Renumbering of the army in 1920

Most men serving in the army got new numbers in 1920 and a great deal can be determined about their service from these numbers. This page should help you understand what it all means.

tipTip: did your soldier have a seven-digit number? If your soldier has a seven-digit number (not including any prefixes) he was serving when these numbers were issued in 1920. There is a good chance that he continued to serve after the vital 1921 cut-off date for records and that his service record is still held by the Ministry of Defence.

Introduction

Numerous different numbering systems

Up to 1920 there was no such thing as an "army number". men had numbers issued by their regiment or Corps. With each regiment having its own scheme, numbers were inevitably duplicated and in some cases dozens of men had the same number. In 1920, all that changed.

Changes are made

Army Order 338 of August 1920 stated that army numbers would now be issued from one continuous series, to all men then serving in regular or Territorial units (with the exception of the Labour Corps), to all men then on Army Reserve, to all recruits into the regular army, TF, Special Reserve and Militia; to all men who re-enlisted if they had not had one of the new numbers before, to all men transferred to the army from the Royal Marines, and to all deserters who subsequently rejoined, if they had not had one of tthe new numbers before.

Once issued, the man would retain the same number irrespective of his transfers and postings within the army. If a man (who had been given one of the new numbers) left and re-enlisted, he would retain his old number.

Prefixes

Generally the new numbers did not have prefixes but the Royal Army Service Corps was an exception. RASC numbers were prefixed S (Supplies), T (Transport), M (Mechanical Transport) or R (Remounts).

The details

The blocks of numbers allitted were as follows:

From to ... were allotted to
1 294000 Royal Army Service Corps
294001 299000 1st Life Guards
299001 204000 2nd Life Guards
304001 309000 Royal Horse Guards
309001 386000 Lancers
386001 528000 Dragoons
528001 721000 Hussars
721001 1396000 Royal Horse and Field Artillery
1396001 1400000 Honourable Artillery Company
1400001 1842000 Royal Garrison Artillery
1842001 2303000 Royal Engineers
2303001 2604000 Royal Engineers Signals
2604001 2646000 Grenadier Guards
2646001 2688000 Coldstream Guards
2688001 2714000 Scots Guards
2714001 2730000 Irish Guards
2730001 2744000 Welsh Guards
2744001 2809000 Royal Highlanders (Black Watch)
2809001 2865000 Seaforth Highlanders
2865001 2921000 Gordon Highlanders
2921001 2966000 Cameron Highlanders
2966001 3044000 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
3044001 3122000 Royal Scots
3122001 3178000 Royal Scots Fusiliers
3178001 3233000 King's Own Scottish Borderers
3233001 3299000 Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
3299001 3377000 Highland Light Infantry
3377001 3433000 East Lancashire Regiment
3433001 3511000 Lancashire Fusiliers
3511001 3589000 Manchester Regiment
3589001 3644000 Border Regiment
3644001 3701000 South Lancashire Regiment
3701001 3757000 Royal Lancaster Regiment
3757001 3846000 Liverpool Regiment
3846001 3902000 Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
3902001 3947000 South Wales Borderers
3947001 4025000 Welch Regiment (note that spelling had changed since the war)
4025001 4070000 Shropshire Light Infantry
4070001 4103000 Monmouthsire Regiment
4103001 4114000 Herefordshire Regiment
4114001 4178000 Cheshire Regiment
4178001 4256000 Royal Welch Fusiliers (note that spelling had changed since the war)
4256001 4334000 Northumberland Fusiliers
4334001 4379000 East Yorkshire Regiment
4379001 4435000 Yorkshire Regiment
4435001 4523000 Durham Light Infantry
4523001 4601000 West Yorkshire Regiment
4601001 4680000 West Riding Regiment
468001 4736000 Yorkshire Light Infantry
4736001 4792000 York & Lancaster Regiment
4792001 4848000 Lincolnshire Regiment
4848001 4904000 Leicestershire Regiment
4904001 4960000 South Staffordshire Regiment
4960001 5038000 Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment
5038001 5094000 North Staffordshire Regiment
5094001 5172000 Royal Warwickshire Regiment
5172001 5239000 Gloucestershire Regiment
5239001 5328000 Worcestershire Regiment
5328001 5373000 Royal Berkshire Regiment
5373001 5429000 Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
5429001 5485000 Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
5485001 5562000 Hampshire Regiment
5562001 5608000 Wiltshire Regiment
5608001 5662000 Devonshire Regiment
5662001 5718000 Somerset Light Infantry
5718001 5763000 Dorsetshire Regiment
5763001 5819000 Norfolk Regiment
5819001 5875000 Suffolk Regiment
5875001 5931000 Northamptonshire Regiment
5931001 5942000 Cambridegshire Regiment
5942001 5998000 Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment (they had merged since the war)
5998001 6076000 Essex Regiment
6076001 6132000 Royal West Surrey Regiment
6132001 6188000 East Surrey Regiment
6188001 6278000 Middlesex Regiment
6278001 6334000 East Kent Regiment
6334001 6390000 Royal West Kent Regiment
6390001 6446000 Royal Sussex Regiment
6446001 6515000 Royal Fusiliers
6515001 6825000 London Regiment
6825001 6873000 Honourable Artillery Company
6873001 6905000 King's Royal Rifle Corps
6905001 6972000 Rifle Brigade
6972001 7006000 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
7006001 7040000 Royal Irish Rifles
7040001 7075000 Royal Irish Fusiliers
7075001 7109000 Royal Dublin Fusiliers
7109001 7143000 Royal Irish Regiment
7143001 7177000 Connaught Rangers
7177001 7211000 Leinster Regiment
7211001 7245000 Royal Munster Fusiliers
7245001 7539000 Royal Army Medical Corps
7539001 7574000 Channel Islands Militia
7574001 7657000 Royal Army Ordnance Corps
7657001 7681000 Royal Army Pay Corps
7681001 7717000 Corps of Military Police
7717001 7718800 Military Provost Staff Corps
7718801 7720400 Small Arms School
7720401 7732400 Army Educational Corps
7732401 7733000 Band of the Royal Military College
7733001 7757000 Corps of Military Accountants
7757001 7807000 Royal Army Veterinary Corps
7807001 7868000 Machine Gun Corps
7868001 8109000 Tank Corps

tipTip: don't assume your man did not re-enlist! It is not often known that many men re-joined the army after being discharged at the end of the war. William Townsend is a case in point. He served with the King's Shropshire Light Infantry through the war after enlisting in 1914. He was wounded three times but was discharged normally in early 1919. Quite soon after he re-enlisted as a reservist. He was given one of the new seven-digit KSLI numbers and served on reserve until 1924. His complete service record incuding his 1914-1918 service is held by the Ministry of Defence and is not among the pre-1921 records released to the public. Maybe those seven-digit numbers can unlock something for you, too.