Why two 'Dog Tags' / identity discs ?

Discussion in 'General' started by SteveDee, Aug 1, 2018.

  1. SteveDee

    SteveDee Member

    Something that puzzled me last winter when I was researching my dad's life in WW2 was why he had 2 ID tags. As they seem to be made of different materials, I vaguely assumed that they may be resistant to different chemicals, but that sounds like a really silly idea now I come to think of it.

    So what can you knowledgable guys tell me about ID tags?

    How many were issued to each serviceman, why the difference, and what was each type made of?
     

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  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

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  3. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    In case people think your father was a vicar, perhaps amending the thread title to "dog tags" will avoid confusion!
    I believe the reason for 2 was that one would be taken from the body to be handed in to the Battalion Office and the other to remain with the body for burial identification.

    Think of the scenes in "Saving Private Ryan" where they go through bags of ID tags.Only the one removed per person, or the burial would be of an Unknown.
    Bah! TD won "fastest finger"!!
     
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  4. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Usually referred to as identity discs in the British Army. In fact there were three, with the third being attached to the respirator haversack. This was both an aid to identification of the wearer, and the mask - they were made in various sizes so it was important to grab the correct one.

    I recall my Dad saying that the red one was fire-proof and the green intended to survive if immersed but I can find no reference to this so perhaps it was simply what the troops believed at the time. In fact they both seem to have been made from a compressed fibre with an asbestos content - so handle with reasonable care.
     
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  5. SteveDee

    SteveDee Member

    After a bit of searching, the general view is that the round red id tag was cut off a body to record a death, while the octagonal one was left for burial details.

    The tags are described as "vulcanised asbestos". I couldn't find any sensible information on methods used to manufacture or safety considerations, so you will have to make your own mind up.

    Vulcanising may mean that the asbestos (a kind of naturally occurring silicate) has been heated to a sufficiently high temperature to make it inert (a process that has recently been considered as a sensible alternative to burying the stuff in landfill). Or it could just mean "sealing" in some way.

    Asbestos is really dangerous if you breath in fibres. It can also cause forms of cancer if you swallow fibres. Fibres can also get into your skin if you handle it, although this is generally not considered so serious.

    Personally I have no problem handling these ID tags, although I wouldn't try drilling holes in them. I did so many silly things when I was younger, working alongside my dad (like using a jigsaw on asbestos sheet) that a couple of ID tags are probably the least of my problems! Dad actually died of a lung condition, but something got to him before the asbestos.

    See also: First World War Identity tags
     
  6. SteveDee

    SteveDee Member

    You may need to give me a clue on how to do this. I can see how to edit the thread tags, but how do I edit titles or body of the text on this forum?
     
  7. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    I think a moderator can change your title.
     
  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Changed the title from dog collars for you.
     
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  9. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    See HSE view: WW1 Identity Discs/ Dog tags
     
  10. SteveDee

    SteveDee Member

    Yes, I found this, but it looks like someone has associated "vulcanised" with rubber.

    Asbestos sheet is very brittle (I found a small piece about twice the size of an ID disc in the garden recently). If it was simply given a rubber coating, it would shatter when stamped with a punch, which is how the servicemans name & ID numbers were applied.

    Clearly these ID tags have very different properties and a different structure to asbestos/silicates.

    See also: Vulcanization - Wikipedia
     
  11. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    You and CRS1418 are overcomplicating this I think.

    IIRC the first major exploitation of vulcanisation came at the end of the nineteenth century in the manufacture of tyres, hence the association with rubber. That it came to be associated with a range of processes and other materials is a red herring – remember we are talking about the state of technology a century ago.

    Rather than coating sheet asbestos, which is not its natural form, the tags are an amalgam of rubber and asbestos, which is to an extent, flexible and mouldable.
     
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  12. Blutto

    Blutto Plane Mad

    Worth considering the original post, some of which I would like to know about:

    Something that puzzled me last winter when I was researching my dad's life in WW2 was why he had 2 ID tags. As they seem to be made of different materials, I vaguely assumed that they may be resistant to different chemicals, but that sounds like a really silly idea now I come to think of it.

    So what can you knowledgable guys tell me about ID tags?

    How many were issued to each serviceman, why the difference, and what was each type made of?
     
  13. SteveDee

    SteveDee Member

    Many thanks for your input.

    Several vulcanisation processes where developed in the mid 1800's including vulcanised fibre (1859) and sulfur vulcanization of rubber (by Goodyear). Interestingly, I understand that the chemistry was not understood then, and is not fully understood now.

    I don't have a clear understanding of "amalgams" in the context of 2 non-metals such as rubber & asbestos. But I think the interesting question is the risk level associated with keeping and handling WW2 ID tags.

    There is no totally safe level of asbestos. But are there processes that render items that are partly composed of asbestos relatively safe?

    Having "asbestos" in the name, may or may not mean that it contains hazardous needle-shaped fibres. But if these ID tags are dangerous, we probably shouldn't be passing them on to the next generation.

    I guess one possible course of action is to send one to an asbestos testing lab for analysis. Such tests seem to be available for as little as £30.
     
  14. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    Not being a scientist or a dentist, as few of us are on here, I was using ‘amalgam’ in its common usage to mean a mixture or blend.

    I am of course well aware of how potentially hazardous asbestos can be which is why I posed the question to the HSE last year. I restate their advice “Given that such tags are rarely handled, and most fibres will remain bonded in, the risk is thought to be low. We would recommend placing them in sealed transparent containers or sealed polythene bags”.
     

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