If you are lucky enough to find the service record of a man you are researching, it is likely to include his attestation form. This will provide excellent clues regarding the nature of his service.
Look out in particular for the terms of his engagement. This will appear at the top of the attestation form.
Pre-war and 1914-1915 attestations
“X years with the colours and Y years in the reserve”
If it reads “X years with the colours and Y years in the reserve”, then the man was enlisting into the regular army. The normal engagement was for a total of twelve years, so now look down at the date of his signature or that of the person approving it. If you add twelve years to the attestation date and that takes you out to beyond 1922, and if the man survived the war and you do not know that he was discharged early, it may imply that his record still exists and is available from the Ministry of Defence Veterans Agency.
The most often seen patterns are “Seven plus five”, “Three plus nine” (as shown below) and “Nine plus three”.
Men joining the artillery would usually agree to a “six plus six” pattern.
Horse transport drivers enlisting into the Royal Engineers or Army Service Corps could enter on a “two plus ten” pattern.
Here’s a tip.
If you find your soldier in one of these types of pre-war regular enlistment, work out whether he would have still been in his full-time service at the time of the census of 2 April 1911. If so, you should be able to find him listed at his army station rather than at home. So for example, if he was on a “seven plus five” and he enlisted in 1907, it should be possible to find him in the army at the time of the census.
By a similar calculation, you should be able to determine whether he was still in full-time service when the army was mobilised on 5 August 1914. If not, he would have been called up from reserve.Chris Baker
A man would normally join the Special Reserve for six years although experienced men could enlist for just one year. Service was part time unless the army was mobilised. See reserves and reservists
A man would normally join a unit of the Territorial Force for four years although it was also possible to engage for one or two.
Service was part time unless the man and his unit were “embodied”. See Territorial Force
War time volunteers 1914-1915
men could continue to enlist into the regular army, Special Reserve and units of the Territorial Force as above, but from August 1914 they could also enlist into the regular army for war service only. This is typically signified by an attestation form that may say “three years with the colours” or “the duration of the war”.
Group System (Derby Scheme) volunteers
For full details, see Group System. From mid-October 1915, a man could attest and request that teh start of his service be deferred to a later date. The attestation form looks smilar to those used before but there are two clues to look for that confirm he attested this way.
For details of the Military Service Act and conscription see this article. Although the old versions of the attestation forms continued to be used up (the dates of enlistment are the giveaway), a new “enrolment form” also began to appear. Cinscripted men were committed to serve for the duration of the war but could technically be enlisted into the regular army or Territorial Force.