| HomeTraining | 

1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

1. Some notes on Service Numbers and  2. (below) the gradual loss of the 'territorial' nature of the Battalion

1. Some notes on Service Numbers

All the men on the Battalion roll have (up to) four digit service numbers which are useful for establishing when they joined. The enlistment dates of only a few are known, but from those it is possible to establish a rough estimate for the others. Most of the enlistment dates shown below were provided in the biographical information in The War Book of Turriff, de Ruvigny's Roll of Honour or from soldiers' Attestation papers in the National Archives series WO363 or WO364. The men enlisting in April 1908 were generally those transferring over from the old Volunteer Force. Sometimes numbers are not exactly in sequence because of the location of enlisting. 

215 Rae, John Stewart 02-April-1908
232 Moir, James 02-April-1908
471 Walker, James 03-April-1908
127 Duell, William 06-April-1908
44 Watt, William 08-April-1908
271 Esslemont, Alexander 10-April-1908
414 Massie, Henry 04-May-1908
694 Baillie, Cumine 05-April-1909
699 McKay, James William 13-April-1909
795 Whyte, James 10-May-1909
1096 Ingram, James 10-December-1909
1149 Jamieson, David 24-March-1910
1179 Davidson, Walter P 12-April-1910
1184 Smith, George 14-April-1910
1206 Stephen, Francis 07-May-1910
1237 Hutton, Charles 13-December-1910
1264 Mitchell, Alfred George Ron 12-January-1911
1283 Stewart, William 27-February-1911
1294 Stewart, James 06-March-1911
1288 Forsyth, Alexander 11-March-1911
1286 Watson, William 18-March-1911
1302 Dunbar, Isaac 20-March-1911
1313 Cadger, George 28-March-1911
1328 Kidd, William 11-April-1911
1333 Stephen, William 06-April-1911
1335 Gray, Henry 11-April-1911
1349 Kean, William 22-April-1911
1363 Scott, William 09-May-1911
1366 Johnston, Thomas 10-May-1911
1390 Whyte, Charles 08-November-1911
1391 Gavin, William 07-November-1911
1392 Cruickshank, William Bruce 22-November-1911
1403 Wemyss, William M 22-November-1911
1411 Miller, William 29-November-1911
1397 Slessor, George 08-December-1911
1399 Davidson, Thomas 12-December-1911
1424 Grant, George Alexander 16-January-1912
1466 George Bruce 21-March-1912
1477 Milne, Alexander Jaffrey 01-April-1912
1479 Ritchie, Robert 23-April-1912
1520 McKinnon, James William 03-June-1912
1549 Kinghorn, George 18-December-1912
1560 Chisholm, William 27-January-1913
1572 Fraser, William 25-February-1913
1574 Matthew, Peter 04-March-1913
1591 Robertson, Alexander 20-March-1913
1621 Thom, Alexander Reid 07-April-1913
1642 Thomson, Benjamin 29-April-1913
1677 Barclay, Archibald 03-November-1913
1687 Scott, Henry 11-November-1913
1709 Innes, Thomas 12-January-1914
1736 Mutch, John 04-February-1914
1753 Cameron, George 19-February-1914
1771 Shewan, Thomas 03-March-1914
1773 Keith, Alexander John 04-March-1914
1787 Jamieson, John 16-March-1914
1802 McLeod, William 23-February-1914
1815 Mitchell, Alfred 17-April-1914
1825 Duell, John 22-April-1914
1827 Dalgarno, Alexander W   22-April-1914
1833 Daniel, Walter 28-April-1914
1831 Clark, John 29-April-1914
1872 Miller, Albert 05-August-1914
1874 Hutchison, Alexander 05-August-1914
1918 McIntosh, William 05-August-1914
1921 Wemyss, Robert 05-August-1914
1945 Findlayson, John 05-August-1914
1955 Hendry, James 05-August-1914
1965 Massie, James 05-August-1914
1986 Smith, James 05-August-1914
1877 Barclay, William 06-August-1914
1878 Park, Keith 06-August-1914
1879 Murray, Alexander 06-August-1914
1908 Willox, George B 07-August-1914
2001 Barclay, Charles 07-August-1914
2002 Davidson, Adam 07-August-1914
2030 Ingram, Hector D 08-August-1914
2022 Lovie, James 09-August-1914
2036 Park, Robert F 10-August-1914
2040 Milne, William 09-August-1914
2044 Garden, Alexander McK 08-August-1914
2050 Mutch, Charles 10-August-1914
2052 McNab, James 10-August-1914
2071 Davidson, William 11-August-1914
2110 Watt, Francis R 12-August-1914
2107 Duncan, James 13-August-1914
2094 Tocher, William  14-August-1914
2116 Buchan, Alexander 17-August-1914
2129 Fraser, Charles 22-August-1914
2149 Cameron, Simon 29-August-1914
2164 McNab, Robert Stephen 02-Sept-1914
2162 Gammack, Alexander 02-Sept-1914
2170 Reid, Ernest A 04-Sept-1914
2344 Brown, James 08-October-1914
2398 Tocher, Robert Brown 16-October-1914
2429 Barclay, William Andrew B 20-October-1914
2531 Bruce, Thomas 14-November-1914
2724 Anderson, James Keith 12-December-1914
2787 Bain, Robert 28-December-1914
2850 Brown, William 06-January-1915
2912 Calder, William 12-January-1915
2939 Baird, Alexander 16-January-1915
2945 Buchan, John 18-January-1915
2976 Shirron, Arthur 23-January-1915
3044 Chalmers, William 06-February-1915
3069 Allerton, Edward L 04-March-1915
3078 Buchan, George 10-March-1915
3101 Walker, James 03-April-1915
3102 Turriff, William 03-April-1915
3419 Wood, William 19-October-1915
3489 Massie, John 27-October-1915
3564 Birnie, Charles 22-November-1915
3956 Cameron, Colin 29-May-1916
4254 Black, James 26-July-1916

The service numbers of new recruits were not shown in the newspaper account.  However by checking the National Archives medal index cards it was possible to match many of the names.  New recruits who had enlisted at the time of the publication of the roll (October 1914) have service numbers starting with 2200 or 2300.

In March 1917, a new series of numbers was issued to members of the Territorial Force. These were six digit numbers and the 5th Battalion was allocated numbers in the 240000 – 260000 range. The medal index shows, and can be searched by, both numbers. Thus, William Baird has the numbers 2070 and 240413. The new numbers appear to have been allocated in the same order as the original numbers. See examples. Numbers in the 260000 range were allocated to men from other Regiments who joined the Battalion.  For examples see the Casualty list for September 1917 where there are details of several men formerly in the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

If a man died after March 1917, the six digit number is the one shown on the Commonwealth War Graves records or ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ records. Sometime a man who died earlier had also been allocated a six digit number. In most cases this was because his death had not been confirmed at the time. An example is 2129 Charles Fraser (D Company) who was reported 'missing believed killed' at the battle of High Wood on 31st July.1916. His body was not recovered and so his death could not be verified. He was therefore issued the number 240437 in 1917. His death was later assumed, and his name is recorded on the memorial to the missing at Thiepval. Generally however, the records for those who died in between 1914 and 1916 show the original number

Medal card for 2070 William Baird

Above is the index card for William Baird, showing both numbers and the absence of the 1915 Star which indicates he did not enter the war zone until after December 1915, despite the fact that he appeared on the list of volunteers for foreign service in 1914.

Medal card for 2156 Thomas Taylor

In this second example, the index card for one of the Taylor brothers mentioned in the newspaper article (See Additional information) more detail is provided. The original service number has an additional 5 at the end, signifying the 5th Battalion. Thomas was awarded the 1915 Star having arrived in France on 21st August 1915.

This card also gives the additional information that the soldier was killed in action in April 1917.

In the Battalion casualty records, another series of service numbers appear in June/July 1916. These start with the prefix “S” eg S/12453. Such numbers indicate the soldier was a member of one of the New Army battalions, called Service battalions.

In this case the men were from the 8th/10th Battalion Gordon Highlanders who were serving with the 5th Battalion at this time. The 8th/10th was composed of a combination of the 8th Battalion, formed in Aberdeen in 1914 and making up part of Kitchener’s First New Army (K1), and the 10th Battalion, formed in Aberdeen in September 1914 and part of K2.The two were amalgamated on 11th May 1916 to form the 8th /10th Battalion.

2. Gradual loss of 'territorial' character of the unit

For the period 1915 to 1916, the service numbers that appear in the casualty lists normally range from single digits to 3999.  (There are a few "odd" ones - eg. 7013, 8181 and 9177.  These men may have come from other non-Territorial Battalions).  In August and November 1916 numbers 4000 and 5000 begin to appear.  Interestingly, almost all the men with these numbers, who died and whose origins can be verified, are from areas outside of the traditional recruiting zone, showing that the 'territorial' nature of the Battalion was starting to be diluted. The following table shows all these men. Only one such man appears in July, one in August and the remainder are from November 1916, and may well represent drafts sent to replace men lost at High Wood and Beaumont Hamel. (See November casualty list - "Near Corcelette")

Number   Name   Born  Enlisted  To France
(where known)
  4026 Lawrence, Alexander   Gamrie Banff  
  4194 Grange, John A Watford (Herts) Harlesden  
  4206 Whichcord, John Hampton Hill, London      1916
  4211 Rutland, John   Aylesbury, Kent  
  4213 Smith, Edgar Staplehurst, Kent  Maidstone  
  5330 Marsh, Charles St. James, Durham West Hartlepool   
  5408 Parrott, Samuel   Manchester  
  5414 Wood, John Kincardinshire    
  5448 Stewart, James Gateshead, Durham    
  5495 McLeod, John   Hamilton  
  5501 Mitchell, James   Auchnagatt    
  5516 Kay, John Barony, Lanarkshire Govan   1916
  5525 Whyte, George  Cumbernauld    
  5527 Woodhead, Edgar Healy, Lancashire  Bacup, Lancashire  12 Nov 15 
  5528 Young, Alex Greenock Greenock  
  5532 Cameron, John Rutherglen Hamilton  
  5570 Robertson, Charles Loudon, Ayrshire     
  5686 King, Herbert Perth Perth  
  5578 Jamieson, Robert Govan Whiteinch, Glasgow  3 Jan 15 

The following extract and table are from Beckett and Simpson A Nation in Arms. On pages 146 and 147 the authors discuss the subject of the steady loss of the territorial character of Territorial units following the heavy casualties of 1916 and 1917.

'On occasions drafts might fortuitously strengthen the territorial element, but increasingly men returning to a unit would find strangers - 'Derbyites' or middle-aged conscripts and, by 1918, eighteen-and-a-half-year-olds.  The 1/7th Sherwood Foresters had only eleven of its original members still serving in January 1918, while the 1/4th Oxford and Bucks had twenty-five of its original men left by the end of the war.'

Table: Percentage of those killed in action, died of wounds or other causes. . . born or residing in the unit's original recruiting area. 

 Unit and recruiting area   1915   1916   1917  1918
  1/8 Scottish Rifles (Glasgow)   79   66   45   40
  1/6 West Yorkshire (Bradford)   68   66   31   17

While corresponding yearly figures haven't been tabulated for the 1/5th Gordon Highlanders, a small sample that I've taken for the casualties incurred during fighting in 1918 - 21st March and 2nd April* - shows a figure similar to that of the Glasgow battalion.

(Source for data: "Soldiers Died in the Great War".)

*This period represents the opening stages of the German Spring offensive during which the British forces were in retreat.  Most of the recorded deaths have no known grave and many of the men have deaths listed as "between 21st March and 2nd April". Click here for details about this engagement and casualty figures.

Additional medal cards here

| HomeTraining |

Carolyn Morrisey