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Remembered Today:

Identifying Battalions in War Diaries


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Hello - Whilst transcribing a few diaries, I came across what appears to be some fairly old fashioned vocabulary for describing battalions.... the old numbers of the Foot regiments is used as shorthand - example below from the 9th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers War Diary of August 1915. Can anyone tell me if this was an approved (i.e. in the Staff manuals) way of describing battalion, if it is an old fashioned legacy (I suspect it is). Seems quaint to me given the County territorial titles started in 1881....

"Armistice with Turks who brought in 5 wounded of 8/5th*. Orders received for attack of 21st. 8/5th to return to LALA BABA, 6/15th** to replace them and entrench for night near 91 F 3/6. 32nd Bde to relieve 5/39th***, latter to take over Left of line held by 9/20th to the track 92 at 2/5 T. 9/20th to hold rest of front; 11/63rd to remain where they were".

* 8/5th refers to the 8th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers i.e. 8th Bn of 5th of Foot

**6/15th is the 6th Bn West Yorkshire Regt - 6th Bn 15th of Foot

*** 5/39th refers to the 5th Bn Dorset Regt

etc...

Regards MG

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6th Yorkshire Regiment and not West Yorkshire i think you mean for the 6/15th as the 6th West Yorks would have been the 6/14th.

Regards Kevin

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6th Yorkshire Regiment and not West Yorkshire i think you mean for the 6/15th as the 6th West Yorks would have been the 6/14th.

Regards Kevin

Sorry - my mistake. 6th East Yorkshire (got my Easts and Wests crossed). The Yorkshire Regt was the 19th of Foot. MG

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They still do in some cases. This is from the Royal Irish Regiment Museum page:

The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (INNISKILLING) 83rd, 87th and The Ulster Defence Regiment). Royal Irish Rangers (27th, 83rd,86th, 87th, 89th and 108th Foot), Ulster Defence Regiment

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Hello Martin

They definitely were not official! I suspect either a rather elderly "dug-out" as Adjutant of the battalion, or possibly (as daggers says) a simple but effective security measure.

The old pre-1881 numbers persisted in common use, especially within the regiments themselves, and sometimes as a convenient short version of the constituents of a merged regiment. The Royal Irish Rangers is a good example, as cited by squirrel, and another example is 3rd Bn Royal Anglian Regt (16th/44th Foot) after the merger of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regt with the Essex Regt.

Doing so actually has a practical use, in that it helps to confirm regimental seniority.

Ron

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For what it's worth, in WW2 the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry never used 1st Battalion or 2nd Battalion: always 43rd and 52nd, after the pre-amalgmation numbers. This even extended to the shoulder titles of the the two battalions. I don't know if this was the case in the GW.

Additionally, G S Hutchison, in his memoirs, always refers to the 2nd Argylls by their number (90-someyhing: I can't be bothered to look it up!), and, of course, the Kings Royal Rifle Corps were very frequently referred-to as the 60th.

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Thanks for the input... I am aware that Regiments and Battalions kept the reference to their original numbered regiments right up to modern times. When County regiments were formed in 1881 many were reluctant to use the new titles and referred to themselves by their old titles for years in some cases. For example, the Cameronians (26th Foot) amalgamated with the Scottish Rifles (90th Foot) and the 2nd Bn always called themselves the Scottish Rifles. Similarly some of the Victorian era Rifle Volunteers refused to adopt their new Volunteer Battalion status after 1881-1883 conversion, some retaining their old titles right up to the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908....

That said, it doesn't quite resolve the shorthand in WWI. The 6th Bn of say the Sherwood Foresters under the 'shorthand' would be written as 6/45th... but technically the Sherwood Foresters were the 45th AND 95th.... 6/45th would be a truncated form. It is technically wrong.... I can only assume 45th in this case would be a further shorthand of 6/(45th & 95th)

I have not seen any reference to a 2nd Bn being referred to by its old pre 1881 number in a War diary, e.g 2nd Bn Sherwood Foresters being referred to as 1/95 for example, or heaven forbid, 2/45......

Its not really that important, but I just thought is quite archaic....

MG

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