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Regimental Numbers?
Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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On another thread, JY wrote "doesn't indicate whether that is a Regimental or Brigade number" and that got me to wondering how these numbers worked. Among my questions are: Are they still in use in some fashion in the modern British military or were they a Victorian (and earlier) thing? At what point in the recruitment process were they assigned? Was their use limited to "other ranks"? Were they specific to a given regiment or was the number exclusive to the individual-- that is, if a soldier was transferred to another regiment, did his number change? If a soldier was "taken out of the mix" (retirement, KIA, etc.) was his number retired or was it simply reassigned to a new recruit? Was a surname "part" of the number-- i.e., might there be a "Smith 3801" and a "Jones 3801" in the same formation (company, regiment, brigade, etc?)

Any savvy contributor out there who could expound on this subject?
"Don't you Rednecks have names instead of numbers?" (probably a misquote, but you get the reference LOL.)
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 784
Location: Brecon
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Army personal numbers first appeared in the scene about 1840s. However a re-think occurred in the late 1850s These numbers were 'battalion' numbers so if a soldier moved from 1st Battalion to 2nd Battalion of the regiment he received a new number in 2nd Battalion series.

During the period 1856-1873, individual numbers were allocated to recruits by the depot (or recruit) company of each battalion of the 24th Foot. The depot would normally be co-located with the battalion when it was stationed in UK or Ireland. When the battalion was abroad, its depot company would remain in the UK usually based in a garrison town.

Thus No. 1 (or expressed as 1-24/1) was issued by the 1st Battalion 24th to Recruit Perkins in December 1856. When 2nd Battalion was re-raised on 3 June 1858, recruiting started at Sheffield; and by December 1856 number 593 was allocated to a recruit named William Jones (later of Rorke’s Drift VC fame!). It can be seen that there were soldiers serving in the 24th with the same number albeit in different battalions.

The 24th Regiment was finally given a permanent depot in the barracks at Brecon in July 1873. Recruits came to Brecon for processing and training and each was allocated a 25th Brigade number (Brecon was then known as the 25th Brigade Regimental Sub-District). 25th Brigade Number No. 2 (expressed as 25B/2) was allocated to Drummer John Orlopp (killed at Isandhlwana ) in July 1873 – This system eliminated duplicate numbers within the 24th. However at the time of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war , there were three number series in operation, viz. 1-24th, 2-24th and 25th Brigade in the 24th Regiment and all series were used on the regiment’s roll for the 1877-79 South Africa War Medal.

When the title of 24th Regiment changed to the South Wales Borderers in July 1881, a new series of personal numbers for soldiers was introduced. This remained in force until 1920 when a universal series was introduced for the whole British Army. In the early years of this series, soldiers re-engaging with an earlier battalion or 25 Brigade number would be given a new number in the SWB series.

You asked the question!

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Martin Everett
Brecon, Powys
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Yup, I asked the question and when I did it was in hope of receiving just such a comprehensive answer. Thanks for taking the time for that one, Martin. Your explanation explains of course what you meant, John, when you observed that you didn't know whether a particular number was a "battalion number" or a "brigade number", since apparently each soldier of the period would had both and they would have been different from one another.

The only head scratching I'm still doing now is why battalion numbers would continue to be issued after brigade numbers were instituted, but I'll wager I can guess the answer to that one knowing the resistance in the British military to some changes.
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Sawubona,

Just to qualify your comment ...apparently each soldier of the period would had both and they would have been different from one another. No they would have one or the other, rather than both. A ranker in the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment would be either 88th/... or 68B/...

The 88th obviously being a single battalion regiment did not have to distinguish between a 1st or 2nd Battalion, unlike Martin's examples with 1st/24th and 2nd/24th.

68th Brigade's Depot was in Galway, County Galway which is in the ancient Kingdom of Connacht - Connaught being the Anglicised version - so at less that depot was in the right place!

John Y.
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Just a bit confused, John. In absence of the qualifying prefix indicating whether the number in question of the fellow in the 88th was his battalion number or his brigade number, it can have been either? If so, that suggests to me that he would have been issued both (and different) numbers. Sorry about being obtuse here, but my present understanding is that the two distinct numbers were issued, at least for a short time, concurrently? You mention "ranker" suggesting these numbers were limited to O.R.'s. Is that a correct conclusion on my part?
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Saw',

I've PM'ed you with an example.

John Y.
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Julian whybra


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 436
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For info, Bryan of the 88th's was 68B 571.
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Thankee kindly, John, for the example. Very informative.
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David Langley


Joined: 30 Nov 2012
Posts: 20
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Hope these help. From my MHS Bull. article.

Soldiers’ numbers, Regulars, Infantry of the Line.

1829.
Introduced by Horse Guards Order November. To number by length of service in corps, starting at 1., but at least one regiment RWF continued an old series from c. 1805.

1856.
Circular 1238 9th September. New series from 1st October 1856. No attempt to renumber old soldiers. Numbers are battalion numbers, not regimental, hence duplication within a multi-battalion regiment.

1873.
QR section 23. paragraph 25. ‘Brigade numbers’ …. eg 35B/xxxx for new recruits, and a regimental prefix eg 23/xxxx for those soldiers numbered in the previous 1856 series. These prefixes not universally used, even on medal rolls.

1881.
1st July 1881. Numbers 1. to 9999. No renumbering. The 1881 Order has not been traced but GO 44 February 1882 repeated the change. A few regiments including Foot Guards extremely late to change. Top limit raised to 19999 by KR 1904 provisional Paragraph 2144. Army Order 453 of November 1914 amended this again, to run the regimental numbers series to 39999. This limit was not, in fact, applied.

1920.
AO 338 of 9th August 1920 introduced ‘army numbers’, allocated in blocks to corps, no distinction between regular, Militia or Territorial Army. Every soldier serving on that date renumbered. Number retained even on transfer to a different corps.

1942.
Introduction of General Service Corps (GSC) Special AO 18th February 1942. All new entrants to pass into GSC and be given a GS number, starting 14200001. No renumbering of serving soldiers. Large blocks issued to various corps and locations, and no strict time sequence.

2007
Introduction of Joint Personnel Administration on 1st April, one series of numbers, issued in sequence to all new entrants of all three services. Starting at 30000000. Officers included in series for first time.



Terms of Engagement for Regular Infantry, excludes Foot Guards.


Year Terms Source

1806 until 1829 Life, or ‘limited service’, of seven years with up to two of seven year extensions Bulletin MHS No.237, Philip Haythornthwaite
Until 1847 For life or until medical discharge The Victorian Army at Home (VAH)
1847 10 years, re-engage to 21 years for pension VAH
1870 12 years, but normally split 6 years colours and 6 years reserve VAH
1870 6 years colours and 6 years reserve The Late Victorian Army
1873 6 years colours and 6 years on reserve or 12 years and no reserve … one or the other Through the Ranks to a Commission
1881 7 years colours and 5 years on reserve VAH
1902 May 3 years colours and 9 on reserve. Army Orders (AO) 117/02
1902 Jul Extensions for those on 3 years or 7 years initial engagement, can extend to 8 years or 12 years AO 159/02
1904 Proposed, not implemented: a ‘2 years with colours plus 6 years reserve’ engagement for Home, or ‘ 9 years with colours plus 3 year reserve’ for general service The Development of the British Army
1904 Nov Terms of service 9 years with colours and 3 years reserve AO 189/04
1905 2 years with colours and 10 years reserve for certain large regiments tentatively examined AO/204/05
1906 Sep to 1914 7 years with colours and 5 years reserve for all. Extensions to 7 years allowed AO 209/06
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Regimental Numbers?
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