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Remembered Today:

Rgtl Numbering immediately post-war


Muerrisch
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Here's a surprise!

Through recent correspondence with a member I have been alerted to the possibility that some regiments used a new numbering series after the war and before the universal change of 1920. This is what he has discovered:

I have gone through all the MICs for the Hamps Rgt and found about 4200 that include service numbers beginning with 0 in the range 04-012468.

I have added a few that have been taken from CWGC website and do not have an MIC, and also a couple I have found via searches of service and pension records.

They seem to be in blocks, either transferring in from other units, or blocks of men reenlisting. Some blocks consist of men recruited after the Armistice.

Some also show the 7 digit Army Service Number, and it appears to show that these were sequentially numbered from a list of those with 0 numbers that were still serving. Most of those 04-090 were transferred to the Dorset Rgt keeping their 0 numbers.

I have also come across 0 numbers from Dorset Rgt, Wilts Rgt and Som LI, but have no figures for these and that is not my sphere of interest.

An eye-opener to me, and I suspect many. Although technically after our period, it wold certainly affect many of "our" men.

Please, what visibility if any do others have of this short-term practice?

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I believe the East Surrey Regt also did this in 1919 prior to the universal change in the 1920s, which might suggest it was more widespread. I can't imagine why more than two Regiments would decide to do the same thing by coincidence. I suspect the study of 1919 numbers is slightly overshadowed by the Great War. You may wish to PM Bootneck who is the guru-ji on the ESR.

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However "one swallow doesn't make a summer", as in this case and I have no Army Order or Instruction 'compelling' units to adopt this numbering system and suggest it could be a local Command order. On top of which I have all of the St.Georges Gazettes for 1919/1920 and at no time are any of these numbers seen among the Northumberland Fusiliers. The numbers they use are all either pre-war or wartime numbers and this is backed up by both Medal Rolls and MIC's, where both pre- and post-1920 numbers are shown.

One problem that I do have is the numbering of Territorials on the reformation of the Territorial Army, who may have started a new 'Battalion' numbering system prior to the 1920 numbers being adopted, based on pre-War T.F. Regs, but todate I just haven't got enough evidence to say either way.

I have all of the 1919 A.O.'s here and will trawl through it again, but if my memory is correct nothing on renumbering appears.

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My 1919 copy of Army Orders contains the 192 page Index of Orders going back as far as 1901 and there are only three Wartime A.O's mentioned regarding 'Numbers';-

A.O.453/1914 - Regimental Numbers.

A.O.173/1915 - Numbering in the T.F..

A.O.173/1916 - Numbering in the T.F..

Sadly no other references are made to numbering.

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Based on my recent comments an extract from the St.Georges Gazette dated 31st December 1919 - old numbering system still in place.

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My 1919 copy of Army Orders contains the 192 page Index of Orders going back as far as 1901 and there are only three Wartime A.O's mentioned regarding 'Numbers';-

A.O.453/1914 - Regimental Numbers.

A.O.173/1915 - Numbering in the T.F..

A.O.173/1916 - Numbering in the T.F..

Sadly no other references are made to numbering.

Army Orders are not the only source. Yeomanry renumbering in 1917 was an ACI rather than an AO. ACI 381 3rd April 1917.

Is it possible that this anomaly was an ACI rather than an AO.

Also this does not appear to be a single swallow. At least four, and possibly five infantry regiments had this numbering system.

My other thought is that it may have been so short lived that Regimental journals may simply have ignored it. In the Gurkhas, every rifleman within a number sequence was known (and is still known) as a 'numbery' . Rather like the Welsh Regiments where the same surnames were common to hundreds on men, Williams, Evans, Jones etc, Gurkhas were simply known by their last four numbers as there were too many Gurungs, Limbus, Rais and Magars. Officers knew their men by their numbers (a hard task, believe me) and so did the soldiers. It is an extreme case but illustrates a point. I use my Army Number as my pin number. It is burned into my memory as anyone who served will know....so, I suspect that when men were discharged from regiments in 1919 (typically men who had served many years under one number), if they were shown in their regimental journals with some new-fangled number, old soaks would not have a left-handed clue who they were. I suspect, but cannot prove that the numbering system in 1919 was so short lived that it barely got a mention in non-official documents such as Regimental Journals. Old habits die hard and I wonder if the 1919 numbering was ignored in unofficial documents.

Just a though. happy to be shot to pieces on this. MG

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Quote from Graham Stewart:

One problem that I do have is the numbering of Territorials on the reformation of the Territorial Army, who may have started a new 'Battalion' numbering system prior to the 1920 numbers being adopted, based on pre-War T.F. Regs, but todate I just haven't got enough evidence to say either way.

With regard to the use of '0' service numbers it seems to used by regiments within Southern Command who did not use a lettered prefix with their regimental numbers.

In the Hampshire Regiment the reformed TA does not appear to have used the 0 service numbers. With the coming of the 7 digit army service number (beginning with 5485000 in the case of the Hamps Regt) those still serving who had '0' service numbers appear to have been allocated the new 7 digit numbers (5485000-5487600 approx) The TA soldiers were then allocated 7 digit numbers with the numbers initially assigned in battalion order.

I have come across MICs showing TF soliders renumbered from 1 after the war (4 Bn 15-130, 5 Bn 1-22, 6 Bn 1-139 and 7 Bn 6-80) On one of these soldiers whose service record existed this number appeared to refer to an 'emergency reserve' which he had signed up for in 1921 or 1922 with regard to General Strike action, so it may not be evidence of a renumbering of TA soldiers but a designation of an emergency reserve recruited from the TA but separate to it.

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Thank you all ....... an eye-opener. Many will know that Graham Stewart and I published [in the MHS journal] what we thought was the definitive account on numbering from Waterloo to the present, and identified seven series for regulars, all starting at zero [rather, starting at number 1].

So now we have 7 series and a short-lived partial.

So much for definitive.

Regimental experts come in please!

Martin, the trouble with ACIs is that they were always intended to be ephemeral. The only complete set that I know of is at the National Archive [Cambridge Uni has AOs but not ACI] and is so big that a full copy using a camera would take yonks. My offcuts are necessarily based on speed reading. There is a project here for someone.

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Martin, the trouble with ACIs is that they were always intended to be ephemeral. The only complete set that I know of is at the National Archive [Cambridge Uni has AOs but not ACI] and is so big that a full copy using a camera would take yonks. My offcuts are necessarily based on speed reading. There is a project here for someone.

My point is that AOs are not the only source of authority on Army Numbers. ACI 381 is one small large example (55 Regiments and over 80,000 men). The fact that few libraries have the full set does not undermine its authority ( I know you know this). The arcane subject of Army Numbering has many anomalies, inconsistencies, and exceptions. I am pretty certain that over time we will continue to discover more anomalies that don't fit the established framework. You, Graham and Paul Nixon have probably covered more ground than most mortals would do in two lifetimes, but as your OP demonstrates some anomalies continue to emerge. These need to be accepted and explained. MG

PS. I only discovered the ESR anomaly two day ago thanks to Bootneck. If it was not official, how does it get into hundreds of MICs? Curious to understand more. MG

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Army Orders are not the only source. Yeomanry renumbering in 1917 was an ACI rather than an AO. ACI 381 3rd April 1917.

Is it possible that this anomaly was an ACI rather than an AO.

Also this does not appear to be a single swallow. At least four, and possibly five infantry regiments had this numbering system.

My other thought is that it may have been so short lived that Regimental journals may simply have ignored it. In the Gurkhas, every rifleman within a number sequence was known (and is still known) as a 'numbery' . Rather like the Welsh Regiments where the same surnames were common to hundreds on men, Williams, Evans, Jones etc, Gurkhas were simply known by their last four numbers as there were too many Gurungs, Limbus, Rais and Magars. Officers knew their men by their numbers (a hard task, believe me) and so did the soldiers. It is an extreme case but illustrates a point. I use my Army Number as my pin number. It is burned into my memory as anyone who served will know....so, I suspect that when men were discharged from regiments in 1919 (typically men who had served many years under one number), if they were shown in their regimental journals with some new-fangled number, old soaks would not have a left-handed clue who they were. I suspect, but cannot prove that the numbering system in 1919 was so short lived that it barely got a mention in non-official documents such as Regimental Journals. Old habits die hard and I wonder if the 1919 numbering was ignored in unofficial documents.

Just a though. happy to be shot to pieces on this. MG

I have just looked at a set of Pension Records & MIC, which are 'official' records, for 25118 G.Coyne, as shown in the above extract from the SGG and no additional numbers are shown on either documents and therefore I am not convinced one iota that there was an interim numbering system used throughout the Army in 1919. I also looked at a set belonging to 649 Sgt W.Lewis, who enlisted in 1905 and was Discharged under K.R. Para 392(xxviii) on the 16th September 1920 - his is a complete record of service - again no additional number can be found on this 'official' record, his 'old' number being used throughout.

Believe me I've seen enough Service records in my time and when you're renumbered it's added to your record, this is clearly seen in those of the T.F. or in those transferred out to other units and then transferred back in.

Nor should Regimental journals be dismissed as a source, as the SGG's in my possession from 1884 to 1968 are probably one of my greatest sources when studying the Northumberlands, as are the Regimental Digest of Service. The changes in the numbering system are clearly shown in the SGG even in 1920, when up to August the old numbers are used and in September the new seven figure numbers can clearly be seen;- "Arrivals - 4256007 C.S.M. F.B. Lee joined from the Depot 25th September, 1920".

butler - thanks for the info on the T.A. numbering, sadly the T.A. Battalion Notes in the SGG's quote names of new members, but no numbers apart from those of Regulars who have been posted in - 4th Battalion Notes(24/9/1920);- "The following W.O. has joined the Battalion and is posted to Bellingham - 4256059 T/RSM W. Dresser(Fmly 258 - transferred Yorks Regt(32040) & Labour Corp(122401 - returned as 258)."

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Whereas I have not specifically looked for a short-lived new series post-Armistice for RWF, I have never had a sniff of one existing.

Not conclusive of course, but supportive of an argument for a partial new short-lived practice possibly limited to southern regiments.

We shall see.

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Whereas I have not specifically looked for a short-lived new series post-Armistice for RWF, I have never had a sniff of one existing.

Not conclusive of course, but supportive of an argument for a partial new short-lived practice possibly limited to southern regiments.

We shall see.

Over the years I have conducted quite a thorough trawl of the RWF seven digit post 1920 books which included looking for links to pre 1920 RWF numbers and have found nothing to suggest use of the numbering system being discussed.

Hywyn

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Grumpy & Graham,

Please find attached a few pages from The Rifle Brigade medal rolls, listed as supernumerary rolls dated 1919. These are not widespread in the later rolls but they are there.

Andy

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post-1871-0-84734300-1415276017_thumb.jp

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Stiletto, thank you, I know that I am dim but these are not numbers beginning with zero so I take it that they are not of the mystery zero series?

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Hi Grumpy,

Correct, I have never come across the mystery 0 series, apart from the 0 Prefix numbers issued later in the war in The Rifle Brigade, numbering less than 1000, however this renumbering started appearing in the 1919 rolls.

Andy

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For those have an interest in such things, and the time and subscribe to FMP, I would have thought it is easier to put 1919 in "When" and 0??? in regiment number and go through some of the returns. There are just 52 "hits". I have only looked at a couple but without knowing the regiments numbering sequences I cannot say whether these are what is being discussed. April 1919 for the Wiltshire Regiment are the only two I have bothered to look at but they may be easily explained by those who know about that regiments numbering.

Kevin

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As far as I can see (i.e. by personal research experience rather than official issuing documents) the Northamptonshire Regiment issued a temporary series of numbers in the 70000 series in 1919 (they had reached somewhere is the 50000s by the end of 1918).

I think the Royal Engineers did a 600000 series in 1919, but I have looked at those a lot less.

Steve.

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Thank you all ...... so, post war there appear to have been expedients, although I cannot see that they were driven by necessity. Why the need to distinguish post-war enlistments? And, if distinguishing were to be thought necessary, why not start with an AO amending the existing KRegs regarding new series?

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In answer to why members of the 1st and 2nd battalions of the East Surrey Regiment were re-numbered during 1919; it might be as simple as recruit training reverted to the Regimental Depot when the 3rd battalion was stood down in 1919. The regiment may well have taken the opportunity to revert to the pre-war numbering sequence. I must admit that I will have to do some more digging in both the Part II Orders and Army Book 358 to clarify the situation as I may have got the wrong end of the stick. I originally came across the regimental renumbering, a number of years ago, while looking at men who were discharged from the East Surrey Regiment. As I recall The Queen’s did not appear to follow suit.

According to the 1st battalion’s Part II for 1919 27057 Private Robert Abbott was given the new regimental number L/13095 on 20 March 1919. He was originally 25001 Royal Sussex Regiment. Drafts sent to the 1st battalion came bearing numbers from various battalions of the regiment as well as new recruits from the depot who appear to be numbered from L/1200+. Some of the men appear to still retain numbers from other regiments and corps, such as L/12484 Sergeant Henry E Wilby, renumbered from 449583 Labour Corps but originally L/8439 East Surrey Regiment.

You may find the following taken from the front of the first two Army Book 358 used to record the issue of Army Numbers to the East Surrey Regiment from 1920 onwards interesting:

INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING AMENDMENTS TO BE MADE IN THIS BOOK SO AS TO MAKE IT APPLICABLE TO ALL SOLDIERS, WHETHER BELONGING TO REGULAR ARMY, MILITIA, SPECIAL RESERVE, OR TERRITORIAL FORCE.

1. Column 1. Regarding Regimental Number. - Amend the word “Regtl.” to “Army.”

2. Column 2. Regarding Name, etc. – Insert on left-hand side of column a narrow column headed “R, M, S.R., T.” These letters will denote the branch of the service to which the man belongs, i.e.

R = Regular Army

M = Militia

S. R. = Special Reserve

T = Territorial Force

3. Columns 8, 9 and 10. Regarding Place of Birth, etc. – Delete the words “Parish” and “Town” from eighth and ninth columns, and insert them in tenth column, which should read “Parish”. Town. County.” Insert heading above Columns 8 and 9 to read “Period of Mobilized or Embodied Service”, and underneath insert in Column 8 the word “From” and in Column 9 the word “To” .

4. Column 21. “Remarks.” – Insert on left-hand side of column, a fresh column headed “Particulars of former Service, giving Corps and No.” When, in the case of former service, a soldier has served in several corps on the same attestation, only the particulars of the last Corps and the Number therein need be inserted in this column. Delete the word “Remarks” and insert it in the last column thus created.

5. Column 6. Transfer. – The Soldier’s number in his other Corps should be inserted to facilitate reference. The heading of the column need not, however, be amended.

ARMY BOOK 358

INSTRUCTIONS

1. This book is a permanent record. It will eventually be deposited in the office of the Master of the Rolls for reference purposes.

2. It will be kept up to date and compiled with care and accuracy. When a man is struck off the strength, the necessary entry will be made in the column “Transfer” or “Discharge”. On no account will his name be ruled through. If any man is subsequently re-transferred to his old corps, the fact will be recorded in the column “Transfer.” If for any reason he is allotted a new Regimental Number, cross references will be made.

3. Four lines will be allotted to each man’s record.

4. The entries will be in numerical order. A space will be given for each Regimental number, whether the number has been allotted to a man or not.

5. Not more than one thousand names should under ordinary circumstances be entered in this book. They should, as far as possible be 1 to 999, 1000 to 1999, 2000 to 2999 and so on, to facilitate future reference.

While on the third page of the second register is pasted the following:

THE WAR OFFICE

LONDON SW1

11th October 1923

35/Gen./2749 (A. G. 8. C.)

CIRCULAR MEMORANDUM TO ALL OFFICERS I/C RECORDS.

ARMY BOOK 358 – USE IN THE EVENT OF WAR.

As a result of the experience gained in the Great War, the question has been under consideration of the record to be maintained in Army Book 358 of soldiers serving on normal engagements and soldiers who in the future may be enlisted on “Duration of War” or other short service war-time engagements.

2. It has been decided that the following procedure will be adopted:-

(a) Soldiers serving on normal engagements, including Militia and Territorial Army.

The record will be fully maintained in such cases, all columns of the book which are applicable being duly completed.

( B) Soldiers serving on “Duration of War” or other short service war-time engagements.

It will only be necessary to record the following particulars in such cases:-

(i) Army Number.

(ii) Names in full.

(iii) Date and place of attestation.

(iv) Date and (briefly) the cause of becoming non-effective.

3. The documents of the men referred to in para. 2( B), would be retained in the manner prescribed for soldiers serving on normal engagements, and a general instruction will be inserted in the next revise of the Army Book to that effect.

4. It has further been decided that as the address given on discharge by soldiers is seldom a permanent one, there is no necessity for its inclusion in the record kept in Army Book 358, and column 26 of that book will no longer be completed. In the next reprint of the book the column will be omitted.

It is worth pointing out that over the course of the 1920s and early 1930s the amount of information recorded even for soldiers on normal engagements diminished.

Bootneck

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An earlier post suggested that it might have been a temporary initiative by Southern Command. If only infantry units were affected it might have been further restricted to one of the two infantry Record Offices within the Command. These would not include the office for the Rifle regiments.

Just a thought, which might be easier to check out because fewer regiments would have been affected. It could even have been a pilot project which, in due course, was discarded in favour of the seven digit system.

Ron

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Hi Grumpy,

Correct, I have never come across the mystery 0 series, apart from the 0 Prefix numbers issued later in the war in The Rifle Brigade, numbering less than 1000, however this renumbering started appearing in the 1919 rolls.

Andy

Andy - they're pre-War four figure numbers for Regular soldiers - look at the evidence before you - Medal Roll Books were compiled after the War at Infantry Records Offices and not at Regimental Depots and then updated on the introduction of the new numbering system, again by those Offices and you'll find these additions throughout every Medal Roll Book, where soldiers continued to serve post War.

The Army Order it refers to at the top of the page A.O.266 of August 1919 is refering to the British War Medal 1914-1919;-

Published on the 16th July 1919 V - British War Medal, 1914-1919

1."His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to signify, His pleasure that a Medal be granted to record the bringing of the War to a successful conclusion, and the arduous services rendered by His Majestys Forces." etc

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