The British Army in the 1911 Census

Posted on: 3, April, 2020
Oxfordhsire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry; India 1911

I have recently added over 130,000 records of British Army soldiers as they appeared in the 1911 Census. The bulk of the data, just over 113,000 records, concerns those men who were enumerated in overseas’ stations, whilst the balance of 17,000 records contains details of men who were stationed in Ireland.

As I mention in my new 1911 Census page on British Army Ancestors, the vast majority of the soldiers who were enumerated on the 1911 Census would either still be serving in August 1914 or would be recalled to the colours as a reservist.  This is what makes this particular census such a rich research resource for anyone with an interest in the First World War in general, and the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 and early 1915 in particular.

The British Army overseas in the 1911 Census

For the first time ever in an England and Wales census, men and women serving in the British Army and Royal Navy in overseas stations or at sea were enumerated in the 1911 Census. The way in which those men and women were enumerated is worthy of a detailed study itself, but as far as the data published on British Army Ancestors is concerned, I have recorded place of birth, approximate year of birth and country where stationed in addition to basic regimental details. A typical entry for these men (and a handful of women) looks like this:

The year of birth will always appear as an approximate year based on the man’s age as enumerated on the census.

The British Army in Ireland in the 1911 Census

Details recorded for men who were serving in Ireland in 1911 vary dramatically. For some individuals, regimental numbers as well as names and ages are recorded; for others – frustratingly – just forename and last name initials. Wherever possible, whenever regimental numbers and forename / last initials have been given I have endeavoured to expand the latter by cross-checking against service records and medal index cards. Similarly, many officer names have been expanded as a result of cross-checking initials against names in Hart’s 1911 Army List. Nevertheless, you will still find some records that look this:

In the example above, the man’s surname begins with the letter P and his forenames begin with T and R. Additional information for this particular man (not published on this website) confirms that he could read and write, had been a carpenter by trade, and gave his religion as Church of England. It is also worth noting that the Irish enumerators generally only recorded the country of birth for men born outside of Ireland.

Do note that for ALL 1911 Census records, whether in Ireland or overseas, I have far more detail than that which is published on this website. This always includes marital status and precise location in 1911 as well as, often, former peace-time occupation, and in some cases the company in which an infantryman served. Irish records generally state the man’s religion and whether he could read and write. This additional information can be provided on request but is a chargeable service. Contact me for more information.

In the photograph on this post, Regimental Sergeant Major Pears is the man sitting in the front row, second left. He was serving in India with the 1st Battalion, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry at the time, and he had already notched up 26 years’ service when this photo was taken in 1911. He would be discharged the following year but may be the same Thomas Pears who later served as a captain with the Ox and Bucks during the First World War.

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