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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Soldiers' numbers


Don Stainton

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I've searched the threads for this one but been unsuccessful - so apologies if this question is a recurring one.

When were soldiers numbers given out? On enlistment, training or when they arrive at their unit? Are they given in date order(would you expect an earlier number to have been given earlier in time)?

Who gives out the number?

Is there any relationship between consecutive numbers - would you expect men who are one or two numbers apart to be in the same company or platoon or to have arrived at the unit at about the same time?

Why do some men in the same battalion have a prefix number - eg 1/number?

If there is an article on "numbering" could some one give me a link please.

Thanks for any help

Don

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its a complicated subject - any particular regiment / corps ? I can speak of the Coldstream Gds but dont know if its the same system used by say the Artillery

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Don

Coldstreamer is spot on. Different units had different systems. Since starting my database I have learnt that you should never assume anything from a service number. In the southern counties regiments adjacent numbers don't guarantee the same Battalion, never mind the same Company

Mick

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I purchased a medal once as he was the number next to a VC winner. Had the thought they would have joined up from the same area, which they didnt. Ill probably never know if they even knew each other for certain

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post-7376-1172315749.jpg

Don,

This is taken from Kings Regulations 1912(amended to 1st August 1914), which is the area to concentrate on and it gives you an idea of what to look for. These Regulations were strictly adhered to. Those numbering regulations for the Territorial Force and Special Reserve have slight differences, but follow the same rules.

All regiments and corps would follow these rules, but no two regiments would be at the same number level, at any one time simply because of recruitment. The more men you enlisted the quicker you used up the numbers, so surrounding regiments would be at a different number level.

Numbers were issued sequencial and had been since the system changed in 1881, but in those days the infantry was numbered from 1 - 9999, once used up they began at 1 again. This changed in 1904 when they were allowed to increase to 19999, with the idea they would begin at 1 again once used up. The Great War changed all of that and they continued numbering as recruits came through the door.

Prefixes became official in May 1915 and could be applied to the Special Reserve, Territorials, Locally Raised Battalions, Recruiting Districts i.e. London or by regiments wishing to distinguish between their old regulars and New Army men.

That is it in brief I'm afraid, but there's a conference on in Birmingham next month regarding regimental databases where you could find out a lot, lot more.

Graham.

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Thanks everyone for their help - it was particularly the numbering within the 2nd York and Lancs in 1917 and 1918 I was interested in - and Graham thanks for the copy of the relevant part of Kings Regulations.

Graham - is there anywhere I can find a copy of Kings Regs on the net - I have quite a number of questions that would well likely be answered by a close reading of them!

I'm afraid I can't make Birmingham next month - it would be a 24,000 mile round trip from downunder and the purse doesn't stretch that far at the moment (!)- however, its a subject I am really interested in. I've plumbed the battalion War Diary and Operation Orders (as well as Divisional and Brigade Diaries, trench maps and Official Histories) but surely there is more regimental paperwork out there to put some more meat on the bones of who was where, when, and what happened and why? If you go to the conference and come across anything useful in regimental databases can you let me know or provide me with contacts, please.

Thanks and regards

Don

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