War Office Security Pass

Tonight we are looking at one of the most precious items in my collection, if I had to sell all the rest, this is the one piece I would hang on to. This little security pass was issued to my grandmother when she started working at the Army Pay Office in Ilfracombe in 1943. My grandmother, Joan Alice Hallett (neé Smith) was evacuated from London in 1939 and after being moved to a number of towns ended up in Ilfracombe, a seaside town in the south-west of England. When she left school in 1943 she stayed on in the town as her sisters were with her and younger then she was. She got a job as a secretary in the army pay office in the town and was issued with this security pass which gave her access to what was a restricted building:

SKMBT_C36415012608170_0001bThe pass is made of buff card, with a green cross on both sides. This green cross seems to be a typical feature of all security documents of the period. My grandmother tells me that, aged 14, she found all the soldiers, who were several years older than her, seemed very grown up and sophisticated. It was only years later when she saw young men of 18 in uniform that she realised how young they actually were. Inside the pass are her details, and the stamps of the regimental pay office in Ilfracombe, along with the date the pass was valid from , 3rd August 1943:

SKMBT_C36415012608171_0001aApparently the pay office was set up in a requisitioned hotel on the sea front and this seems typical of seaside towns in wartime. With the tourist trade gone, large buildings stood empty and ripe for taking over by the military. On the back of the pass can be seen a series of dates and the signature of what is presumably the Pay Office senior officer, endorsing the security pass for use beyond the initial month of issue:SKMBT_C36415012608180_0001As can be seen the pass extended beyond the end of the war and into June 1946, presumably she left the position after this date. My grandmother held onto this little pass for over fifty years, and finally gave it to me around 15 years ago. I mentioned to her recently that I still had it which seemed to surprise her as she didn’t realise how precious it was to me. These items of personal ephemera are always the nicest items to own as they have a direct, familial attachment and hopefully I will be able to pass this on to one of my grandchildren in the years to come.

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