Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pte William Burchett, 26th Training Reserve Battalion

The 1901 Census of England & Wales lists only one W Burchett and that is 14 year old William Burchett who is noted as working as a Hound Boy.  At the time the census was taken he was living with his family at South Common, Chailey.  The household was headed by his widowed mother, 48 year old Elizabeth Burchett who was working as a domestic housekeeper.  There were also five children: George Burchett (aged 19, working as a brickyard labourer), Frederick Burchett (aged 17, also working as a brickyard labourer), William, Kate Burchett (aged 13) and Mary Beatrice Burchett (aged 11).  Another daughter, 16 year old Edith Burchett, was working as a general domestic servant and boarding nearby. 

When the 1891 census was taken, William was living at Barnett Wood, Framfield, the village of his birth.  His father was still alive then and is recorded as Horace Thomas Burchett, a 41 year old farmer. The family then comprised Elizabeth (wife aged 38) and their nine children: Ernest Burchett (aged 19), Florence Burchett (aged 14), Fanny Burchett (aged 12), George (aged ten), Frederick (aged eight), Edith (aged six), William (aged four), Kate (aged three) and Mary (aged one). 

Chailey Parish Magazine first notes William Burchett in October 1916, reporting: Burchett, Private W, 10th Suffolk Regiment, England.  In January 1916 it notes that he is with the “26th Training Reserve” and this information is repeated up to and including the final published roll call in July 1919. 

The 26th Training Reserve Battalion had its origins in the 10th (Reserve) Suffolk Regiment so this information would appear to be consistent.  The following information about the formation of Training Reserve Battalions is taken from Chris Baker’s website, The Long, Long Trail: 

On 1 September 1916, a considerable reorganisation of the reserve infantry battalions took place. Before this date, most of the infantry regiments contained one or more reserve battalions. Recruits would be posted to these battalions for basic training, before they were posted to an active service unit. With the introduction of conscription, the regimental system simply could not cope with numbers, hence this development. Thus, in combination with conscription, the local nature of recruitment for infantry regiments was abandoned.  

After 1 September 1916, these regimental distinctions disappeared, and the reserve battalions were re-designated as battalions of the Training Reserve. They were organised into new Brigades of the Training Reserve. No Guards, Irish or Territorial Force Battalions converted to TR, and this change did not affect the Special Reserve or Extra Reserve battalions of the regular army (normally the 3rd and 4th Battalions of a regiment). 

The official complement of the Training Reserve was a little over 208,500 soldiers. Men who attended the TR battalions were not allocated to any particular regiment when the time came for them to be posted. Thus, in combination with conscription, the local nature of recruitment for infantry regiments was abandoned.  Later, from May 1917, this arrangement was itself altered when the units of the TR became Graduated and Young Soldier battalions. 

The National Archives lists only one Burchett with Suffolk Regiment connections and that is 51427 Private W Burchett who also served with the Essex Regiment and had the number 44328.

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