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|
|699||McKay, James William||13-April-1909|
|1179||Davidson, Walter P||12-April-1910|
|1264||Mitchell, Alfred George Ron||12-January-1911|
|1392||Cruickshank, William Bruce||22-November-1911|
|1403||Wemyss, William M||22-November-1911|
|1424||Grant, George Alexander||16-January-1912|
|1477||Milne, Alexander Jaffrey||01-April-1912|
|1520||McKinnon, James William||03-June-1912|
|1621||Thom, Alexander Reid||07-April-1913|
|1773||Keith, Alexander John||04-March-1914|
|1827||Dalgarno, Alexander W||22-April-1914|
|1908||Willox, George B||07-August-1914|
|2030||Ingram, Hector D||08-August-1914|
|2036||Park, Robert F||10-August-1914|
|2044||Garden, Alexander McK||08-August-1914|
|2110||Watt, Francis R||12-August-1914|
|2164||McNab, Robert Stephen||02-Sept-1914|
|2170||Reid, Ernest A||04-Sept-1914|
|2398||Tocher, Robert Brown||16-October-1914|
|2429||Barclay, William Andrew B||20-October-1914|
|2724||Anderson, James Keith||12-December-1914|
|3069||Allerton, Edward L||04-March-1915|
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
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.
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 |
|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|
|5448||Stewart, James||Gateshead, Durham|
|5516||Kay, John||Barony, Lanarkshire||Govan||1916|
|5527||Woodhead, Edgar||Healy, Lancashire||Bacup, Lancashire||12 Nov 15|
|5570||Robertson, Charles||Loudon, Ayrshire|
|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