WW1 Identity Discs/ Dog tags

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by CROONAERT, Jul 1, 2010.


    CROONAERT Ipsissimus

    In my inability to to get it on as a pdf, I went down the Google Docs route (thanks Za). Not as good quality as the PDF, but , hey-ho!

    Thought this might be of interest/use to some. Basically it's just my notes on WW1 dog-tags/Identity tags strung together in booklet format. It appears elsewhere on the web (in very outdated (and slightly innacurate) format on the WFA Website and also in text-only format on my own website), but this is the most up to date version with images...WW2 version to follow in a while.

    Google Docs
    dbf likes this.
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

  3. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    Saw the story yesterday in the Guardian and thought it interesting that the home made IDs as made by Pte McAleer should last as they did long enough to identify him.The burial details were on the CWGC website and for some reason or not,there were other British who could not be identified and were buried as unknowns.Also the remains of 50 German soldiers were found and these have been passed to the German authorities.

    His body must have lain in the optimum soil conditions all these years and his name was retained....pity that his relatives could not be found.

    While we have been discussing IDs and the materials used,my thoughts cast on copper.It has always been used to earth electrical systems.Indeed large electrical complexes such as power plants and grid substations have the earth provided by a earthing grid, buried,surrounding the site with attached electrodes driven several feet into the ground arround the earth grid.In my experience I have never come across a situation where the earth electrodes have been corroded away.
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Copper sounds good to me..........

    Doubt if it would ever be adopted though, purely because of costs.

    Heartening story however and, as you said, pity it's too late for his relatives. :(

  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    How about leather ones as per my greatuncles below

    Dscn0037.jpg Dscn0038.jpg

    I am not sure how long they would have lasted under ground, but I understand that they were issued with 2 - one worn around the neck and the other around the ankle.

  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Getting back to Pte McAleer,

    Today's DT newspaper reports it that his relatives were traced and his great nephew,Stephen McLeod was at the burial.He related that " I didn't know much of William McAleer but when I was going off to join the Black Watch,my gran gave me the Mass card from the service held for him at home after he disappeared.Now,he's returned for a proper burial.Things have come full circle"

    According to the DT,ID discs were not issued until 1916 and even then,they were flimsy cardboard ones.

    DT puts the German dead found at the location as 30.

    Savage losses at Loos.Reserve No 21 and 24 Divisions were rushed up at speed...exhausted and not fed or watered,they were ill conditioned to fight.The small Lincolnshire market town of Gainsborough lost 35 men on one day at Loos.
  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Harry,

    In the photos attached to my last post, the one on the right with a 4 digit service number was issued (in leather) in 1914 and the one on the left (also in leather) was issued in 1917, so I dont understand where they have obtained their information from.

  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    A very informative website Owen...thanks for refreshing.
  10. CRS1418

    CRS1418 Ipsissimus

    A few years down the line, I know, but it's now back online (sort of!). To be honest, it's a brand new website with a totally different URL that is heavily based on 'Paths of Glory' (I lost the original domain after letting it lapse).

    Now called '...At Some Disputed Barricade...' (yes, another Great War literary link!), the 'new' (heavily updated with new and more accurate information) identity disc page (just WW1 at the moment, WW2 will follow) can be found at ... Identity Discs

    Take a look at the trench maps sections too (if that's your thing!) ... as far as I know, I'm doing something pretty unique on the WWW here ... Trench Maps

    dbf and timuk like this.
  11. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    As the tags introduced during WW1 were made from vulcanised asbestos fibre I have sought advice from the Health and Safety Executive whether the vulcanisation process rendered these fibres safe indefinitely. They responded:

    Such tags remaining in the hands of collectors are not normally involved in work activities and so are not subject to HSE’s health and safety requirements. It is foreseeable that the rubber may perish and fragment over time, but HSE has no information as to the likely degree of fibre release or when this may occur. 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. We suggest you may wish to discuss with the Imperial War Museum.

    N.B. I added the two commas - it didn't read well without them!
  12. CRS1418

    CRS1418 Ipsissimus

    So.. they don't really have any idea then do they? ;) (and what are they talking about when they mention rubber by the way?)

    Not had too good an experience regarding detail about Identity discs with the IWM in the past to be honest (clueless may be being a little harsh, but not too far off the mark!)

  13. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    Dave, vulcanisation is a manufacturing process that changes the properties of rubber, making it more durable.

    With the resources available to them I had hoped that the HSE would have been less equivocal. Nevertheless, a ‘low risk’ is still a risk, and with Remembrance Sunday coming up, members might want to consider their advice before digging-out their ancestor’s effects.

    TD - the round tag was supposed to be suspended from the later octagonal tag - hence the two holes.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I thought it was in case ones head was blown off, they still had the one on your ankle to know who you were, thats what my Great Uncle told me who wore them.

  15. CRS1418

    CRS1418 Ipsissimus

    Not just rubber, though... other polymers can be vulcanised too (and isn't fibrous vulcanisation a totally different process to rubber/polymer vulcanisation anyway?).

    I've never heard of rubber being used in the manufacture of (British) identity discs hence my query.


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