World War One Discharge Certificate

Tonight we are looking at an interesting document from the end of the First World War. If a soldier was discharged form the army due to physical disability he was issued an Army Form B2079 that could be presented to the authorities to prove he was not absent without leave. This example dates from October 1918 and is a cream sheet of card, folded in half with instructions on the front to anyone who was to find it if it were to be lost:

SKMBT_C36415012608170_0001a1Opening up the form, we can see a wealth of information about the soldier to whom it was issued:SKMBT_C36415012608171_0001As can be seen this card was issued to Private Arthur Richardson of the Machine Gun Corps Cavalry. Pte Richardson was born in 1887 and had enlisted in Leeds in 1915. He seems to have served in 13th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, Northumberland Fusiliers and 20th Hussars before being posted to the Machine gun Corps where he completed his military service. He was discharged on 15th October 1918 after serving two years and 281 days before the colours and 45 days in the Army Reserve and was described as not being physically fit for service. The card was issued in London on the 15th and by the 24th October he must have been back in Leeds as there is a stamp on the cover from the Local Food office in Leeds:

SKMBT_C36415012608170_0001aPresumably this was when he was issued a civilian ration book, the document being used as evidence that he was no longer a serviceman. Helpfully Private Richardson’s medical and pension records still exist in the National Archives (not always the case unfortunately) and more details of his wounds can be seen.

From these we learn that he had been born in Bradford and was a wages clerk before the war and was 5’ 7 ½ “ tall and weighed 144 lbs when he enlisted:

BritishArmyWWIPensionRecords1914-1920%20(1)The rest of the document relates to his medical history, clearly gone into in great detail when he was awarded his pension after the war. We can see that he was first admitted to hospital with the injury that eventually led to his discharge occurred in December 1917. It appears he was gassed:BritishArmyWWIPensionRecords1914-1920%20(3)The next page reveals his symptoms as being breathing difficulties and a sensitivity to light:

BritishArmyWWIPensionRecords1914-1920%20(4)The rest of the documents reveal he was discharged for poor eyesight, presumably as a result of being gassed:

UKSilverWarBadgeRecords1914-1920ForArthurRoyalRichardsonHe is described as having lost 20% of his visual acuity:BritishArmyWWIPensionRecords1914-1920ForARRichardsonThis record is dated 17th October 1918, directly between the date of issue of the original Discharge documents, and the stamp on the cover from the Leeds Food Office. As can be seen from the documents above, there is a human story behind many items of ephemera and it is these personal stories that bring home why we collect and preserve these artefacts for future generations. The national collections and archives cannot hope to preserve everything, they have neither the budget nor the space, so it is left to those of us who collect to preserve, respect and pass on these important objects and stories for future generations.

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