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Soldiers’ Numbers


Bart150

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I suppose this is a very basic question. A reference to an appropriate website may well be an adequate answer.

I’m looking into the casulaties of the 10th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders at Passchendaele. Every man seems to have a number in one out of three formats. Thus:

EITHER six-digits, eg 302938

OR S followed by four digits, eg S/3030

OR S followed by five digits, eg S/40651

I suppose the format must convey some information (eg whether the man was a volunteer, maybe). What? Can anyone help?

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37 minutes ago, Bart150 said:

I suppose this is a very basic question. A reference to an appropriate website may well be an adequate answer.

 

I’m looking into the casulaties of the 10th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders at Passchendaele. Every man seems to have a number in one out of three formats. Thus:

 

EITHER six-digits, eg 302938

 

OR S followed by four digits, eg S/3030

 

OR S followed by five digits, eg S/40651

 

I suppose the format must convey some information (eg whether the man was a volunteer, maybe). What? Can anyone help?

 

6 Digit men were men who had previously been with a Territorial Battalion (post late 1916 when the 6 digit numbers started to be used).

 

The S/ prefix was used to indicate men who had enlisted for war time service (not via the Territorial Force). I'm not sure if later conscripts were given S/ or not.

 

Craig

Edited by ss002d6252
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Hi Bart150,

 

There is some info on the renumbering of the TF here. However, the 10/A&S was a 'New Army' Battalion (see here). Using the example of your 302938 man (MacKie/McKie??), he was probably with the 8th Battalion at least until early 1917, but was subsequently transferred to the 8th Battalion - retaining his number after transfer. If you wanted to go through his service in more detail, he has surviving papers on Findmypast (link) which should also be available on Ancestry.

 

Regards

Chris

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As a follow up thought...

 

If you can't find service records for the men that you are looking at, but wanted to know when they 'joined up'/their active service counted from, you can use the calculator that Craig (above) has created here to give you a calculated date based on the amount of war gratuity paid - the figure shown in red in this example:

 

image.png.0d4d1b36a93f60e0d8b75615e0b0cc06.png

 

The records are on Ancestry, as part of the Soldiers' Effects collection - search page here.

 

The only real caveat that I can think of is that as the war gratuity was based on war time service, if you get a calculated date of August 1914 the man may have been serving before the outbreak of the conflict; and it won't tell you when he was first sent overseas. The other obvious point to make is that, as per the example of #302938 above, the unit that a man died with won't necessarily be the unit that he first served with, or come to that any units in between.

 

Regards

Chris

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Thanks very much, Craig and Chris, for your interest and help.

Actually I don’t want to go into detail about any men.

 

I am hoping to be able to write something like this:

On 12 October 1917 the 10th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders lost 100 men. From the set of all their service numbers it can be seen that about X% had been in the Territorial Army pre-war; about Y% volunteered in 1914-15; about Z% were conscripted in 1916-17.

 

So what I’m after is a definition of the logic that translates a service-number in a certain format into one of the three categories above (or into any other interesting categorisation, if that is feasible).

 

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Quote

So what I’m after is a definition of the logic that translates a service-number in a certain format into one of the three categories above (or into any other interesting categorisation, if that is feasible).

A problem with this is that service numbers could change where a man moved between battalions and regiments. To be certain you would need to trace the first service number issued to each man to see - it can be done, in most cases, but it's not a quick process for large numbers of men.


Craig

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Thanks Craig.

 

I doubt that most men (where most means more than 50%) changed numbers by moving between battalions and regiments. If I'm mistaken I'd be happy to see evidence to the contrary.

 

I don't need certainty.

Suppose I could say (for example). Probably about X% were pre-conscription volunteers (only a rough estimate - not an exact figure of course for the reason you give, but not a ridiculously distorted figure either).

Then I would be much much better off than my present situation which is that I haven't the slightest idea what percentage were pre-conscription volunteers: could be 10%, could be 90%; I've no idea.

 

Surely there must be some straightforward logic that defines the format of the service number a man was given when he joined up. That is all I'm after.

 

 

 

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28 minutes ago, Bart150 said:

Thanks Craig.

 

I doubt that most men (where most means more than 50%) changed numbers by moving between battalions and regiments. If I'm mistaken I'd be happy to see evidence to the contrary.

 

I don't need certainty.

Suppose I could say (for example). Probably about X% were pre-conscription volunteers (only a rough estimate - not an exact figure of course for the reason you give, but not a ridiculously distorted figure either).

Then I would be much much better off than my present situation which is that I haven't the slightest idea what percentage were pre-conscription volunteers: could be 10%, could be 90%; I've no idea.

 

Surely there must be some straightforward logic that defines the format of the service number a man was given when he joined up. That is all I'm after.

 

 

 

As mentioned earlier, it depends when and with who he joined up.

 

For example, A Pre war TF man injured in 1917 was very unlikely to go back to his own battalion- he could be posted and renumbered however the army wished, even to another Corps. Just looking at his later number tells you nothing, in many cases, of his prior service.

 

Across the entire war it was roughly 50:50 but that's the entirety. Pre early 1916 all men were volunteers, post that date almost all were conscripts.

 

A good % of men had service with more than one number and changed regiments as part of this.

 

Craig

Edited by ss002d6252
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The S/ prefix was used to indicate men who had enlisted for war time service (not via the Territorial Force). I'm not sure if later conscripts were given S/ or not.

17 hours ago, ss002d6252 said:

The S/ prefix was used to indicate men who had enlisted for war time service (not via the Territorial Force). I'm not sure if later conscripts were given S/ or not.

 

 

 

Craig, Can you tell me more exactly please what the S prefix signified?

(For a man in a straightforward New Army infantry battalion)

 

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50 minutes ago, Bart150 said:

The S/ prefix was used to indicate men who had enlisted for war time service (not via the Territorial Force). I'm not sure if later conscripts were given S/ or not.

 

Craig, Can you tell me more exactly please what the S prefix signified?

(For a man in a straightforward New Army infantry battalion)

 

 The s/ signified enlistment for the duration of the war (3yrs or the duration, if longer) so New Army men.

 

If a man has the S/ prefix then as far as I can see that particular man was still under his original number and so could be identified as such in that case.

 

Not all regiments used prefixes in the same manner but Paul Nixon's site confirms the prefix usage for the Argylls.

 

Craig

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Bart,

 

I don't think the final service numbers of these men will give you that information.

 

Each mans entry on the medal roll would need to be looked at to see their original service number in the field, this will show if they were a regular or territorial before being transferred into the 10th, or if their service was for wartime only and served only in the 10th or were transferred from another Service btn.
 

In the case of pre war regulars and territorials later transferred into the 10th Btn, their date of attestation could be established as their original service numbers were issued mostly in sequence by date. However every territorial btn would have a different sequence that needs to be looked at.
This can not be done with the S/ numbers, they were used across several btns in no obvious sequence.

Cheers,

Derek.

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On 08/07/2018 at 08:57, Bart150 said:

 

I am hoping to be able to write something like this:

 

On 12 October 1917 the 10th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders lost 100 men. From the set of all their service numbers it can be seen that about X% had been in the Territorial Army pre-war; about Y% volunteered in 1914-15; about Z% were conscripted in 1916-17.

 

 

So what I’m after is a definition of the logic that translates a service-number in a certain format into one of the three categories above (or into any other interesting categorisation, if that is feasible).

 

 

The war diary shows 5 officers killed and 6 wounded, whilst the numbers for other ranks are 56 killed and 154 wounded with 23 missing, as CWGC lists 75 deaths for the Battalion for that date it's a fair assumption most of the missing men were later recorded as dead. Sixty six of those commemorated by CWGC have no known grave.

 

About all you can say on the basis of the regimental numbers is that sixteen of the dead had previously served in the Territorial Force, of the remainder the problems of relying on regimental numbers to make such a generalisation have been well highlighted above.

 

 Incidentally, S/10000 Davidson enlisted in the 14th Battalion on the 9th July 1915, so a four digit number would precede that date.  Just to complicate things further 20003 Bullock (or Bulloch) was embodied to the 9th Battalion (TF) on 14 /9/1914 and transferred to the 10th Battalion and renumbered in the 'S/' series as S/40012 on 15th September 1916.

 

As previously mentioned if you take all seventy five casualties and run them through Craig's calculator that would give a fair indication as to the active service of each soldier.  The Medal Rolls are not always accurate as to the first unit in theatre, or as in the case of Pte. Bulloch simply show 10th Bn. as first unit under that number with no clue as to his previous service.

 

Ken

 

 

Edited by kenf48
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