British Army Fibre Identity Discs

In 1914 the British Army had introduced a single round, red identity disc to be worn by soldiers to identify their bodies if they were to be killed in action. This disc replaced an earlier metal design that had been in use since 1907 and was to be removed after death to prove that a man had been killed. Unfortunately this then left the body unidentified and especially after decomposition men could not be given a burial under their own name. To solve this problem in 1916 a second disc was introduced in the form of a green octagon that would remain on the body, whilst the red disc was removed. A description of the new system was published and distributed in that year:

By the end of the Great War shortcomings had been noted, including that the fibre and string were vulnerable to fire and also rotted quickly in the ground. Despite this, the fibre discs remained in service until well after the Second World War and today we are looking at a pair of identity disc sets:

I believe that the original owners of these discs were brothers as they share the same surname, interestingly however the religions are different, with one marked COFE for Church of England, and the other RC for Roman Catholic. I also suspect that these are later in date as the stampings are particularly deep, earlier ones seem to have been stamped by hand using punches and are not as well defined as these discs which I suspect were produced in a machine, hence the very clear and regular nature of the markings:

Identical sets of discs were used by the RAF, except they had RAF stamped on them and the red discs were also used as identifiers on respirators and their haversacks for decades after their main use as identity discs had been superseded.

Metal identity discs started to be introduced in the Second World War in response to these rotting in the jungles of South East Asia, however it would take many years for them to become standard issue and these fibre discs would be common to many throughout the 1950s.

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