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Remembered Today:

East Surrey Regiment William James Covill


Chris Payne
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I am trying to trace the Great War service career of William James Covill in the East Surrey Regiment. From the Medal Card index, it appears that he served in the 8th Battalion (service number 2811) and the 13th Battalion (service number 31098). His service records do not appear to have survived. Is it possible to work out from his service numbers the approximate dates when he joined the 8th and 13th Battalions?

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The SWB records show the enlistment date of 8th September 1914 for numbers around William's - including 2811 Frederick Jakeman of the East Surrey's who was discharged on 17th March 1915 due to defective eyesight..

The records also show 31098 William's discharge details, enlisting on 20th October 1914 and discharged on 14th November 1918 aged 37 due to sickness. The question is: is 20th October his original enlistment date or the transfer?

Unhelpfully his second number isn't giving a clear pattern of enlistment as below:

31088 29.04.14

31099 29.02.15

31114 20.11.15

31117 07.12.14

As he has no date of entry on his MIC this suggests he was with the 13th when he landed in France (the battalion first entered in June 1916). If he'd been in the 8th he would have been entitled to a 1914/15 Star as they landed at Boulogne in July 1915.

Sorry I can't be more help but a numbering expert may step in..!

Mike

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Many thanks Mike; that's most helpful. I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't come across the SWB records before. Re your comment about William Covill's transfer to the 13th Battalion, I don't think that could have occurred in 1914 as I believe that the 13th Battalion East Surreys (Wandsworth Pals?) was not established until summer 1915. Recruitment for that battalion started, I believe, in June 1915 according to Paul McCue's book "Wandsworth and Battersea battalions in the Great War". So it would seem that Covill's enlistment date was probably the 20th October 1914 date. However, from your comments I feel that I can be moderately certain (as he did not receive a 1914/1915 star) that Covill will have been in the 13th Battalion during his time in France.

Chris

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A fragment of the service record of Pte 31099 Cecil Miles survives. This indicates enlistment in the 2/6 East Surrey on the 25th February 1915. Unfortunately what survives of the record does not show his original 4 digit TF number, nor when he was renumbered. He was posted to the 8th Bn on the 26th November 1916, there is a reference to an Authority which is not especially legible but notes 'Refilling' and the date (of the authority) 15/11/1916.

I suspect he was renumbered when he moved into the Service Bn, if that is so then it gives a date for your man which accords with his medal entitlement. Pte Miles was wounded in 1917 and discharged in November of that year, there is no reference to his renumbering with the TF in March 1917.

3789 was a Derby Scheme recruit who attested on 11.12. 1915, was placed on the Army Reserve and mobilised to the 2/6 on 30 March 1916 (when presumably issued with a number in the series allocated to that Battalion i.e. 3789). He served at Home in the 2/6 and 3/6 until he in turn was posted to an active duty Bn on 19th October 1916 and went via the 12th to the 1st again there is no referencing to his renumbering but there is a leave form that shows he too was renumbered 31031.

31034 also a Derby Scheme (11/12/15) mobilised April 1916 to France October 1916 his record shows he went to France 25th October and followed a similar path to 31031.

31062 Seymour ditto.

So a pattern seems to be for men enlisting under the Derby Scheme mobilised Spring 1916 being posted to a TF/Reserve unit and renumbered when posted into the active service unit in October/November 1916. This would explain the divergence of 310** numbers in the SWB Rolls.

Ken

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Thanks for the helpful inputs. It seems to me that, if we take William Covill's enlistment date (20 October 1914 ;SWB records) as gospel, then he must have remained in the UK at least from his enlistment date until the 13th East Surreys left for France (4 June 1916); a period of about 20 months (as his war medal record indicates that he did not serve overseas until 1916 at the earliest). That seems quite a long period to me. Perhaps his initial medical categorisation may not have been sufficient to send him overseas earlier...but later improved (or the standards were widened)?

Chris

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If his initial enlistment was in the TF he may have signed up for home service and not signed the Imperial Obligation for duty abroad. In March 1916 and the Military Service Act direct enlistment into the TF ceased and all TF soldiers came within the provisions of the Act.

I thought you said he first served with the 8th Bn? As noted above he was probably renumbered and posted out of a TF unit around the same time as 31099.

Ken

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