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1911 Census Demographics - Regular Battalions

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Thanks Keith.   I knew that during war time, you'd get drafted into whichever unit needed new recruits.  I am surprised that outside of wartime, there were so many Londoners joining the SWB.  Perhaps they were all trying to hide and run away!


Thanks for the info

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1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers, located at Chatham at the time of the 1911 census.

787 other ranks were identified from the census, and were broken down by place of birth thus:

  England 516  
  Wales 248  
  Ireland 11  
  India 4  
  Scotland 3  
  South Africa 2  
  Channel Islands 1  
  West Indies 1  
  Not Known 1  
  Total Result 787  

Of the 11 Irish, 8 could be considered as sons of Erin, the other 3 (James Daniel Hawker, Reginald Kemp, Rupert Williams) were sons of soldiers quartered in Ireland. Similarly, the man born in the Caribbean, Talbot Ralph Kay, was the son of a soldier. It it likely to be the same for the men born in India & South Africa.

On the subject of Ireland, I had seen it mentioned in an old book about the British Army that in the Victorian era, many a county regiment's muster rolls contained Irish surnames. (I cannot recall the name of the book, published at the start of the 1970s, which had no inline citations, in any case.) That was no longer the case in 1911, and Martin Gillott has looked into this in a number of threads on the GWF.

A quick and dirty map plot produces the following


Table for Wales

Once more, Glamorgan born men are found in abundance, and the number of men from Cardiganshire is low, perhaps reflecting the low density of its population. The three counties in the recruiting district have been marked with a light green background.


  Region County    
  Wales Monmouthshire 104  
    Glamorganshire 89  
    Brecknockshire 22  
    Montgomeryshire 20  
    Carmarthenshire 6  
    Cardiganshire 2  
    Radnorshire 2  
    Caernarvonshire 1  
    Merionethshire 1  
    Pembrokeshire 1  
    Anglesey 0  
    Flintshire 0  
    Denbighshire 0  
  Total Result   248  

Table for England

Of the 30 Essex men, 22 were born on the London frontier in the West Ham registration district. Of the 15 men from Hampshire, 8 were born in Aldershot, 2 in Hartney Wintney and he remaining 5 were from Portsmouth. 

  Region County    
  England London 207  
    Gloucestershire 48  
    Essex 30  
    Middlesex 23  
    Somerset 23  
    Hampshire 15  
    Lancashire 15  
    Herefordshire 14  
    Warwickshire 14  
    Surrey 12  
    Sussex 12  
    West Riding 12  
    Kent 9  
    Staffordshire 9  
    Worcestershire 8  
    Berkshire 7  
    Devon 7  
    Shropshire 6  
    Northamptonshire 5  
    Oxfordshire 5  
    Wiltshire 5  
    Hertfordshire 4  
    Buckinghamshire 3  
    Dorset 3  
    Lincolnshire 3  
    Cheshire 2  
    Cornwall 2  
    County Durham 2  
    East Riding 2  
    Bedfordshire 1  
    Cambridgeshire 1  
    Channel Isles 1  
    Cumberland 1  
    Derbyshire 1  
    Leicestershire 1  
    North Riding 1  
    Northumberland 1  
    Huntingdonshire 1  
    Norfolk 0  
    Nottinghamshire 0  
    Rutland 0  
    Suffolk 0  
    Westmorland 0  
  Total Result   516  


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2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers, located in South Africa at the time of the 1911 census. The bulk of the battalion were at Pretoria, with 100+ mounted infantry at Harrismith. The Harrismith men have their service number recorded on the census, as do their peers in the DCLI similarly at Harrismith.

884 other ranks were identified from the census, and were broken down by place of birth thus:

  England 651  
  Wales 212  
  Ireland 8  
  India 4  
  Scotland 3  
  Australia 2  
  Not known 2  
  Egypt 1  
  New Zealand 1  
  Total Result 884  

Of the 8 men born in Ireland, 4 were the sons of soldiers. 

For England & Wales, I was able to create a point distribution map, in addition to the county choropleth map.



Table for Wales


  Region County    
  Wales Monmouthshire 118  
    Glamorganshire 57  
    Brecknockshire 15  
    Montgomeryshire 7  
    Anglesey 3  
    Cardiganshire 3  
    Carmarthenshire 3  
    Pembrokeshire 2  
    Caernarvonshire 1  
    Flintshire 1  
    Glamorgan 1  
    Radnorshire 1  
    Denbighshire 0  
    Merionethshire 0  
  Total Result   212  

Table for England

Once more, it appears that many of the men are from urban areas. Of the 20 men from Hampshire, 9 were from Aldershot.


  Region County    
  England London 280  
    Gloucestershire 53  
    Essex 38  
    Middlesex 35  
    Somerset 22  
    Kent 21  
    Hampshire 20  
    Herefordshire 20  
    Lancashire 20  
    Surrey 18  
    Warwickshire 16  
    Worcestershire 16  
    Shropshire 11  
    West Riding 11  
    Devon 7  
    Staffordshire 7  
    Sussex 7  
    Norfolk 6  
    Suffolk 6  
    Berkshire 4  
    Bedfordshire 3  
    Buckinghamshire 3  
    Cambridgeshire 3  
    Cheshire 3  
    Hertfordshire 3  
    Northamptonshire 3  
    Wiltshire 3  
    County Durham 2  
    Leicestershire 2  
    Lincolnshire 2  
    Cornwall 1  
    Dorset 1  
    East Riding 1  
    Oxfordshire 1  
    Rutland 1  
    Westmorland 1  
    Cumberland 0  
    Derbyshire 0  
    Huntingdonshire 0  
    North Riding 0  
    Northumberland 0  
    Nottinghamshire 0  
  Total Result   651  
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I have made an effort to reconcile those men on the census with the medal rolls, and to determine where they were in 1914. For some who were "elsewhere" I have been made aware they have service records in WO 363 and in WO 97. A handful do not appear to have these, but have their prior service in the militia documented in WO 96 files.

In 1914, 310 men of the 1st Battalion were to serve with the BEF in France & Flanders, and appear on the medal roll for the Mons star. 221 men were in China with the 2nd Battalion, and 53 other men were with the depot and are on medal rolls. This leaves a balance of 203 men from the 1911 census who are "elsewhere".



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In 1914, 448 men were in China with the 2nd Battalion. 189 men in the 1st Battalion were to serve with the BEF in France & Flanders, and appear on the medal roll for the Mons star. 25 other men were with the depot and are on medal rolls. This leaves a balance of 222 men from the 1911 census who are "elsewhere".



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1st Battalion on 1911 census
By identifying 681 out of 787 who had service numbers, an analysis of time served can be deduced from their service numbers. This is done on the a priori basis that each soldier started their military career with this regiment. It is not the case, and some men will have transferred in, but this prudent approach does record the minimum that has been served.



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2nd Battalion on 1911 census
Exactly the same approach as before, where 753 out of 884 have had their service numbers positively identified.




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Thanks for all this work Keith.   From your Distribution Map, it is very clear that London was quite a common centre for the SWB.


Do full records exist for the unit?   If I have my Gt Grandfathers Service number (well two of them) would I be able to track where he likely served?   How much of his individual Service Record is likely to exist, or at least for the unit as a whole?   I do not think his service record has survived sadly

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

A couple of points Keith:

1) Although lots of men might have been English born, without complete attestation records, I don't suppose it's possible to say what their civilian addresses had been before joining up. The last decades of the 19th Century saw massive population migrations to the coal mining areas of South Wales from counties in England and Wales. It was extremely common to see families with young children  move en masse, so it's not unexpected that those young children, although English born, were by 1914 'naturalized' Welsh.

2) Breconshire itself is one of those coalfield counties and not just a rural agricultural county. The extreme south west corner  around Ystradgynlais/Cwm Twrch and Abercrave was a coal mining area, so was prone to the same demographic changes.

3) It's not surprising that there are so many attestations in Breconshire of Monmouth and Glamorgan born men. Towns like Crickhowell and Brecon really aren't far beyond the county line.


I'm interested in your mapping software, which seems to have distorted the appearance of county boundaries as they were pre 1973.

Does it perhaps depict amalgamations of registration districts rather than actual county boundaries? The actual shapes of Radnorshire, Breconshire & Herefordshire never looked like that. Anglesey was a single island county, but on the map has a boundary splitting it in two. The old Anglesey Registration district matches the large north western portion depicted, and the smaller south east portion sort of fits with the parts of Bangor Reg. Dist. And Caernarfon Reg. Dist.

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I would say that the analysis ties in with what the late Martin Gillott had found for other regiments, that recruits were primarily from urban areas. The only question that I initially had is why so few men from Cardiganshire were in the regiment, but that is probably related to it being a less populated county than others.

I was able to get a 1971 map of Wales from the ONS website. I was able to get a 1911 county map of England & Wales from the Vision of Britain website, a mapping project in association with the University of Portsmouth. Although it was a lot of hassle, getting a point distribution map did seem to be more informative to the mark one eyeball than the raw county choropleth maps.

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

Here I have overlayed your map (dark boundaries)  with a map of the historical counties (white boundaries).

It shows up quite nicely the lack of co-terminosity affecting areas in all counties:

I'm not sure how to label the map, but something like "Map of Historic Counties of Wales, where all sub-districts are shown to be in the registration county of  the main registration sub district".



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What you have plotted seems more in step with the county outlines on the 1971 map on the seventh page of this thread, than with the 1911 E&W map that was utilised. If you do find out where a 1911 England & Wales county map file can be sourced, in either *.kml or *.kmz format, please do let me know.

With regard to your comment on whether the English born person had been living in Wales at the time they attested, it is a given the census clearly does not capture this, which is why I analysed the fatalities on the seventh page of this thread, getting most of the data from SDGW and the equivalent info for officers commissioned from the ranks from their service files at Kew. The regiment appears no different to others where Martin did the analysis insofar as 



In 1914 the British Army was heavily dependent on the urban Metropolitan recruiting areas.

London for the SWB, as opposed to Birmingham for the RWF, does seem to be the "county" of birth that provides the lion's share of the intake.

The previously mentioned 17% of persons in Wales on the census of English birth would fit in with 20-25% of the fatalities being English by birth yet having attested in Wales, in industrial areas containing economic migrants "not of this parish" or even county, be that Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Montgomeryshire or Glamorganshire. (County names used are those defined by the GRO at the time of the census.)

The lack of a complete set of attestation records does prevent further analysis of economic migration for this regiment in particular. That said, there are the description books for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment that cover 1890 to 1908, so their 1911 census could be better analysed by an individual with the time, inclination, and proximity to Kew. There are similar records for the SWB from 1881 to 1897, but both battalions were overseas in 1901 so it reduces the population somewhat to a handful of men in Brecon and Aldershot. Similar records for the Durham Light Infantry cover the period 1885 to 1906, albeit with a hole for 1887-1901 so it would appear. 

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