Preamble: On 1st September 1916 the 3/5th and 3/6th Battalions and the 3/7th and 3/8th Battalions merged into the 5th and 7th Reserve Battalions respectively. Along with the 3rd (Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions (both based in Sunderland as part of the Tyne Garrison) they continued to train new recruits (mostly conscripts from mid-1916) and supply drafts to the Regular, Territorial and Service Battalions of the Notts & Derby Regiment based on the Western front.
Note: There was also the 21st Battalion, the 13th, 14th and 19th Training Reserve Battalions and the 51st and 52nd (Graduated) Battalions and 53rd (Young Soldier) Battalion, but these do not feature in this blog.
Challenge: The regimental numbering system of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment was (mostly) very logical and followed a sequential date-related pattern……but sometimes it requires a little research to determine when a particular series of regimental numbers were issued and why……..
This blog will describe the 204*** numbering system, in particular regimental numbers 204352 to 204877, which equates to ~525 men, who were mobilised between May 1917 and August 1918.
Why have I chosen to do this ? because I have medal pairs awarded to Alfred Sutton (204705) and Francis Garton (204877) and wish to put their own service history into the broader context of the Regiment.
It would appear that the Territorial Battalions of the Sherwood Foresters (i.e. 5th and 7th Reserve Battalions) continued to issue Regimental numbers from the ‘block series’ that was allocated to them during the renumbering of the Territorial Force in spring 1917.
For the 5th Battalion (including the 5th Reserve) this number series ran from 200001 to 240000, and for the 7th Battalion (including the 7th Reserve) from 265001 to 30500.
Even if new recruits were issued ‘regular’ regimental numbers at the Notts & Derby Depot (e.g. 85067), once they were posted to the 5th and 7th Reserve Battalions, they were re-numbered using the relevant ‘block series’.
204352 Pte Charles Ward
The first man that I can link to this block of 525 men is Charles Ward, a boot worker from Stoney Middleton, who had previously served with the 6th Battalion. What is interesting is that he was issued with a ‘sequential’ Notts & Derby Regimental number (85067) at the Depot (on 28th April 1917), but was later re-issued with 204352 when he was posted to the 5th Reserve Battalion for training on 1st May 1917.
Following training with the 5th Reserve Battalion, Charles embarked for France on the 30th July 1917 and arrived at the 14th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples the following day. He was initially taken on the strength of “A” Company, 2/8th Battalion ‘for record purposes’, before being transferred to the 2/5th Battalion on the 29th January 1918. Charles was killed on the 21st March 1918 during the German Spring Offensive.
204874 George Herbert McGill
The last man in the 204*** series who’s Service Record stills exists is George McGill from Ranbey Hall Farm near Retford in Nottinghamshire. George was originally posted to the 2/1 Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry in March 1915, but was then compulsory transferred to the Notts & Derby Regiment in February 1918. He arrived in France on the 1st March 1918 and was posted to the 2/5th Battalion on the 20th March. He later served with the 16th, 15th and 2nd Battalions until his demobilisation in February 1919.
Alfred Sutton and Francis Henry Garton
The service records for both Arthur and Francis no longer exist, but it is possible to piece together their service in the Great War using the Medal Rolls and the 204*** Regimental Numbering series (see above).
Using the compiled ‘204*** Medal Role’ and the London Regiment Medal Role, we now know that Alfred was mobilised and posted to the 5th Reserve Battalion around mid-July 1917 and following training he embarked for France in late March 1918. He was posted to the 2/6th Battalion to make up for the losses suffered during the German Spring Offensive on 21st March 1918. Alfred would have fought through the bitter engagements around Mount Kemmel, before the 2/6th Battalion were reduced to Cadre and he was eventually transferred to the 22nd London Regiment. Alfred was discharged in February 1919.
Using the compiled ‘204*** Medal Role’ and the London Regiment Medal Role, we now know that Francis was mobilised and posted to the 5th Reserve Battalion around early-February 1918 and following training he embarked for France in early March 1918. He was posted to the 16th Battalion and then to the 2/6th Battalion in April to make up for the losses suffered during the German Spring Offensive on 21st March 1918. Francis would also have fought through the bitter engagements around Mount Kemmel, before the 2/6th Battalion were reduced to Cadre and he was eventually transferred to the 24th London Regiment. Francis was discharged in May 1919.
Notes: The last man to appear on the Notts 8 Derby Medal Role (6 July 1921) is 204874 George Herbert McGill, but we do know that 204877 Francis Garton appears on the London Medal Roll. An online search of the Medal Rolls digitised by Ancestry would suggest that Francis Garton was the last man to receive a 204*** Regimental Number.
Thereafter the Notts & Derby Medal Role jumps to 205383 Tom Greenwood – a gap of 506 men. The 205*** series of numbers appear to have been issued to men that transferred to the 5th Reserve Battalion from other Regiments including the Lancashire Fusiliers and Manchester Regiment, but that is another story……….