1939 National Register - help please

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by simond9x, Nov 14, 2019.

  1. simond9x

    simond9x Member

    I've been researching my father (William Phillips)'s life and, in particular, his service in WW2 but have reached an apparent contradiction. His family home was in Ferndale in the Rhondda. In 1936, he enrolled for 3 years at Caerleon College in Newport to train as a teacher and he took digs with a family in Cardiff. He told me that he volunteered to do his 2 years National Service as soon as he qualified so that there wouldn't be a subsequent break in his teaching career but that war broke out whilst he was doing his service so he was in for the duration. However, now that I have his Army Service Records there's an apparent contradiction.

    The copy of his 1939 National Register entry that I obtained from Ancestry (attached), which I understand was taken at the end of September 1939, clearly shows him at the same address in Cardiff and described as a University Student. [I thought this was strange because his 3 year college course would surely have finished around May or June of 1939].

    His Army Service Record shows him enlisting in July 1939 and, on 01 September 1939, being assigned to a searchlight battery at Kinmel near Rhyl in North Wales.

    Can anyone shed any light on whether or not the 1939 National Register was undertaken earlier than September in Wales or whether there was a similar 'census' taken around 1938-39 which Ancestry may be posting as the 1939 National Register? I'm confused. Thanks in advance for any help or advice.

    Attached Files:

  2. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member


    It's doubtful that Wales was done earlier.

    The section here, under "military anomalies" may help.

    1939 Register - The National Archives

    I'm using the National Archives info for this in lieu of paysites like FMP and ancestry.


  3. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Was there `National Service` at that time ?
    `Conscription` in Britain existed for two periods from 1916 to 1920, and from 1939 to 1960, ( last conscripted soldiers left in1963).
    The periods were known as Military Service from 1916 -20, and `Conscription` from 1939 -60 it was called `War Service`? Post war it was `National Service` but nothing between 1920-39 ? I think theres a thread about it somewhere?

  4. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    From what you detail, I'd suspect that you father's memory was faulty, rather than official records in this instance.
    The reference to "National Service" is a clue, as before WW2 you could volunteer for the Army (or as in my Dad's case opt for joining the Army rather than youth custody!) Don't forget, these events were 80 years ago and retelling often points get out of sequence, mis-stated or mis-remembered, often unintentionally.
    As for being described as a university student in September when he "should have finished in May or June" well, that's likely due to him not having secured a teaching position. Most people were pretty sure a War was coming after Munich proved to be mere propaganda by Hitler, but it bought us vital time in which to upgrade defences such as radar and more modern aircraft than string and sealing wax biplanes.
  5. simond9x

    simond9x Member

    Thanks for the quick replies - I really do appreciate you taking the time to help. You're almost certainly right about the National Service - probably my faulty memory of what my father actually told me 20 or 30 years ago. However, I'm still puzzled by one official document that places my father as a student in Cardiff on the 26th (?) of September and his official Service Record that places him in the Royal Artillery in Rhyll on the 1st of September. Hmm..........?
  6. simond9x

    simond9x Member

    I've just read the Wiki entry for National Service (I understand that this is not necessarily accurate). It says "....the cabinet of Neville Chamberlain introduced a limited form of conscription on 27 April 1939, with the Military Training Act being passed the following month. Only single men 20 to 22 years old were liable to be called up, and they were to be known as "militiamen" to distinguish them from the regular army. The intention was for the first intake to undergo six months of basic training before being discharged into an active reserve. They would then be recalled for short training periods and attend an annual camp. At the outbreak of war, on 3 September 1939, the Military Training Act was overtaken by the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, and the first intake was absorbed into the army."

    This is almost exactly the story that my father told me ie. that he wanted to complete his military service (6 months not the 2 years I assumed) before starting his teaching job but the war broke out whilst he was still training. He was 20 years old. His Service Record says that he was enlisted into the 'Army Reserve - Militia' in July 1939 (presumably on leaving college in May/June). I just wonder why the 1939 National Register showed him as a student in Cardiff in September 1939?
  7. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    It might have been possible your father was present that night, or away on a course. The family he had digs with may have given his details in his absence and the enumerator returned at a later date and confirmed.

    Maybe your Dad was just proud to say he was a student. Do you think it possible he had hopes of furthering his education?

    Be grateful you found him. My grandfather must have his 1939 details snarled up with him likely counted in the Merchant Seamen details. Even though he died in Durham 1960, his details have still never gone online. He was likely added when the NHS register was compiled off the data from '39.
  8. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    "...I just wonder why the 1939 National Register showed him as a student in Cardiff in September 1939?"

    Does it?
    Surely the extract you initially posted includes him at the family home, 9, Kensington Ave?
    As has been pointed out, you already have a level of detail that many would envy. Does it matter?

    His family would be the most likely to ensure he was registered and it seems more than possible he had returned home while he was seeking his future career path, until War interrupted his plans.
  9. wibs12

    wibs12 Well-Known Member

    Agree with much of the above which ends with the likelihood that you know what you know and there's probably little further that you'll be able to get from any other records to add to your knowledge. It's worth saying that 100% of the details on all census' published from 1841 to 1939 shouldn't be taken as absolutely irrefutable and definitive fact...... 99% is, but not everything.

    I've had numerous examples over the years of peoples names being incorrectly spelled, of ages / years of birth being mis-recorded, people being included on the same census at two different addresses and family members relationships changing from one census to the next. Some of this is about the census enumerator mis-hearing / mis-recording 'facts', some is about family members providing false information (e.g. covering up the birth of illegitimate children in the family etc.).

    Well done on finding out what you've got, but I'd jump onto the next facet of your research and get excited about that! Good luck.
  10. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Newspaper adverts notifying the public of the requirement to register for "National Service" first appeared in May 1939. I'm looking at a digitised copy of the Tenbury Advertiser for Saturday 22nd May 1939. So he may well have completed his registration form whilst he was still a student.
  11. simond9x

    simond9x Member

    Thanks to everyone for your replies and comments, I appreciate you taking the time. I will, as suggested, close this line of enquiry and move on. I think his army Service Records will be the accurate record of where he was in September 1939 (in the Royal Artillery in Rhyll, not still a student in digs in Kensington Ave in Cardiff). Maybe his landlady thought he was coming back to college and put his name down. Who knows? Thanks all.
    CL1 likes this.
  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    I think you are making an error. The register is dated September 1939 but it was compiled from data collected by registrations begun in May 1939 - see my earlier post.

    In a pre computer age such things often took some considerable time to produce.
  13. simond9x

    simond9x Member

    Hi Robert, yes, I'm sorry, I misunderstood what you were telling me. I hadn't realised that, I thought the 1939 Registrations all took place in September. Your info sorts out my problem - thanks. I can move on without that 'nagging doubt'.
  14. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    I can find contemporary news paper items from 1939 including published official notices that refer to it as National Service. The term also referred to civilian conscription ( direction to specific industries) including but not restricted to the "Bevin Boys" conscripted into the mines. The unpublished diaries of Doreen Kippen include an account of her registration for National Service in 1941 - she was directed to work in a firm making specialist machine tools for the aircraft industry.

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