My thanks go again to Michael Whittaker who gave me tonight’s document for the collection. At the end of World War One men were demobilised and returned to civilian life and naturally began looking for employment. In 1918 references were essential for employment, with former employers writing a testimonial for leaving staff to help them acquire a new position. It would of course be impractical for commanding officers to write a bespoke reference for every soldier under their command, so the army prepared forms that could be quickly filled out and authorised before being issued to leaving soldiers. The use of the form, officially known as the ‘Certificate of Employment During the War, Army Form Z.18’, was described as:
The object of this certificate is to assist the soldier in obtaining employment on his return to civil life. The form will be complete as soon as possible in accordance with Demobilization Regulations.
As soon as signed and complete it will be given to the soldier concerned and will remain his property. He should receive it as early as is compatible with making necessary reference in order that he can either send it home or keep it in his possession.
One form will be issued to each man, and no duplicate can ever be issued.
This particular form was issued to an infantryman, Private Gershom Albert Davy of the 51st Battalion Sherwood Forresters:
His employment before he joined the army is listed as a ‘cotton pattern hand’. The rear of the form gives the testimonial which states that Private Davy is:
Very reliable, trustworthy and conscientious. Has performed his duties in a satisfactory manner.
The form is signed by the captain commanding B Company, 51st Battalion, Sherwood Forresters. These forms were obviously important documents to men seeking work and have survived in boxes of family papers up until the present day. They are useful for historians in identifying men’s professions when they joined up, although the level of detail on the forms varies depending on how conscientious the officer filling them out was.