This record set contains details of around 85,000 men who attested (signed up) for service with a variety of regiments in Surrey between 1908 and 1933.

Surviving recruitment registers for the World War I period are extremely rare and the Surrey Recruitment Registers offer a fascinating snapshot of the men of Surrey who served for King and Country. The registers are published here with the kind permission of The Surrey History Trust which retains all copyrights in the database. The Surrey History Centre holds the original registers.

Background

The 1909 enlistment and recruiting regulations stated that 'the officer commanding an infantry depot will direct the recruiting service for both the regular army and the special reserve within the limits of his regimental district, under the orders of the officer in charge of recruiting'. Surrey formed No.10 District in the Eastern Division, which was further divided into two regimental districts, numbered by the regiment's seniority; thus the Royal West Surreys formed No.2 Regimental District, based at Guildford and comprising the parliamentary divisions of Guildford (South West), Chertsey (North West), Reigate (South East), and parts of Epsom (Mid) and Wimbledon (North East). The East Surrey regimental district formed the 31st Regimental District based at Kingston-upon-Thames, comprising the remainder of the county's parliamentary constituencies. All but one of the registers published here relate to the 31st District.

With the mass influx of recruits in 1914, more recruiting officers were needed and in the East Surrey regimental area recruiting offices were also established at Richmond, Putney, Wandsworth, Streatham, East Dulwich, Peckham, Upper Norwood, Tooting, Mitcham, Wimbledon, Sutton, East Molesey, Walton on Thames, Epsom and Wallington. These recruitment registers cover these areas and those who were born in the area but attested in other regimental districts.

The majority of the records here relate to men who volunteered, or were conscripted, during the First World War. However, some registers also cover pre-war enlistments into the regular army and Special Reserve, whilst others enlistments into the regular army after hostilities had ceased. An explanation of the different types of enlistment are given below, followed by details on each individual register.

Regular Army enlistments

That is, men who wished to join the British Army as career soldiers. The general terms of enlistment for line infantry was seven years with the colours and five years on the reserve. The Guards regiments recruited men for three years with the colours and nine years on the reserve. When Britain went to war with Germany in 1914 the majority of men who volunteered, did so for the duration of the war only although it was still possible to join up as a regular career soldier on regular enlistment terms.

Special and Extra Reserve enlistments

The Special and Extra Reserve was a home defence force, the successor to the old Militia. Men joining the SR or ER did so for six years, the ranks generally filled by old soldiers who had previously seen service in the regular army, or by young men who were trying out military life. Many of the latter subsequently transferred to regular army battalions and a lot of Special and Extra Reserve men were called upon in 1914 and later to help make up drafts to replace casualties on the Western Front.

Volunteers

Men who volunteered to fight for King and Country, many of these heeding Lord Kitchener's call for 100,000 men to form New Army battalions. These men enlisted for the duration of the war.

Derby Scheme men

Lord Derby's Scheme was introduced on the 16th October 1915 by which time the rush of volunteers had long since dried up. It was opened to men between the ages of 18 and 40 who were told they could enlist voluntarily or attest with the obligation to join up later when called upon to do so. At the same time, the War Office notified the public that voluntary enlistment would soon end and that the last day to register would be the 15th December 1915. Men who registered under the Derby Scheme were classified according to their age and marital status. Group 1 was for single 18-year-olds, Group 2 for single 19-year-olds and so on up to Group 23 for single 40-year-olds. Group 24 was for married 18-year-olds, Group 25 for married 19-year-olds and so on up to Group 46 for married 40-year-olds. Men who had attested under the Derby Scheme were entitled to wear a grey armband with a red crown upon it.

Conscripted men The Military Service Act of 27th January 1916 brought an end to volunteering. Men were allocated to classes according to their year of birth and then called up by those classes. Class 1 was for men born in 1897, Class 2 for men born in 1896 and so on up until Class 23 for men born in 1875.

Voluntary and Direct enlistments Men joining the British Army after November 1918.

The Registers

Full details of what is contained within each register are listed below.

31st Regimental District 1908-1917

1. Reference: 2496/35 Dates: 27th January 1908 to 29th March 1913 Regular Army enlistments

2. Reference 2496/38 Dates: 2nd April 1913 to 16th August 1916 'Regular Army' is written on the spine. From August 1915 recruitment numbers are given (numbers 1-386) together with the place of recruitment. Note that the numbers are recruitment numbers and not regimental numbers.

3. Reference 2496/39 Dates: 17th August 1916 to 29th November 1917 'Regular Army' is written on the inside cover. Recruitment nos.387-824. Indexed at back. Most of this volume is unused.

4. Reference 2496/37 Dates: 26th January 1909 to 29th March 1913 Recruitment register for '3rd [Special Reserve] Battalion East Surrey Regiment' This volume also includes recruits for the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion and the Special and Extra Reserve battalions of other regiments such as The Royal Sussex Regiment, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Royal Artillery and others.

5. Reference 2496/36 Dates: 1st April 1913 to 2nd August 1915 This recruitment register: has 'SR' for 'Special Reserve' written on the spine. Until the outbreak of the war, most recruits are for the 3rd or 4th Battalions of The East Surrey Regiment. From August 1914 the recruits (mainly older men) are sent to a greater variety of units. There are very few entries for 1915.

6. Reference 2496/40 Dates: 8th August 1914 to 7th September 1914 Volunteers. This recruitment register has 'General Service' written at the top of one page, and 'GS' written after the destination regiment for some entries on the first few pages.

7. Reference 2496/1 Dates: 31st August 1914 to 4th January 1915 Volunteers. This recruitment register has 'B' written on the spine.

8. Reference 2496/2 Dates: 5th January 1915 to 27th April 1915 Volunteers. This recruitment register has 'C' and 'D' of 'W' written on the spine, indicating that this was for men who were enlisting for General Service for the 'Duration of War' only.
9. Reference 2496/3 Dates: 27th April 1915 to 26th June 1915 Volunteers. This recruitment register has 'Register D' written on the inside cover.
10. Reference 2496/4 Dates: 27th June 1915 to 11th October 1915 Volunteers. This recruitment register has 'E' and 'D of war' written on the spine. Recruits are numbered from 1st August 1915: numbers.1-1299. Note that the numbers are recruitment numbers and not regimental numbers.
11. Reference 2496/5 Dates: 12th October 1915 to 18th January 1916 Volunteers. This recruitment register has 'Register F' written on the inside cover and covers recruitment numbers 1300-3156.

12. Reference 2496/6 Dates: 20th January 1916 to 8th December 1917 This recruitment register has 'Register G' written on the inside cover and covers recruitment numbers 3157-3692. The volume is indexed and the recruits on the last pages tend to be older men or those under 18.

13. Reference 2496/41 Dates: 1st January 1916 to 2nd September 1916 Derby Scheme men. On the Inside cover of this recruitment register a pasted label reads 'Sub areas, Wandsworth, 1; Croydon, 2; Wimbledon, 3; Kingston, 4; Richmond, 5; Epsom, 6'. The volume is indexed and recruits are numbered 5001-6212.

14. Reference 2496/7 Dates: 20th January 1916 to 21st June 1916 Derby Scheme men. 'Group 1' is written on the cover and the spine. Group 1 of the Derby Scheme was the classification for single men aged 18; however, it is clear that recruits in this particular register fall into many different Derby Scheme categories. Dates and recruitment centres covered are: Kingston, 20th January 1916 to 21st June 1916, Wandsworth, 20th January 1916 to 13 April 1916; Croydon, 20th January 1916 to 14th April 1916. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 504 and 14710. This volume has been indexed.

15. Reference 2496/8 Dates: 13th April 1916 to 15th July 1916 Derby Scheme men. Dates and recruitment centres covered are: Wandsworth, 13th April 1916 to 15th June 1916, Croydon, 13th April 1916 to 15th July 1916. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 511 and 14694. The volume has been indexed.

16. Reference 2496/9 Dates: 15th June 1916 to 29th August 1916 Derby Scheme men. 'Groups 3, no.3' is written on the front cover and 'Reserve B Groups, Wandsworth' written on the back cover, 'Group 2' is written on the spine. Dates and recruitment centres covered are Wandsworth, 15th June 1916 to 16th August 1916, Kingston, 22nd June 1916 to 29th August 1916. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 1181 and 8773. The volume has been indexed.

17. Reference 2496/10 Dates: 16th August 1916 to 8th December 1916 Derby Scheme men. 'Groups' and 'C2' is written on the cover and 'Groups 6' written on the spine. Dates and recruitment centres covered are: Wandsworth, 16th August 1916 to 8th December 1916, Kingston, 30th August 1916 to 8th December 1916. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 6489 and 12469.

18. Reference 2496/11 Dates: 20th January 1916 to 1st December 1916 Derby Scheme men. 'Reserve Class B Groups' is written on the cover and 'Class [1 or 7]' on the spine. Dates and recruitment centres covered are: Epsom, 20th January 1916 to 30th June 1916, Richmond, 20th January 1916 to 3rd August 1916, Peckham, 20th January 1916 to 1st December 1916, Wimbledon 20th January 1916 to 8th June 1916. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 501 and 14697. This volume has been indexed.

19. Reference 2496/12 Dates: 8th June 1916 to 7th December 1916 Derby Scheme men. 'Groups' is written on the cover and 'Group 8' on the spine. Dates and recruitment centres covered are: Wimbledon, 8th June 1916 to 17th October 1916, Epsom, 1st July 1916 to 7th December 1916, Croydon, 17th July 1916 to 29th August 1916. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 502 and 14698. This volume has been indexed.

20. Reference 2496/14 Dates: 3rd August 1916 to 8th December 1916 Derby Scheme men. '2B Groups' is written on the cover and 'Groups 4' on the spine. Dates and recruitment centres covered are: Richmond, 3rd August 1916 to 8th December 1916, Croydon, 30th August 1916 to 8th December 1916. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 4295 and 12468. This volume has been indexed.

21. Reference 2496/13 Dates: 17th October 1916 to 8th December 1916 Derby Scheme men. 'Groups 4' is written on the cover and 'Group 3' on the spine. Covers the Wimbledon recruitment centre. Recruitment numbers are not entered sequentially and range between 10770 and 12464. This volume has been indexed.

22. Reference 2496/15 Dates: 6th March 1916 to 31st October 1916 Conscripted men. 'Classes 1' is written on the cover and 'Classes 11' on the spine. Dates and recruitment centres covered are: Kingston, numbers 15001-19991, 6th Mar ch1916 to 31st October 1916, Wandsworth, numbers 15019-17011, 8th March 1916 to 3rd August 1916, Croydon, numbers 15017-19779, 7th March 1916 to 30th October 1916. This volume has been indexed.

23. Reference 2496/16 Dates: 31st October 1916 to 8th December 1916 Conscripted men. 'Military Classes 2' on cover and 'Classes 10' on spine. Covers: Kingston, numbers 19799-20891, 31 Oct 1916-8 Dec 1916; Croydon, nos.19784-20892, 31 Oct 1916-8 Dec 1916. Indexed.

24. Reference 2496/17 Dates: 29th September 1916 to 8th December 1916 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'Classes 3' and 'Classes no 12' on cover. Covers: Wandsworth, nos.18753-20904, 29 Sep 1916-8 Dec 1916; Peckham, nos.18190-20699, 2 Oct 1916-24 Nov 1916; Wimbledon, nos.19113-20887, 16 Oct 1916-8 Dec 1916.

In reference numbers 2496/18 to 2496/26 inclusive, the space below the 'eyes' column has been used for class of recruit (number between 1 and 47), the 'distinctive marks' column has been used for 'destination' (for training), the parish and county columns have been used for recruiting sub-area (Kingston, Wandsworth etc) and sub-area number (eg.C23085/37478), and the 'name of recruiter' column has been used for medical category of recruit.


25. Reference 2496/21 Dates: 9th December 1916 to 20th February 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.1, Infantry' on cover. 'Name of recruiter' column used for medical classification. Recruitment numbers 25000-29350. Indexed.

26. Reference 2496/18 Dates: 9th December 1916 to 27th March 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.2, Units' on cover. Recruits chiefly destined for artillery, engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, etc. 'Name of recruiter' column used for medical classification. Recruitment nos.25005-31593, 35001-35464 ('new numbers'). Indexed

27. Reference 2496/25 Dates: 13th February 1917 to 7th September 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.3, RO', on cover and 'RO [Recruiting Office] Woolwich Recruiting Area' on pages inside. Recruitment nos.28527-32574. Indexed. Not filled

28. Reference 2496/22 Dates: 20th February 1917 to 20th March 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.4 infantry' on cover. Recruitment nos.29351-31955, 45001-45925. Indexed

29. Reference 2496/26 Dates: 1st March 1917 to 5th September 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.5, Territorial Forces, London Regiments, HAC [Honourable Artillery Company]'. Recruitment numbers 30473-31951, 40001-40531. This volume has been indexed.

30. Reference 2496/19 Dates: 26th March 1917 to 19th July 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.6, Units' on cover. Recruits chiefly destined for artillery, engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, etc. 'Name of recruiter' column used for medical classification. Recruitment numbers35465-38055. This volume has been indexed.

31. Reference 2496/23 30th March 1917 to 23rd July 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.7, Infantry' on cover. Recruitment numbers45926-48564. This volume has been indexed.

32. Reference 2496/20 Dates: 19th July 1917 to 7th September 1917 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.8, Units' on cover. Recruits chiefly destined for artillery, engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, etc. 'Name of recruiter' column used for medical classification. Recruitment numbers38056-38550. This volume has been indexed.

33. Reference 2496/24 Dates: 23rd July 1917 to 20th September 1917 Recruitment register: 'No.9, register, infantry'. Recruitment numbers48564-49365. This volume has been indexed.

In 2496/27 and 2496/29 the training destination is generally added after the regiment name in the first column; the complexion, eyes and hair columns are again completed; the distinctive marks column is used to record whether a recruit is married ('M') or single ('S'); the place of birth column is used to record recruiting sub-area; the 'name of recruiter' column is used to record medical category and the 'recruiting agent' column for place of medical examination. The class number (1-47) is no longer given. In 2496/29, after the first few entries the columns have been retitled in manuscript and give the following information: identity number (starting 60001), name, regional number, recruiting area, medical category, age, place of medical examination, name of medical officer, date of examination, address, 'allotment' (married or single and allowance), 'final disposal' (unit and training destination), date of final disposal, remarks.


South London Recruiting Area 1917-1918

34. Reference 2496/27 Dates: 2nd November 1917 to 20th February 1918 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'No.1 Book'. Recruitment numbers50001-52025.

35. Reference 2496/29 Dates: 5th November 1917 to 27th February 1918. Recruitment register: 'No.2 Book' on cover. Recruitment numbers55001-57055.

36. Reference 2496/28 Dates: 22nd February 1918 to 2nd May 1918 Recruitment register: 'No.3 Book' on cover. Recruitment numbers60001-62572.

2nd Regimental District 1917-1918

37. Reference 2496/44 Dates: 22nd May 1917 to 19th October 1918 Conscripted men. Recruitment register: 'Other corps, Guildford' on title page and '2nd Regimental District' on pages inside. The eyes, hair and distinctive marks columns are variously used to indicate marital status, medical category and 'sub area'. From 10 Jun 1918, the regimental number, address and any reference for 'authority for posting', are also given, but place of birth and attestation details disappear. Recruitment numbersR11457-R17441. Indexed. At the end of the volume a memorandum states 'Guildford Reception Depot closed 20.10.18. Amalgamated with Kingston. See Eastern Command orders Dated 19.10.18, Auth. W.O Letter No.27/Gen No./6577 (AG 13 4) Dated 2.10.18'.

31st Recruiting Area 1918-1933

38. Reference 2496/42 Dates: 18th November 1918 to 7th June 1920 Voluntary and Direct enlistments. Recruitment register: 'Voluntary and Direct enlistments under WO telegram 2105 A.G.13 AL' on cover and '31st Regt District Recruiting Area' on pages inside. Various number ranges are in use, including a sequence for 'short service' recruits and another sequence for 'enlistments for North Russia, authority 27/Gen.No/7299 (A.G.13)'. This volume has been indexed.

39. Reference 2496/30 Dates: 23rd August 1919 to 20th April 1922 Voluntary and Direct enlistments.

40. Reference 2496/31 Dates: 19th April 1922 to 21st February 1925 Voluntary and Direct enlistments.

41. Reference 2496/32 Dates: 28th February 1925 to 26th September 1925 Voluntary and Direct enlistments.

42. Reference 2496/33 Dates: 28th September 1925 to 1st October 1927 Voluntary and Direct enlistments.

43. Reference 2496/34 Dates: 3rd October 1927 to 29th June 1933 Voluntary and Direct enlistments. Recruitment register: 'East Surrey Regiment Recruiting Zone' on pages inside. With note 'see previous AB303 for 1st quarters return for final approval'.

44. Reference 2496/43 Dates: 3rd November 1924 to 20th December 1929 Voluntary and Direct enlistments. Recruitment register: 'Supplementary Reserve' on cover and '[31st] Regimental, Recruiting or Militia, Volunteer Artillery District' on pages inside. Not filled. Enclosures: blank short service attestation form and Army Form B 104-57 concerning Corporal Murley's enlistment into the Supplementary Reserve, 17 Nov 1925.

The image shows volunteers lining up outside the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) depot at Kingston-upon-Thames in August or September 1914.