Double Army Numbers & related difficulties with MOD applications

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by oldscaley, Jan 16, 2024.

  1. oldscaley

    oldscaley Member

    Hello all,
    Doing research on Grandfathers service records, and without getting into the details wanted to ask the 'schoolboy' questions ( you know the type of question, all the other kids in class laugh, but you know they want to ask )

    Here is the question: Pre and During World War 2, is it possible that soldiers could have had 2 service numbers ? has anyone seen this before?
    Specifically for Royal Artillery / Royal Engineers

    Background and rationale:

    I have G/Fathers, id tags, service and pay book, and his medals. My mum is still going strong so very basic questions can be verified but no real detail (she was born 1939). So in theory easy to research.....

    GFather served 1926 - 1931 & 1939 - 1945
    In his pay book all seems to be Royal Artillery, and entries covering both periods; and GMother is noted so we are pretty sure this is his book.

    When I ask MOD and TNA for his records they come up blank with the service number on his tags and in his pay book, and say there is another guy with his name, DoB but with a different service number, waiting for those records from TNA

    All his records say RA, but the only picture we have of him wearing the old service cap (in WW2) has a Royal Engineers Cap badge, .. in his paybook there is an entry saying Arm... RA(S/L) which we take as search lights, and think that they came under RE command in WW2
    von Poop likes this.
  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    It is possible, especially given the break in service.

    Although not quite the same circumstances, my grandfather joined Irish Guards in 1913, and was therefore was given a Regimental number. Then, when they instigated Army Number system, he was allocated an IG Army Number whilst in the Reserves.

    He enlisted with RA in Oct 1939 and was given yet another Army Number relating to their block allocations.

    Double allocation of Army Numbers happened often enough for the War Office records branch to issue an instruction to staff - IIRC the newer number was to be retained and used in records.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2024
  3. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member


    Welcome to the forum.

    It was intended that soldiers serving after 1920 in the British Army kept the number first issued to them for their army career, even if they went on to serve in a different corps or regiment (there were as ever times when it did not happen such as militia recruits in 1939). This provided continuity both for the soldier & for admin of pensions etc.

    It was a lesson learnt from WW1 when with millions of soldiers serving, regimental numbers continued to be issued & changed on every transfer to a new regiment or even battalion of a regiment. Numbers were thus duplicated many times across the army & even several times within some regiments.

    S/L is in Royal Artillery records usually search light. Before the war these were operated by the Royal Engineers, but by 1940 had been converted to RA units.
    Searchlight Regiments - The Royal Artillery 1939-45

    RA numbers can be checked in both the attestation books on findmypast and sometimes on the RA tracer cards on ancestry. Let me know by private message if you prefer if you want a look up in the tracer cards.

    dbf likes this.
  4. oldscaley

    oldscaley Member

    thanks dbf, well at least i haven't totally lost it , yet
  5. oldscaley

    oldscaley Member

    many thanks Travers, am waiting on feedback from TNA , once I have that I may come back to you, we do have one tracer card for him on the same service number that is in his pay book, I'll PM you once i get the data, regards,
  6. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    It most certainly is possible. If you look up Tex Banwell , a very well known Parachute Regiment soldier from WW2, you will see that he was named Keith Deamer Banwell. A person by this name enlisted into the Royal Artillery in 1935 and was given the Service number 846040. However on 24 August 1936 Banwell enlisted again, this time into the Hampshire Regiment, where he was given the Service number 5498293. This is the number he served under in WW2. As Banwell was born 8th October 1918 I suspect age may have been an issue with his first enlistment as he made himself a year older on his second. Only the service records under the Hampshire Regiment number were produced when I applied for his records but given the short period between the two enlistments I have not pursued this anomaly. Banwell was actually allocated a third service number when he rejoined as a Territorial in post war years
    4jonboy, dbf and JimHerriot like this.
  7. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    For reference:

    Sub. No: 179
    Subject: Army Numbers.

    1 . Reference War Office letter 19/Gen/9229 A.G.1. (C ) dated 6th January, 1940.

    2 . It has come to light that all Officers i/c Records have not been complying with paragraph 4 of this letter, which lays down that a new number, allotted to a man called up or re-enlisted with prior service will be retained, even though former service documents are eventually traced.

    3 . The instructions contained in the above-quoted War Office letter will be strictly complied with.

  8. oldscaley

    oldscaley Member

    hello Travers, just to let you know I haven't forgotten this, just put in a complaint to TNA, paid for search 15 Jan, still waiting........ they dont seem to want to talk to anyone on phone so entered a complaint today, their turnaround sates 20 working days, so hopefully i have been patient enough
  9. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member


    The time scales quoted by the TNA are the target times they are obliged to give & bear no relation to the actual time it takes which is usually many months. A friend has been waiting since December 2023 although the service record is already showing as at the TNA. His application was acknowledged & he has had at least one holding email.

    I & other forum members in the same boat will be interested to hear the outcome of your complaint.

  10. neilmrobinson

    neilmrobinson Member

    Can someone have two service numbers? (When applying for a record.)

    The service number for my late great uncle was a number beginning with a 1.

    When I sent a service record request to the MOD office, they said they've found a record with a service number starting T/6.

    The email says they won't know if it's him until they've ordered the record out of the repository and seen it.

    Is this normal? Thanks for your advice.

    Mod edit, dbf: Two threads merged.
  11. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Yes, is the simple answer. There was a thread recently where the person served in the TA before 1939, had Service Number and when rejoining the 'regular' army after a gap he had a second number.
  12. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Has your query not already been asked & answered in previous posts on the thread?

    Although not a common occurrence men could have 2 Army service numbers/files if (not an exhaustible list of possible scenarios - see above posts) -

    1. They failed to disclose previous “time expired” or “current reserve or TA” service at the time of subsequent enlistment.

    2. Fraudulent enlistment - usually after desertion - enlisted in another regiment and for obvious reasons fail to disclose previous service.

    3. Called up for 6 months full time militia service 1939 affiliated to a regular unit and issued a “Militia number. If still serving on outbreak of war would subsequently be posted to a battalion of the regular unit and issued an army service number from the regimental block of army service numbers.

    4. Called up for 6 months militia service 1938/39 but discharged before war declared. Subsequently conscripted/volunteered and disclosed militia service number but new army service number would be allocated.

  13. Shazbaz

    Shazbaz Patron Patron

    I'm afraid from my understanding that you may have a while longer to wait for your records.
    From what I have read, the turnaround time for service records has blown out to as much as 12 months or more, this seems to stem from the covid shutdown and the subsequent removal of the fee for records due to the MOD transfer project, since these two happenings the TNA have been inundated with service requests.
    My last e-mail update from them for records requested back in August 2023 is that the present wait time for ( uncomplicated ) records Is approx 9 months, I'm getting obsessed with checking my emails for update notifications lol
    RosyRedd likes this.

Share This Page