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Remembered Today:

SOLDIER PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION


Guest Ian Topham

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Guest Ian Topham

Please help

1. What personal identification (paper) documentation did soldiers carry ( if any )?

2, Were these documents retained by the individual after there period of service?

3. What info did they contain?

4. Were they carried into the trenches with the individual or retained at a unit HQ behind the lines for security puposes?

Basically in an effort to research the military service of my past family members, sometimes hundreds of pieces of paper exist, I want to be able to recognise without much effort certain documents that will help me in my task.

Cheers :rolleyes:

Ian

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Every soldier had a paybook (AB64) which had his personal details in it, details of next of kin, will etc plus details of when he was paid and how much. It seems that when these were full, soldiers handed them in and were issued with a new one. I don't think they were meant to keep them, but many have survived, so I suspect many soldiers did. I suspect they were not normally sent home to the next of kin.

Officers had a version of this, a small blue book, which included their personal details and details of their commission, promotions and appointments etc.

Is this the sort of thing you mean?

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Guest Ian Topham

Paul

Yes exactly, but, would the soldiers have carried this item ( AB64 ) into the combat area's, as capture or looted of a dead body would have indicated to the enemy what unit they were facing? or was this info not considered a security problem at that time?

Thanks again

:D

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I remember my father,who was badly wounded in action with the 2nd Bn Post Office Rifles, on 25th July 1918, (see Terriers in the Trenches" page 115/116) telling me that before they went "over the top" at 10.00 hrs, all means of identification was removed. They were then given a small tin disc about the size of a tanner (the size of a 5p piece) with a number stamped on it. This number was then recorded by the QM. He said how anyone could afterwards recover such a small, it was no wonder that there were so many bodies that could not be identified.

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Up to and often beyond the Somme, AB64 seems to have been carried in action, although I know before Arras in April 17, most soldiers handed it in the CQMS, where it was kept with other personal papers in his large pack until he returned - if he did. If you read some memoirs you will read accounts of men burying the dead and removing personal papers, paybook etc. If I can find such a quote this weekend, I will post it.

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Ian.

the following postings are examples of several (allied) pay-books from the Great War. There were many variants of each....

Dave.

Number 1. (British AB64 as mentioned above - 2 of the variants encountered - the one on the left is to a NZ soldier)...

post-1-1059258687.jpg

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...Number 2. The Canadian variant of AB64 (2 examples - I have ,up to press, encounted 5 variations)...

post-1-1059258805.jpg

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...Number 3. the Australian pay-book...

post-1-1059258939.jpg

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...and going to a couple of our allies...

Number 3. The U.S.Army pay book...

post-1-1059259083.jpg

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...and Number 5, the French (pre and early war) paybook (one variant of many).

Hope this is of some help,

dave.

post-1-1059259242.jpg

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Ian T,

The practice of withdrawing the AB64 before going into action was quite common early in the war.

However, GHQ BEF issued GRO 1895 on 26 Oct 1916 stating this practice was to cease and that the soldier would retain his pay book in all cases. This GRO stood for the rest of the war. It was never repeated which is a usual indication that it was adhered to fairly closely. However, as can be seen by some previuos posts what was official policy and actual practice could be two different things.

Joe Sweeney

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Thanks for that Joe - most interesting, for as I mentioned above before Arras most of the attacking units to the south of the city (56th Div, 14th Div, 21st Div eg) issued Op Orders requiring soldiers to remove ALL forms of ID from themselves, including paybooks and even hand in dog tags! I have always thought this is why Arras has such a high proportion of missing.

But as you say what was official policy wasn't always practised in the field.

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