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Remembered Today:

Infantry Regiments and Regular Battalions


Gareth Davies
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Excluding the Foot Guards there were 69 Infantry Regiments in 1914 with a total of 148 Regular Battalions. Most Regiments had 2 Bns (one at home, one overseas) but the Royal Fusiliers, Worcesters, Middlesex, KRRC, and Rifle Brigade all had 4 Regular Bns each. How did these 5 Regiments manage to hang on to additional Regular Bns? Was it a simple case of recruiting from the major cities (London and Birmingham) or was there something else at play?

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The 60th and the Rifle Brigade recruited nationwide, so that must have had a bearing, and the Middlesex and the Fusiliers recruited in London, so that makes sense. I asked before why the Worcesters managed 4 regular battalions, but no-on offered a real suggestion as to why (if I remember correctly).

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I think nine infantry regiments acquired 3rd and 4th Regular battalions at the time of the Boer War, including the Northumberland Fusiliers. Four pairs of these were disbanded in or around 1905 but I imagine that the rest survived through the continuing need to provide 74 battalions for overseas service. Which ones survived would probably have reflected good recruiting records which were expected to continue in the future.

I have never found any official documents explaining this so my comments are based mainly on supposition. I too have often wondered how the Worcesters managed to survive!

Ron

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To add a small amount to what Ron has stated:

Martin Middlebrook's 'Your Country Needs You' states:

'... there were three regiments which, after the 'Black Week' of three disasters in December 1899 were each ordered to raise two extra Regular battalions, together with an extra Special Reserve battalion to support them. Three regiments with better than average recruiting records were chosen; The Royal Fusiliers, the Worcestershires and the Middlesex. These three regiments would enter the 1914 war with four Regular battalions each.'

He adds that these extra battalions were stripped off once the need for garrisons in S Ireland ceased in the early 1920s. He also adds that the two rifle regiments were also authorised to raise two extra Regular battalions each for the same reasons as above.

Regards

Colin

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All makes sense, but why the Worcesters? Worcestershire's hardly a populous county, I'd have thought: presumably the conurbations of Yorkshire and Lancashire already had a selection of regiments recruiting. Maybe the Royal Warwicks (Birmingham) might have been logical, but one can only assume Worcestershire recruited well.

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The other regiments that raised 3rd and 4th Regular battalions were

Lancashire Fusiliers - 3rd Bn raised in 1897 and 4th Bn in 1900 [?]

Manchester Regt - 3rd and 4th Bns raised on 1st March 1900. The 4th battalion effectively provided drafts for the 1st and 3rd Battalions in South Africa.

These, along with the Northumberland Fusiliers (3rd and 4th Bn raised 1900?), R Warwickshire Regt (3rd Bn raised 1897, 4th Bn raised 1900) lost their 3rd and 4th Battalions under a Special Army Order dated 13th Sep 1906 - implemented in 1907. Many surplus Manchester Regt men transferred to the Royal Canadians under better pay and conditions.. The Scots Guards lost its 3rd Battalion and the Coldstream Guards was to lose its third battallion although this appears to have been cancelled.

Other critical changes were the terms of enlistment for infantry recruits.

The proximity of all the Regiments with 3rd and 4th Regular battalions with large urban recruiting areas is strong. While all line regiments could tap the urban centres for recruits, the proximity of these Regiments to metropolitan areas is indicative of a deliberate plan to raise extra battalions from urban concentrations. The Rifle Brigade (3rd Bn raised 1855, 4th Bn 1857) and KRRC (ditto) had four battalions each prior to the Boer Wars so were not part of the expansion or indeed the 1906-07 contraction.

The GARBA provides detailed historical recruiting stats for each year by regimental district and the 20 odd urban areas open to all regiments within each Command. Interestingly the regiments with the best historical recruiting were the Essex Regt and the RWF, so the decision for expansion does not appear to have solely hinged on historical data, rather physical proximity to the urban areas.

MG.

Sources:

The Edwardian Army by Connely and Bowman

Records and Badges of the British ARmy 1900 by Chichester and Burges-Short

History of the Manchester Regt Vol II

MG


All makes sense, but why the Worcesters? Worcestershire's hardly a populous county, I'd have thought: presumably the conurbations of Yorkshire and Lancashire already had a selection of regiments recruiting. Maybe the Royal Warwicks (Birmingham) might have been logical, but one can only assume Worcestershire recruited well.

The Worcesters could also recruit in Birmingham.

Edit. the 1902 recruiting data below shows the Worcesters' recruiting district as one of the strongest in the country. The second table (bottom) shows the (then) urban recruiting areas.

post-55873-0-09109800-1451405780_thumb.j

post-55873-0-31598400-1451405794_thumb.j

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Thank you Steven, Ron, Colin and Martin.

The Worcesters proximity to Birmingham makes some sense but why did they do better than the Warwicks (as mentioned by Steven)?

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All makes sense, but why the Worcesters? Worcestershire's hardly a populous county, I'd have thought: presumably the conurbations of Yorkshire and Lancashire already had a selection of regiments recruiting. Maybe the Royal Warwicks (Birmingham) might have been logical, but one can only assume Worcestershire recruited well.

At the outbreak of the war the Worcesters had two Battns overseas. I haven't checked the other regiments mentioned but maybe they also had bttns overseas? 2 more formed for reserve?

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Thank you Steven, Ron, Colin and Martin.

The Worcesters proximity to Birmingham makes some sense but why did they do better than the Warwicks (as mentioned by Steven)?

If I recall correctly parts of Birmingham's suburbs were once in Worcestershire (before boundary changes) and the Worcesters could recruit in Birmingham. Rather like the RWF, some regiments were much better than others at recruiting in the urban areas. MG

Birmingham was not in the regimental recruiting district of the Warwicks or the Worcesters. Both could recruit in the City but the metropolitan areas were separate to the regimental districts. In Scotland the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh were producing over 60% of Scottish recruits, so all Scottish Regiments would recruit in these urban areas. see lowest part of table 2 above. MG

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Ack.

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Although I am not from Worcestershire I have lived in the County for some years. A member of my local WFA also was connected to the Regimental Museum. We have often discussed this subject regarding the Worcestershire Regt. Stating the obvious the County and City boundaries were much different at that time. Parts of Birmingham such as Oldbury were in Worcestershire as was Dudley and some of the 'Black Country' as evidenced by the many West Brom. shirts often seen at the County Cricket Ground in Worcester. The two Regiments from my own County, The Queens and the East Surrey Regiment recruited extensively into what we would now consider to be most of South London.

Tony P

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The GARBA for 1902-1913 all show 'Regimental Recruiting Districts' and 'Recruiting Districts' relating to urban areas in separate sections of the same tables (see above) with the numbers recruited, numbers recruited for the local territorial Regiment (not to be confused with the Territorial Force and numbers recruited for 'other corps'. In the table above note that against Birmingham (and all other urban recruiting areas) the first column 'for the territorial regiment of the district' is blank. This means (to me) that these areas were separate to the Regimental Recruiting District.

The boundaries of the Regimental Recruiting Districts were exclusive to that regiment whereas the urban Recruiting Districts were open to all regiments and corps. The boundaries changed slightly over the years as rural-to-urban migration change the demographics. Similarly the list of urban Recruiting Districts grew. Britain was urbanised (>50% living in urban areas) in 1857 and the concentrations of populations continued to change throughout the pre-war period.The decennial population changes are quite alarming as immigration from Ireland became a major dynamic in some northern industrial towns and cities. In the space of a few decades cities such as Liverpool one in five men had been born in Ireland.

As an aside the Regimental Recruiting Districts were very tightly controlled, particularly when the TF was formed in 1908 and the TF became affiliated with the local country regiments. The Territorial Associations could not recruit in each other's areas without permission. There are examples of neighbouring counties allowing recruiting and there are some examples of towns with drill halls supporting units from two different Regiments - Yorkshire and East Yorkshire. There is a separate thread on the TF boundaries.

MG

Lastly, here is the county of birth for the men in the 4th Bn Worcestershire Regt in 1911.

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Thank you Martin. I had forgotten the point about urban areas being open to all.

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Interesting that there is a US citizen - or at least American born - in the list above: the only from outside the Empire/Dominions.

I have done this exercise with a dozen or so battalions from the decennial Census data for 1911 India based Battalions (available online via Ancestry.co.uk). It is not unusual to have one or two men born in far-flung places. Often sons of British emigrants rather than immigrants. Usually a smattering of British Empire but not unusual to find men born in unexpected places such as Japan, Russia, Brazil and even Germany.

In this example he was Pte George Potts from Salt Lake, USA

Edit. The Officer data tends to skew the oddities. In the 1st Bn Connaught Rangers 1911 Census data there are Officers born in

Australia

Ascension Island

Virginia

Berlin Germany

Pitermaritzburg

Barbados

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Something I prepared earlier...recruiting patterns of the infantry regiments expanded to 4 battalions during the South African War. Note the collapse in recruiting for the regiments subsequently reduced to 2 battalions in 1907.

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At the outbreak of the war the Worcesters had two Battns overseas. I haven't checked the other regiments mentioned but maybe they also had bttns overseas? 2 more formed for reserve?

Yes, they did. In 1914 the four-battalion regiments each had two battalions at home and two abroad, thus serving as double regiments under the so-called "Cardwell system". They weren't Reserve battalions as such, although each of the five had 5th and 6th battalions in the Special Reserve, and in the case of RF a 7th battalion as well.

Another thought: did the Worcesters also recruit in Herefordshire, which did not have a Regular regiment?

Ron

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I thought Herefordshire was covered by the KSLI.

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Steven

I think you are right, but I suppose some potential recruits from Herefordshire might have preferred to opt for the Worcesters. As you know, quite a lot of men who joined the infantry did not join their "county" regiment.

Ron

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Farm labourers from Herefordshire travelling to Worcestershire for the fruit harvests?

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The links between the KSLI and Herefordshire had been close for a number of years.

The Herefordshire Militia became the 4th (Herefordshire) Militia Bn of the KSLI, later merging with the 3rd (Shropshire) Militia Bn to form the 3rd Speacial Reserve Bn KSLI. The Herefordshire Rifle Volunteers became the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the KSLI, later splitting into its own TF Regiment in 1908.

MG

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