The 1911 Census of Great Britain and Ireland was taken on Sunday 2nd April 1911. It sought to enumerate not only people living in the British Isles (including the Channel Islands) but also those who were resident further afield. This included, for the first time ever, men at sea aboard Royal Navy ships and also, crucially, men and women serving in overseas military establishments.
In many respects, the British Army of 1911, as enumerated on the 1911 Census of England & Wales and in Scotland and Ireland, can be seen as a nominal roll of those career soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force who embarked for France in 1914 and early 1915.
The British Army of 1911 – terms of enlistment
Standard terms of enlistment in 1911, and in the years immediately preceding 1911, allowed for a period of service with the colours and a period of service on the army reserve. Service with the colours saw the man serving with his regiment and wearing uniform. Service on the army reserve saw the man returned to civilian life albeit it with the obligation to attend annual drills and to be prepared for recall to the colours in the event of a national emergency.
The vast majority of the soldiers who were enumerated on the 1911 Census would have signed up for a combination of seven years with the colours followed by five years on the reserve; 12 years’ service in total. Men serving overseas would generally have already served for at least 18 months to two years in the UK and even if a man transferred to the army reserve the day after the 1911 census was taken he would, in all probability, have been recalled to the colours as a reservist in August 1914. This is what makes the 1911 Census such a rich research resource for anyone with an interest in the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 and early 1915.
Fold3, UK, Worldwide Army Census, 1911 ( : accessed September 23, 2023), database and images,
- Publication Title
- UK, Worldwide Army Census, 1911
- Total Records
- Content Source
- British Army Ancestors
- Published on Fold3
- 07 Jun 2023
- Last Updated
- 07 Jun 2023
- Full enhanced transcriptions of the British Army in the 1911 overseas census.