Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Help with the terms 'On strength' and 'In camp',please


Drew-1918

Recommended Posts

I have been reading a lot of war diaries recently, and in particular I have been looking at numbers of men recorded in different battalions at different times. Sometimes the war diary gives quite a detailed account of numbers and will include the terms 'On strength' and 'In camp'.

I am very interested in finding out more specifically what these terms might mean. Would anyone be kind enough to offer some advice? I can make a guess about what they might involve, e.g. 'in camp' might mean fighting fit, whereas, 'on strength' might include the sick and wounded. But I would really be interested to know what other types of soldier might these terms refer to? For example, where would the transport section come under? what about HQ, the Depot, etc? Please excuse my ignorance.

Many thanks in advance,

Chris

Edited by Drew1918
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are often contingents deployed elsewhere on a short term basis,such as assisting in the security of Tunnelling Companies,or other such tasks. This will obviously mainly occur when the unit is in billets. If you get to read a TC Diary you will see this quite frequently.

On Strength thus equals In Camp plus deployments and any local welfare issues.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see. Thanks very much, that's just the type of detail I was hoping to get. Yet again youve helped me out a lot sotonmate. Many thanks again.

Can I just ask: What do you mean by 'local welfare issues'?

Many thanks,

Chirs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Visits to the medics which necessitated a few days away from the unit, etc,or a spot of specialist training/refreshers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I dealt with military payroll systems "On the strength" meant that the unit was accountable for that person's pay and rations even if they were not physicaly present with the unit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I dealt with military payroll systems "On the strength" meant that the unit was accountable for that person's pay and rations even if they were not physicaly present with the unit.

No doubt your definition still applied. The two figures show true strength including those detached, and those actually in camp,a necessary distinction for administration on a daily basis.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No doubt your definition still applied. The two figures show true strength including those detached, and those actually in camp,a necessary distinction for administration on a daily basis.

Not being well over 100 I think it's more correct to say that the definition I had to apply was still the same as that used in WW1 but semantics notwithstanding I think we are saying much the same.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris

A unit of almost any type (infantry battalion, RE company or cavalry squadron) had an establishment - it was allowed a certain number of privates (riflemen/sappers etc), lance-corporals and so on up to commissioned ranks and certain amounts of equipment - rifles, MGs, carts etc. This would mean units would be uniform in size in theory. However there were jobs around the bases and battlefields that needed to be filled but for which there may not have been an established size or requirement - guards for dumps, town majors and many other jobs including attachments to RE tunnelling companies.

In addition there would be officers and men on leave, courses or temporarily sick or lightly wounded which might be detached to elsewhere. If men were killed, or wounded to such an extent that they must leave the unit and theatre for treatment or discharge, then they would be struck off the strength and those who were ill over a certain length of time might also be struck off. Where men were struck off strength through death, injury, illness or permanent posting the battalion could put in a strength return and demand replacements to fill the battalion back up to establishment from an Infantry Base Depot.

All of the above would have meant that whilst a battalion might be at full strength on paper, there would be less than that number actually moving with it around France or in camp with it and representing mouths that the QM needed to fill (i.e. the ration strength). An example of a field return shows the manpower of 1/9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in July 1916. There is a fair list of those who are not with the battalion but who are 'on the strength'; also that some are detached and on the strength and some who are not. Some of the lines are difficult to read but 140 odd men are occupying positions of the strength of the battalion but are not present with it. There are men doing jobs at Corps, Divisional and Brigade level units involved with everything from bands to salvage; even a man working at the YMCA!

You can understand why adjutants were so busy having to know where all these additional men were and when they might get back.

I hope this might help further clarify this issue.

Kind regards

Colin

post-47743-0-50353100-1387493058_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Centurion,

Thank you very much indeed for your input. I presume from your first comment that those "on the strength", but not in camp, would be fairly close by to the unit, since they were still due rations. That might suggest at least some relatively close proximity, would it not? Unless "responsible for" the rations doesn't necessarily mean directly. As an aside I just wonder up to how far away those "on the strength" might have got. Many thanks again.

Colin,

Very interesting and informative, as always. Thank you so much for all that detail. It certainly does help to clarify the issue for me. Incidentally, I had to smile at the "Natives" category, since that is what I am categorised as by the Japanese on my workplace documents!

I suppose one of the reasons I wondered about this point, is that I am interested in the amalgamation of the TF Forces in Jan/Feb 1918. I am looking at numbers of men in each battalion, and trying to work out if it was just the men "In camp" who were sent on to other battalions, or whether it also included men "On strength". Its proving quite hard to work out the actual fighting strength of battalions at the time because in some cases, when no 'In camp' figure is given, its hard to tell what the real size of the battalion was. Or even what the real size should be taken as.

For example, see these figures for numbers of soldiers for the London Rgt at the end of January 1918:

1/6th London Rgt- 698

1/7th London Rgt- 633

1/8th London Rgt- 765

Its hard to tell whether the above figures refer to men 'in camp' or 'on strength' (In other words, whether the men on strength were called back in for the break up, or whether it was just those in camp who were sent on).

Thanks again for all your help gentlemen,

Chris

Edit: Though re-reading the various comments above, I suppose that the real figure is the "on strength" one. Perhaps this is what I should assume any non-specific figures refer to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris

It would be difficult to determine - an infantry was established for about 1000 men. However due to casualties and a political decision to curb the numbers of replacements sent to France it could also be understood that the level below the establishment could be due to these reasons. However, if taking the DLI example above as being indicative (it isn't, being based on 1916 and a different regiment and division) you would believe that these battalions had 550 men on in camp - which seems very low. Presumably to post soldiers to other units on disbandment these men would be those in camp. I would presume the figures for the London battalions above would be those in camp but without a field return like the one above for each unit this would be impossible to determine. Whether, on disbandment, the various soldiers posted away were ordered to be returned to the battalion prior to disbandment and posted onwards is unknown. I would presume this would be unlikely; they were probably permanently transferred to their loaned units or returned to their respective IBD for further circulation back to another battalion when their temporary assignments were complete.

It could be on strength or in camp but I'd go with the latter; if the former the battalions would be very much under strength - however this was arguably the reason for disbandment. A tricky issue that needs some detailed research. I'm not sure if the administrative diary for the division might shed light on the disbandments?

Kind regards

Colin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is possible that, in the infantry reorganisation of Feb 1918, the term "in camp" might refer to the Corps Reinforcement Camp or similar. These were camps to whom men were sent who were surplus to the requirements of the merged battalion, and were available to be drafted elsewhere. Many of these men were formed into Entrenching Battalions, which could be used temporarily on digging and similar tasks, pending their re-allocation to fighting battalions.

Ron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Colin,

I am very grateful to you for giving me the benefit of your knowledge on this, and for having a good old think about it. In reference to your point about them possibly accepting an establishment of less than 1000 men; I think I read in the diaries recently, that the order was for "no more than 900 men" in the new 'reconstituted' battalions of the London Regiment at the time. However, I will have to go back and check that. By way of an illustration of this, the 2/2nd war diary says that they had 536 men on 21st Jan 1918. They received 348 men from the disbanded 2/1st Bn on 29th Jan 1918, which would tie in with a number of around 900 men as the rough figure the authorities were aiming at. As I said above, I had better double check this.

I have rough figures for 33 battalions of the London Regiment* (including 1st & 2nd lines) that I have looked at, and not many of them had an establishment of men over about 800 in January 1918, so far as I can see (either "On Strength" or "In camp"). I suppose this fact is no big secret, and is exactly what the authorities said at the time, I'm just interested in the mechanics of it I think. I was going to post these figures to see if anyone was interested, and to get corrections and comments etc. I am not sure whether to do that here, or start a new thread, as I may be drifting away from my original post.

Thanks for your suggestion about the divisional diaries. I have read one or two posts recently about brigade and divisional war diaries, but wasn't 100% sure how to get hold of them. Think they are under WO95, right? I think that is definitely the next step forward. Thanks for that and everything else.

Ron,

Many thanks indeed for that. A very insightful suggestion. I had never heard of anything like that and will have to look into it. After reading sotonmate's posts, I noticed that after every disbanded or amalgamated battalion has listed which new battalions its men are to be posted to, there is very often quite a few left over; the transport, men on other duties at the time and the sick etc. I was wondering where they went later. Perhaps it was to these camps that you mention. I think I saw the 'in camp' designation in Jan 1918 too. I wonder when the camps materialised. Another thing I need to clarify.

Many thanks indeed,

Chris

*Edit- I do not have actual numbers for 33 Battalions. I am just in the process of looking at them all and have some evidence for all of these, in many cases just small amounts at this stage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Centurion,

Thank you very much indeed for your input. I presume from your first comment that those "on the strength", but not in camp, would be fairly close by to the unit, since they were still due rations. That might suggest at least some relatively close proximity, would it not? Unless "responsible for" the rations doesn't necessarily mean directly. As an aside I just wonder up to how far away those "on the strength" might have got. Many thanks again.

British military accounting (indeed all British government accounting) was in a sort of time bubble until the Iron Lady's Financial Initiative of the 1980s. If a man was on the strength the cost of his pay and rations no matter where he was and who physically provided them would be charged back to his unit and deducted from the monies allocated to from the defence budget approved by parliament. The manual accounting system was byzantine, slow and cumbersome and was based on an approach adopted after the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 (and in fact copied by some classical scholar from Vespasian's reforms to the Roman system) I once drew a "Sir Humphrey's" attention to the fact that we were computerising an accounting system that was over 1900 years old "shows it's been properly tried and tested" was the response
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How very interesting indeed! Also answers my question nicely.

Thanks very much,

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...