Understanding World War II Army service numbers

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25 July 2019
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Learn about your ancestor’s service numbers in the early and later years of the Second World War with Capt Graham Bandy.

Understanding World War II Army service numbers

 

Learn about your ancestor’s service numbers in the early and later years of the Second World War with Capt Graham Bandy.

 

As in the Great War, people during World War II were not always placed into their local county regiments, and, after 1942, with the introduction of centralised training under the badge of the General Service Corps, numbers were no longer regimentally allocated, which identified a particular regiment or corps (as per the list below).

Instead, from 1942, recruits were allocated true Army (as opposed to regimental) ‘service numbers’, and thus, one cannot identify a soldier’s cap badge using their number, only that they had joined from 1942 onwards. After training, they were allocated to their new cap badge, with this same training centre allocated service number.

 

Pre-1920

Prior to 1920 each regiment had its own system of regimental numbers (each regiment starting at 1). If a soldier transferred to another regiment he got a new number.

 

1920-1942

A replacement system was introduced in 1920, under Army Order 388, and remained in place until 1942, with each regiment allocated its own block of numbers, allowing the family historian to find the regiment their ancestor was in. See the list below for the blocks of numbers.

 

After 1942

After 1942 date it becomes a little more difficult to identify a regiment if no personal papers are traceable. One must then look at marriage certificates, the 1939 Register, photos and any birth certificates for clues.

Large numbers of men were being conscripted and sent to a central depot where they had their medicals and were allocated a number before being posted to a regiment. It was too much of an administrative job for the central depots to administer the old regimental numbers, so a single system of Army (as opposed to regimental) numbers was introduced. These numbers were allocated in blocks in the 14xxxxxx, 16xxxxxx and 19xxxxxx series. This numbering system was then rationalised into the 1950-2007 numbering system, and the subsequent post 2007 numbering system.

 

Officers

Officers and all officer-ranked Corps such as the QAIMNS – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (once they became fully fledged officers and not ‘of officer status’), were numbered differently and are not covered here. The best place for researching an officer is via the Army List, and the London Gazette. The Gazette Online is a bit of a minefield, and can be a so-and-so to navigate when looking for an individual.

 

To discover more about your ancestor in WW2 see our special issue, Family Tree September 2019, commemorating and studying the 80th anniversary of the Second World War.

1920-1942 regimental numbers

See below each regiment’s allocated block of numbers, as follows:
• Royal Army Service Corps 1 - 294000 and 10660001 - 11000000
• The Life Guards 294001 - 304000
• Royal Horse Guards 304001 - 309000
• Cavalry of the Line 309001 - 721000 (Inclusive 558471 to 558761 allocated to the Royal Armoured Corps extraordinary to the block of numbers later allocated)
• The Royal Regiment of Artillery (Field, Coastal & Anti-Aircraft) 721001 - 1842000 and 11000001 - 11500000
• Royal Engineers 1842001 - 2303000
• Royal Corps of Signals 2303001 - 2604000
• Grenadier Guards 2604001 - 2646000
• Coldstream Guards 2646001 - 2688000
• Scots Guards 2688001 - 2714000
• Irish Guards 2714001 - 2730000
• Welsh Guards 2730001 - 2744000
• The Black Watch (The Royal Highland Regiment) 2744001 - 2809000
• Seaforth Highlanders 2809001 - 2865000
• Gordon Highlanders 2865001 - 2921000
• Cameron Highlanders 2921001 - 2966000
• Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 2966001 - 3044000
• Royal Scots 3044001 - 3122000
• Royal Scots Fusiliers 3122001 - 3178000
• The Kings Own Scottish Borderers 3178001 - 3233000
• Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) 3233001 - 3299000
• Highland Light Infantry 3299001 - 3377000
• East Lancashire Regiment 3377001 - 3433000
• Lancashire Fusiliers 3433001 - 3511000
• Manchester Regiment 3511001 - 3589000
• Border Regiment 3589001 - 3644000
• The Prince of Wales’ Volunteers 3644001 - 3701000
• The King’s Own Royal Regiment 3701001 - 3757000
• The King’s Regiment 3757001 - 3846000
• The Loyal Regiment 3846001 - 3902000
• South Wales Borderers 3902001 - 3947000
• Welch Regiment 3947001 - 4025000
• The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry 4025001 - 4070000
• Monmouthshire Regiment 4070001 - 4103000
• Herefordshire Regiment 4103001 - 4114000
• Cheshire Regiment 4114001 - 4178000
• Royal Welch Fusiliers 4178001 - 4256000
• Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 4256001 - 4334000
• East Yorkshire Regiment 4334001 - 4379000
• The Green Howards 4379001 - 4435000
• Durham Light Infantry 4435001 - 4523000
• West Yorkshire Regiment 4523001 - 4601000
• The Duke of Wellingtons Regiment (The West Riding) 4601001 - 4680000
• The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 4680001 - 4736000
• York & Lancaster Regiment 4736001 - 4792000
• Lincolnshire Regiment 4792001 - 4848000
• Leicestershire Regiment 4848001 - 4904000
• South Staffordshire Regiment 4904001 - 4960000
• Sherwood Foresters 4960001 - 5038000
• North Staffordshire Regiment 5038001 - 5094000
• Royal Warwickshire Regiment 5094001 - 5172000
• Gloucester Regiment 5172001 - 5239000
• Worcestershire Regiment 5239001 - 5328000
• Royal Berkshire Regiment 5328001 - 5373000
• Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 5373001 - 5429000
• The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry 5429001 - 5485000
• Hampshire Regiment 5485001 - 5562000
• Wiltshire Regiment 5562001 - 5608000
• Devonshire Regiment 5608001 - 5662000
• Somerset Light Infantry 5662001 - 5718000
• Dorsetshire Regiment 5718001 - 5763000
• Royal Norfolk Regiment 5763001 - 5819000
• Suffolk Regiment 5819001 - 5875000
• Northamptonshire Regiment 5875001 - 5931000
• Cambridgeshire Regiment 5931001 - 5942000
• Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment 5942001 - 5998000
• Essex Regiment 5998001 - 6076000
• The Queen’s Royal Regiment 6076001 - 6132000
• East Surrey Regiment 6132001 - 6188000
• Middlesex Regiment 6188001 - 6278000
• The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) 6278001 - 6334000
• Royal West Kent Regiment 6334001 - 6390000
• Royal Sussex Regiment 6390001 - 6446000
• Royal Fusiliers 6446001 - 6515000
• The Inns of Court Regiment 6802501 - 6814000
• Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry) 6825001 - 6837000
• The King’s Royal Rifle Corps 6837001 - 6905000
• The Rifle Brigade 6905001 - 6972000
• Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6972001 - 7006000
• Royal Ulster Rifles 7006001 - 7040000
• Royal Irish Fusiliers 7040001 - 7075000
• Royal Dublin Fusiliers 7075001 - 7109000 (Disbanded 1922)
• Royal Irish Regiment 7109001 - 7143000
• Connaught Rangers 7143001 - 7177000 (Disbanded 1922)
• Leinster Regiment 7177001 - 7211000 (Disbanded 1922)
• Royal Munster Fusiliers 7211001 - 7245000 (Disbanded 1922)
• Royal Army Medical Corps 7245001 - 7536000
• Royal Army Dental Corps 7536001 - 7539000 and 10510001 - 10530000
• Royal Guernsey Militia and Royal Alderney Artillery Militia 7539001 - 7560000 (Discontinued in 1929)
• Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey 7560001 - 7574000 (Discontinued in 1929)
• Royal Army Ordinance Corps 7574001 - 7657000 and 10530001 - 10600000.
• Royal Army Pay Corps 7657001 - 7681000 and 10400001 - 10500000. (Locally enlisted staff Middle East 10500001 - 10508000)
• Royal Military Police 7681001 - 7717000
• Military Provost Staff Corps 7717001 - 7718800
• Small Arms School Corps 7718801 - 7720400
• Royal Army Education Corps 7720401 - 7732400
• Band of the Royal Military College 7732401 - 7733000
• Corps of Military Accountants 7733001 - 7757000 (Disbanded 1925)
• Royal Army Veterinary Corps 7757001 - 7807000
• Machine Gun Corps 7807001 - 7868000 (Disbanded 1922)
• Royal Tank Regiment 7868001 - 7891868
• Royal Armoured Corps 7891869 - 8230000 also 558471 - 558761
• Militia 10000000 - 10350000 (Army Numbers were allocated in accordance with Regulations for the Militia [Other than the Supplementary Reserve], 1939, paras. 11-13) These are the 35000 soldiers as mentioned above
• Intelligence Corps 10350001 - 10400000
• Reconnaissance Corps 10600001 - 10630000
• Army Catering Corps (from 1941) 10630001 - 10655000
• Army Physical Training Corps 10655001 - 10660000
• Royal Pioneer Corps 13000001 - 14000000
• The Lowland Regiment 14000001 - 14002500
• The Highland Regiment 14002501 - 14005000
• General Service Corps 14200001 - 15000000
• Indian local enlistments 15000001 - 15005000
• Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers 16000001 - 16100000
• Non-Combatant Corps 97000001 - 97100000
• Auxiliary Territorial Service W/1 - W/500,000
• Voluntary Aid Detachments W/500001 - W/1000000