Brief history of the ‘9th Provisional’, ’29th Provisional’ and ’21st Battalion’
Authors Note: This is a Territorial Battalion that is hard to research. It didn’t serve overseas so I’ve been unable to find a War Diary*, and as far as I am aware no Battalion History was written after the War. Therefore, the following information is pieced together from several different sources and may not be comprehensive (or even correct).
*PART XI HOME FORCES: 7 Provisional Brigade: 29 Provisional Battalion (WO 95/5488) from 01 November 1915 – 28 February 1916.
On 7th June 1915 the four Battalions of the 178th Brigade consisting only of the ‘Imperial Service’ men proceeded from Luton to Dunstable Camp. The ‘Home Defence’ men remained in Luton and formed the nucleus of what was known at the time as the 9th Northern Home Battalion (later the 29th Provisional Battalion).
This specific page is from the record of 37 Col.-Sergt. Isaac Harrison who enlisted into the 6th Battalion on 1st April 1908 aged 41. He was a stone mason from Wirksworth and served with Captain Wheatcroft’s “E” Company. He had previously served with the 2VB Notts and Derby Regiment from 1883 to 1908 (number 1538). Isaac was transferred to the 9th Provisional Battalion on the 12th June 1915, presumably because of his age (48 years old at the time); however, there is also no record that he signed the Imperial Service Agreement. Isaac was discharged on the 1st February 1916 [under KR Para 393 (XVI)] having served for over 33 years in the Volunteer and Territorial Forces.
It’s not clear when the Battalion designation changed from the “9th Provisional Battalion” to the “29th Provisional Battalion”, but reference was being made to the 29th from at least the end of October 1915.
Part of the service record of 1952 Pte. John William Edge, a 17 year-old clerk from Ashbourne who enlisted into the 6th Battalion in May 1913 and served with “C” Company. He went to France on the 28th February 1915 and returned to England in August suffering from myalgia (muscle pain) having served 166 days overseas. John was transferred to the 29th Battalion on 27th October 1915 and then discharged in May 1916.
Establishment of the ‘Home Service’ Battalion: June 1915
By this early stage of the War several Officers and numerous men had not undertaken the Imperial Service Obligation and the War Diaries and Battalion Histories record the following transfers of Officers and men:-
2/5th Battalion: 9 Officers and 553 other ranks transferred to the “9th Northern Home Battn” (WO/95/3025).
2/6th Battalion: 2 Officers and 254 other ranks proceeded to a “Provisional Battalion on the Essex coast” (2/6th Battalion History).
2/7th Battalion: No information available.
2/8th Battalion: 2 Officers and 138 other ranks (WO/95/3025).
Statement in the War Diary of the 2/8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters written by Lieut.-Colonel Oates in which he records “at no time will they allow the good name of those who are undertaking the Imperial Service obligation to suffer at their hands” (WO/95/3025).
Further drafts of men to the 29th Provisional Battalion
On 3rd November 1915: 29 men from 2/6th Battalion were certified by the Standing Medical Board as “fit for home service only” and proceeded to join the 29th Provisional Battalion.
In November 1915: 175 N.C.O.s and men from 2/8th Battalion transferred to 29th Provisional Battalion.
On 10th December 1915: 27 N.C.O.s and men (comprising the Band) from the 2/6th Battalion joined the 29th Provisional Battalion.
At this time John Beard was 48 years old and had originally enlisted into the 2VB at Whaley Bridge on 14th January 1886 aged 19. Although he had signed the Imperial Service Agreement in August 1911, John contracted bronchitis at Luton in January 1915 and was therefore deemed unfit for military service overseas.
In December 1915: 2 men from 2/7th Battalion joined the 29th Provisional Battalion.
In January 1916: 27 N.C.O.s and men from 2/8th Battalion transferred to 29th Provisional Battalion.
In January 1916: 1 men from 2/7th Battalion transferred to 29th Provisional Battalion.
On 2nd February 1916: 2/Lt Sydney Claude Joyce transferred from 2/6th Battalion to 29th Provisional Battalion.
By February 1916 the 29th were based at Wivenhoe in Essex.
Wounded and sick men posted to the 29th Provisional Battalion
In additional to Home Service men, the 29th Provisional Battalion also contained men that had served overseas with the Territorial Battalions of the Notts & Derby Regiment and had been wounded or taken sick and transferred to hospital in England. Once discharged from hospital they were transferred to the 29th Provisional Battalion following recuperation in one of the Command Depots such as Ballyvonare Camp at Buttevant in County Cork.
"There were nearly 4,000 men under treatment at the Command Depot, Ballyvonare, on 11th December. These men have been discharged from hospital, but they are not yet able to rejoin their units owing to stiff joints."
A good example is that of 2475 Private Frederick Holmes, a printer from Buxton who had enlisted into the 6th Reserve Battn on 8th October 1914. Having signed the Imperial Service Obligation Frederick was posted to the 1/6th Battn and proceeded to France with them on the 28th February 1915.
He returned to England on the 7th July 1915 and was posted to the 3/6th Battn on the 15th October 1915 suggesting that he had spent some time in hospital or at a convalescent camp. On the 9th November he was posted to the 1/6th Battn and proceeded to France a second time with the V Reinforcement. However, after only 25 days he was again transferred to England and posted to the 3/6th Battn on the 14th January 1916. Unfortunately his B. 103 “Casualty Form – Active Service” is not available so it’s not possible to determine why he returned to England, but the Silver War Medal Role states ‘sickness’. On 10th July 1916 Frederick was posted from the 6th Res Battn to the 29th Provisional Battn and then to the 21st Battn on the 1st January 1917. He was eventually discharged from the 21st Battn on the 14th December 1917 [KR 392 (XVI) No longer physically fit for War Service] and was eligible for a pension.
In mid 1916 the 29th Battalion were stationed in Walton-on-Naze
Renamed as the 21st Battalion
On 1 January 1917 the 29th Provisional Battn became the 21st Battn Sherwood Foresters.
Number 3 Squad, “C” Company, 21st Battalion
Territorial Force Renumbering
Men of the 21st Battalion like those of all the Territorial Force Battalions were renumbered on the 1st March 1917 following Army Council Instruction (ACI) 2414 of 1916, which was published on 23 December 1916.
The first man to be renumbered was Private Thomas Adlington who subsequently went on to serve in France with the 15th Battn Notts & Derby.
His medal index card confirms that he was entitled to the Silver War Badge, which shows that he enlisted on 11th November 1914 and was discharged on the 14th December 1918 aged 21 years [KR 392 (XVia)].
Since the 21st Battalion did not serve overseas it is very rare to see the Battalion mentioned on the Medal Index cards, but there a few examples and these are for men who were awarded the Silver War Badge only.
The Composition of the 21st Battalion on 1st February 1917
The 21st Battalion were allotted regimental numbers in the range 330001 to 355000, however, analysis of the medal rolls (WO329/1406) would suggest that only numbers in the range 330001 to 331902 were actually issued and of these approximately 450 men can be identified (see here).
Men are likely to be recored in the Notts & Derby Medal Roll with a 33**** for the following reasons:-
- Example 1: A man had previously served overseas with another Territorial Battalion and/or Regiment and had been transferred to England due to wounds or sickness. In this case their 4-digit Pre-1917, as well as their 6-digit 33**** Regimental Numbers would be recorded in the Rolls due to their earlier medal entitlement. A good example is Thomas Stanley Allen (shown below) who initially served in France with the 1/6th Battalion (4065) before returning to England and being transferred to the 21st Battalion. He later returned to France and served with the 7th and 8th Battalions.
- Example 2: A man who had not previously served overseas was transferred to the 21st Battalion on the 1st January 1917 and then later transferred to another Battalion/Regiment for service overseas. In this case only the ‘overseas’ Battalion/Regiment is recorded in the Medal Roll. In the example seen below Thomas Hunter was transferred to the 21st Battalion and then later served overseas with the 1/6th Battalion.
- Example 3: A man did not serve overseas, but was awarded a Silver War Badge due to sickness (or wounds) received in the UK. In the example seen below, Herbert Honeybill enlisted into the 5th Battalion in June 1913 but did not serve overseas. He was transferred from the 21st battalion and later discharged on the 27th March 1917 aged 34 due to ‘being no longer physically fit’.
The following men are known to have been serving with the 21st Battalion on 1st March 1917
330001 to 330127 (Adlington to Whitehouse): Comprises 53 identifiable men (out of a possible 126) who had originally attested into the 5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment (1/5th, 2/5th or 3/5th) between 1911 and 1915 and had been posted to the 29th Provisional Battalion between June 1915 and July 1916. 17 men had previously served overseas (1915-6) with the 1/5th Battalion North Staffs.
[The Service Records of at least 25 of these men are available]
330131 to 330301 (Austin to Yorke): Comprises 42 identifiable men (out of a possible 170) who had originally attested into the 6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment (1/6th, 2/6th or 3/6th) between 1908 and 1916 and were posted to the 29th Provisional Battalion between June 1915 and August 1916. Two men (Note: William Parker and Albert Wallace appear to have originally enlisted into the 1/6th Battn Notts & Derby). 12 men had previously served overseas (1915-6) with the 1/6th Battalion North Staffs.
[The Service Records of at least 23 of these men are available]
330303 to 330475 (Ansell to Stanley): Comprises 43 identifiable men (out of a possible 172) who had originally attested into the 7th Battalion Notts & Derby Regiment (1/7th, 2/7th or 3/7th) between 1908 and 1916 and were posted to the 29th Provisional Battalion between June 1915 and November 1916 (Note: Thomas Allen appears to have originally enlisted into the 1/6th Battn Notts & Derby). 18 men had previously served overseas (1915-6) with the 1/7th Battalion Notts & Derby.
[The Service Records of at least 18 of these men are available]
330506 to 330618 (Allen to Wright): Comprises 34 identifiable men (out of a possible 112) who had originally attested into the 8th Battalion Notts & Derby Regiment (1/8th, 2/8th or 3/8th) between 1912 and 1914 and were posted to the 29th Provisional Battalion between June 1915 and November 1916. 13 men had previously served overseas (1915-6) with the 1/8th Battalion Notts & Derby.
[The Service Records of at least 21 of these men are available]
330629 to 330833 (Alderson to Wood): Comprises 27 identifiable men (out of a possible 203), the majority of whom appear to be Derby Scheme Men that were posted to the 5th Reserve Battalion during November 1916 and were subsequently transferred to the 29th Battalion.
Many of these men were recruited at Mill Hill in the 57th Regimental District Recruiting Area (Middlesex) and originally given a 4-digit Regimental number prefixed with a ‘T’ (T7221, T7222, T7281 etc.).
The Army Service Record of T7281/330364 Francis Bruce Bourne who was a 30 year old postman from Linton in Maidstone (group 35). He attested on the 1st March 1916 in the 50th Regimental District (Royal West Kent) and posted to the Army Reserve.
Francis was mobilised on the 21st November 1916 and appointed to the Sherwood Foresters on the following day by the Officer Commanding the Royal West Kent Depot at Maidstone. He was originally posted to the 5th Reserve Battalion before being transferred to the 29th Battalion and finally the 21st Battalion on the 1st January 1917.
Francis was part of a draft of men that were transferred to the 7th Reserve Battalion on the 19th September 1917 at Frinton-on-sea. He embarked for France on the 13th December 1917 and was posted to the 1/6th Battalion Depot 6 days later and eventually joining the unit in the field.
[The Service Records of at least 14 of these men are available]
330833 to 331065 (Anthoney to Waterfield): Comprises 60 identifiable men (out of a possible 230) who had primarily attested into the 5th Battalion Notts & Derby Regiment (1/5th, 2/5th or 3/5th) between 1914 and 1915 and were posted to the 29th Provisional Battalion between November 1915 and September 1916. Twenty three men had previously served overseas (1915-6) with the 1/5th Battalion Notts & Derby.
[The Service Records of at least 9 of these men are available – possible many more]
331074 to 331145 (Lee to Whitton) and 331150 to 331253 (Ardern to Woodhouse): Comprises 41 identifiable men (out of a possible 188) who had originally attested into the 6th Battalion Notts & Derby Regiment (1/6th, 2/6th or 3/6th) between 1908 and 1915 and were posted to the 29th Provisional Battalion between March and November 1916. Fifteen men had previously served overseas (1915-6) with the 1/6th Battalion Notts & Derby.
[The Service Records of at least 29 of these men are available]
331266 to 331902 (miscellaneous order): Primarily comprises 140 men that had originally enlisted into the various Notts & Derby Territorial Battalions between 1908 and 1915. Seventy two of these men had served overseas between 1915 and 1916 and had returned to England due to sickness or wounds. Several classifications can be noted:-
- The vast majority of men in this group did not serve overseas after the March renumbering.
- A few men had been posted to the 29th/21st Battalions from the Command Depots at Ballyvonare and Ripon.
- Men were transferred from the 29th Battalion to the Territorial Force Reserve prior to 1st January 1917 and although they did not serve with the 21st Battalion they non-the-less were given a 3313** Regimental number.
- Several men were posted directly to the 21st Battalion on the 28th May 1917.
- Several men were posted from the 31st London Regiment in July 1917.
The full list is available 1_21st Battalion 2.
Disbanding of the 21st Battalion
The 21st Battalion were eventually disbanded, although the precise date is unknown, it is believed to be the 12th December 1918. Writing on the photograph below states a date of 19th September 1917, which is consistent with the Army Service Records of numerous men who were transferred from the 21st Battalion at that time.
However, amongst the men present is 1251 R.S.M. John Shepherd (seated 4 from the left) and his Service Record (below) clearly states that he transferred from the 21st Battalion to the 5th Reserve Battalion on 28th December 1917.
The transfer of men in September 1917.
Several notable transfers of men were made from the 21st Battalion in September 1917. These included:-
- 15th September: Transfers to the 2/7th Battalion Notts & Derby Regiment. Many of these men subsequently served with the 15th Battalion (see below).
- 19th September: Transfers to the 5th & 7th Reserve Battalions Notts & Derby Regiment for discharge (see below).
- 20th September: Transfers to the 2/6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (see below).
2/7th Battalion to 15th Battalion Notts & Derby
Approximately 120 men were transferred to the 15th Battalion after their arrival in France on the 17th September 1917.
Part of the Army Service Record of 330076 Pte Phillip Leake recording the No. 4 Travelling Medical Board that convened in January, April (Walton-on-Naze) and May 1917 (Frinton-on-Sea). Eventually Phillip was considered Category A and along with many of his comrades was transferred to the 2/7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (for record purposes) and embarked from Folkestone on the 16th September 1917 (see below).
Army Service Record for 330227 Pte Ernest Mee confirming his transfer from the 21st Battalion to the 2/7th Battalion at Frinton-on-Sea on the 15th September 1917. Edward and his comrades then left Folkestone on the following day and arrived at the 14th Infantry Base Depot on the 17th September. Six days later on the 23rd September they were posted to the 15th Battalion, which at that time was near Peronne.
The transfer of these men was recored in War Office List No. A. 437 and dated 4th September 1917.
7th Reserve Battalion and discharge
On the 19th September men were also transferred to the 5th or 7th Reserve Battalions Notts & Derby Regiment that were stationed in Lincolnshire. Many of these men were subsequently discharged and awarded a Silver War Badge.
However, men from these two Battalions were also sent to France for service with other Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, for example:-
2/6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
Transfer of men to the 2/6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry on 20th September 1915. Army Service Record of 331099 Pte Tom Redfern recording his transfer to the 2/6th DLI by W.O. Letter (secret) 27/Gen No/6273 (A???) A/ 6/9/1917.
The 21st Battalion rediscovered in 2014!
The recent loss of sand from beaches on the Essex coast has uncovered a remarkable piece of military history; albeit a rather small one.
The full story can be seen here.