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A guide to the collection

 

 

The archive of the Somerset Light Infantry is a rich and diverse collection charting the history of the Regiment, Somerset's militia battalions and the Somerset Yeomanry from the late 18th century to the present day. Containing many varied sources from diaries, to correspondence, to published works, to photographs, the archive provides a unique view of the history of the 'illustrious garrison', but also of the changing attitudes to war and life on the 'home front'.

The collection has been catalogued under the archival reference DD/SLI. The catalogue has been split into two sections. The first fourteen series relate to the official side of the regiment, they contain:

 

  • DD/SLI/1  -  digest of service and historical records 
  • DD/SLI/2  -  war diaries
  • DD/SLI/3  -  company, muster and battalion rolls and pay lists
  • DD/SLI/4  -  commission parchments
  • DD/SLI/5  -  medal rolls
  • DD/SLI/6  -  orders books, battalion and operation orders
  • DD/SLI/7  -  court martial and punishment books
  • DD/SLI/8  -  Officers mess and other regimental volumes
  • DD/SLI/9  -  casualty lists
  • DD/SLI/10 - minute books
  • DD/SLI/11 - account books
  • DD/SLI/12 - official reports and correspondence
  • DD/SLI/13 - other army forms, logs and official returns
  • DD/SLI/14 - army issue maps and plans
     

    The remaining nine series contain non-official documents, consisting of:
     
  • DD/SLI/15 - photographs and photo albums
  • DD/SLI/16 - postcards and illustrations
  • DD/SLI/17 - private papers of individual soldiers
  • DD/SLI/18 - published material
  • DD/SLI/19 - printed material
  • DD/SLI/20 - historical studies, research notes, lectures and research correspondence
  • DD/SLI/21 - captured enemy documents
  • DD/SLI/22 - indexes
  • DD/SLI/23 - miscellaneous documents
Most of the series are self-explanatory, for example DD/SLI/2 contains the regimental war diaries for the second Burmese war, the Boer war, the two World Wars and post-war conflicts. Other series, such as series 3 and 16 are split into sub-series which represent a group within a group, for example, DD/SLI/3 contains four sub-series of, battalion, company and section rolls; militia rolls; pay lists; and other muster rolls and rolls of membership, whilst series 16 is split into six series, postcards; scrapbooks; illustrations of personalities; illustrations of uniforms, weapons and regimental ephemera; cartoon drawings; and miscellaneous illustrations. [back to top]
 

What can the collection be used for?

The collection provides a unique view of the regiments history, however, it does not contain the service records of the men who served with the regiment. Service records, from 1660-1920, are held by the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) and post 1920 service records are held by the Army Personnel Centre, Glasgow. Once personal details about an ancestor or an individual have been discovered then the collection can provide background information on the duties they performed and to any conflicts in which they were involved.

Some series of records may contain personal details. The most likely is series 17 which contains diaries and personal papers of soldiers, however, this series is quite small and it may be pot luck finding the papers of an ancestor. This series of papers mainly relate to the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The other series which is likely to contain personal details is series 5 which contains the medal rolls; these contain name, rank and number at the time of the award of the medal and may prove whether an ancestor fought in a particular conflict. Records on long service medals may provide details on the length of service and period of enlistment.

A Great War memorial scroll


For tracing  militia members series 3 may contain relevant information, the militia rolls contain lists of those serving in the local militia and in which division, although they relate mainly to the early 19th century. Also worth consulting are the regimental journals (series 18, sub-series 1) as they provide quarterly reports on each battalion and mention notable events such as promotions. There is also a large collection of photographs (series 15), including many company and sporting groups.

For research into a specific conflict and the regiments role in it the best place to start is the historical records (series 1) and the war diaries (series 2), these detail the day to day action of specific battalions during both war and peacetime. For some conflicts such as the 1st Afghan War or the Zulu War there are many written histories so it is worth consulting series 18-20.

A host of other institutions and websites contain details on military history and the tracing of individuals. See the other useful sources page for some suggestions. [back to top]

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