Sappers and Miners Enlistment Dates

This article looks at how the service numbers of soldiers who served with the Sappers and Miners can be used to work out when they enlisted. I have written other guides to researching soldiers who served in the Indian Army during the First World War which can be viewed by clicking on the link below:

I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.Sappers and Miners Railway Company

Sappers of an unidentified Railway Company, most likely of the 3rd Sappers and Miners in “the Bush” in East Africa during the First World War. Railway companies were used extensively in the East Africa Campaign due to the vital importance of railways which were needed to cover the large distances.

Enlistment Dates of the Sappers and Miners

The service numbers for the Sappers and Miners of the Indian Army follow a standard sequential pattern, with each new recruit receiving the subsequent number. However, there appears to have been an attempt to standardise the issuing of service numbers between the sapper units from 1917 (possibly earlier). Instead of each sapper unit issuing a recruit with a service number unique only within that unit, all units drew on a new numbering series starting around 5000.

The new numbering series explains why large numbers of soldiers from all three Sappers and Miners died with service numbers over 5000 from late 1918 onwards. This is despite the 1st King George’s Own Sappers and Miners failing to surpass 5000 pre-1914 and the other two having restarted their numbering system after reaching a set limit.

An example of the new system in use was for recruits to the 51st Field Company, which formed in India in March 1917 and would go on to serve in Aden for over three years. Of the six soldiers I have identified who served with the company, all have service numbers over 5000.

1st King George’s Own Sappers and Miners

Service Number Date of Enlistment
107 15/01/1898
185 13/07/1898
322 31/07/1899
507 05/11/1900
565 12/01/1901
764 14/04/1902
785 02/06/1902
1007 03/11/1903
1029 20/01/1904
1036 08/02/1904
1454 30/05/1906

The 1st King George’s Own Sappers and Miners followed a sequential system and does not appear to have reset their service numbers on reaching a set limit.

2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers and Miners

Service Number Date of Enlistment
3324 09/05/1905
3604 13/11/1906
3764 10/02/1908
4170 14/01/1910

The service numbers of the 2nd Sappers and Miners, like the 3rd Sappers and Miners, appear to follow a chronological pattern until 5,000 when the numbering is reset to 1. This explains why soldiers with a two digit service number die in battle with men who have numbers four thousand places above them.

3rd Sappers and Miners

Service Number Date of Enlistment
2268 08/12/1899
2423 29/05/1901
2652 26/12/1902
3194 06/02/1905
3348 01/07/1906
3376 14/01/1907
3904 16/09/1910
3955 29/10/1910
4193 13/09/1913

The service numbers of the 3rd Sappers and Miners follow a sequential pattern up until it passed 5,000. Then, the 3rd Sappers and Miners began again at 1 and continued chronologically. This explains how soldiers with a two digit service number die in battle with men who are over four thousand places above them.ww1-research-service