for a very good TF battalion [5Scottish Rifles] that went soon to France and served with distinction beside 2RWF in 19 Brigade 1.

Special Reserve officers applied to join on Army form B 201. They had to be of pure European descent, and either British born or naturalised, aged between 17 [amended to 18 years by AO 8/16] and under 25 years. They had to be of good moral character, able to produce evidence of a fair standard of education, and able to pass a medical examination. Men who had served previously in the ranks of the Regular Army, the SR, or the TF, were not specifically excluded, but would be required to produce their certificate of discharge. On being gazetted, an outfit allowance of £40 was paid, and for the holders of OTC Certificate B a substantial extra gratuity of £35 was paid at the same time. At the satisfactory end of probation all received a gratuity of £20. An annual gratuity of £20 was paid each year after probation was completed. Pay was as for regular officers when on duty. Special Reserve officers were part of the Reserve of Officers, and, after their probationary period, were required to do 27 days training annually. They were on a year’s re-engagement cycle, so that, up to age 35, they were either required to accept liability annually, or to resign their commissions with effect the next year. After age 35 they could resign at any time except in war. On call-up for duty a £50 compensation for disturbance was granted. Normal retirement under the rank of major was at 45, extendible with permission to 48 years. Promotion within the SR was by seniority, but there was provision for promotion by time, after five years commissioned service to lieutenant, and after ten years to captain.

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Fantastic stuff! Thanks very much for sharing; it has helped go towards filling in a lot of gaps. I've always found looking into the SR confusing and frustrating; the frustration is mainly due to the lack of information available, certainly in relation to The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

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  • 10 years later...

It could be the case that if a soldier in the RWF has a service number where it could be issued from either the Regular or the Special Reserve number range.

If I understand correctly, there are enlistment books for the Anglo-Boer War, First World War and Second World War which should show whether or not an individual enlisted under Regular terms of service. (If they are in the book, with that service number, they were a Regular, else they enlisted under Special Reserve terms of service.) I'm not a FMP subscriber, so cannot test the hypothesis.

 

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