A few days previous, I posted another batch of dog-tags home, they all should have arrived by now. Sometimes we get messages of thanks, other times I hear nothing, either way, we know we have done our bit. Yesterday I had an email from the Brian, the son of LO Bent. He thanks us for the dog-tags and gave us a few little snippets of history including one where he bumped into his brother Bert (Herbert) in Cairo. I then thought "hmmm, H BENT, that sounds familiar". I quickly looked up on the database and sure enough we have an H Bent listed! I typed out a reply and tagged in Katey and explained that we may have his brothers too, but would been a way of proving this is the right H Bent. Katey is now digging around looking for a connection or if we can track the serial number to the correct soldier. Brian also is contacting some other family members to see if they have and details of their H Bent.
Brian also said they he knows there are photographs of his Dad in uniform... somewhere :) so he will definitely find us one when he can. How amazing would it be if we have two tags to the same family and just like the were reunited in Cairo, we can get all these two sets of tags back together also. Fingers crossed!
One of the most peculiar things about where we dig these dog-tags is the lack of other finds. Usually relic hunting involves lots of time, finding not a lot and when you do find something its different to the last things you found an 30 minutes ago. However, here you only find dog-tags! over 99% of all finds are dog-tags, the only exception to this are 1 Royal Artillery cap badge, 2 identical 'GVI' spoons, 1 metal soap dish, an old penny and a miniature bottle (empty) of Martel! Baring in mind that over 15,000 dog-tags have been this is a pretty one sided show of finds.
02/10/2017 - Now that the BBC show has finally aired, I am able to write all about what these dog-tags were about. Now the BBC was great and it should really help return more of these dog-tags, albeit a little 'staged and scripted' to make a program worth watching. If you saw the program then you will already know the history behind these, if you didn't then I can finally reveal that these dog-tags were part of the preperations for the troops that were going out to fight the Japanese on their home ground. Luckily for these troops the Americans dropped the two atomic bombs and the whole invasion was cancelled as the war came to a swift conclusion. How did we come to this conclusion... well forget everything you saw on the BBC. It idea of the Japanese invasion forces was raised by Katey, she would tell people on a regular basis that there was a good chance that this is what the dog-tags were made for. However we had no proof, my theory was based all around the fact these were metal. As we know from the research, every dog-tag was for a solider in the RAC/RTR or Recce, all armoured fighting vehicles. My conclusion was that they were being changed over to stainless steel so that they would withstand fires inside the vehicles, the fibre ones would simply vanish under the heat and flame!
It would eventually turn out we were both correct. The Victoria from the BBC connected me and asked if I would be interested in doing a piece for InsideOut London. I am one of those odd people who never watches TV, so the program meant nothing to me at all, but after talking with a few people it would seem that lots of people had heard of it... just not me! I agreed of course and lots of emails went backwards and forward and we Vic said we should meet up with Mark Smith who deals with a lot of the militaria on Antiques Roadshow. We set a date and we both travelled into London and met him on the strand and we sat down to discuss what he thought of this. He asked what I knew about the dog-tags, I explained everything that I knew as fact, not what I believed. He said, "ah interesting, so they are all active soldiers, no KIA and nobody discharged". He asked about the dates that I have records for, they cover lots of pre war and right up until the very end of the war. He smiled and said "invasion of Japan?", as soon as he said it I knew it was right, but could we prove it. I started looking into which units were planned to go to Japan. When ever I found mention of an armoured unit, it was one that we had dog-tags too! A good sign. Mark contacted a few different people and we met up with a gentleman at the Imp War Museum, he didn't really tell is anything we didn't know, but he did tell us about a General Lethbridge who did a comprehensive study of the invasion preparations for the invasion! These were kept at Kings College London and suggested a visit to the Tank Museum at Bovington as they have all the RAC records in an archive room. The archive was fantastic and would be an amazing tool to help us return dog-tags... however they did promise to email me to discuss just having access to or them pulling records, but they have never emailed me :( I guess they don't want to help, really annoying as these records only exist there and they could make all the difference in a tag going home or not.
Kings college was amazing, the records that Lethbridge compiled were just so detailed. He had planned for everything and had studies into every aspect of the invasion and Japanese culture and way of thinking. We even found mention of our dog-tags being recommended to be made from the same materials as the American tags, of stainless steel. Also, under that was mention of the rot-proof cords! Well I know first hand that these cords don't rot, some of these come out with the cords still on them. All neatly tied up, ready for issuing. There is no other mention anywhere of the British Army having metal dog-tags during WW2. Although never issued, these are a nice reminder of a different future that almost came to be. Up to 90% of these soldiers to whom I have dog-tags wouldn't have come home is a horrible reminder of what war is really about.
Oh, somehow I sort of missed a link in the chain of the story... I was tipped off that there maybe reference to these dog-tags in a book all about the British Army uniforms and equipment worn during WW2 in the tropics. With a good mention of 1944 Jungle pattern, or usually shortened to 'Jungle Patt', most famous for its shortened Lee Enfield No.5. The book is called 'Khaki Drill and Jungle Green', it comprises lots of photographs of a bunch of guys who have all the correct kit to stage photographs in the countries where they would have been worn! Quite some task to acquire the kit, let alone travelling the world to take a few photographs, however some of it must have been good fun! There is no mention of my dog-tags, however, interestingly there are two photographs of a kit layout of 44 Jungle Patt. On top of a shirt are two metal dog-tags which match mine identically! I know how hard it was to find out about these metal dog-tags. How did they find out? Are those originals? If so where the hell did they come from? I will try and make contact with the author and see what he knows.
Excuse the interruption.... the text above will continue shortly.
So I have had many people refuse to help, when they easily could have, people like the Royal British Legion, Army Museums, they all told me that the task of returning these was impossible. They certainly didn't help, but although its not easy, its not impossible. Around a couple of months ago, I decided I would broadly focus on individual units and try and find groups that were 'experts' in their own fields of interest. I found some really helpful people about a couple of the really odd dog-tags, like COUGHLIN the Commando! I then contacted a group that seemed to know a lot about Reconnaissance (Recce), I started a thread on their forum 'ww2talk.com' all about returning these dog-tags. At the time I couldn't say to much as the BBC story hadn't aired and I was still sworn to secrecy and I decided to enquire about an MM winner whose tag I was looking into. Except for the first few posts that are in relation to him, everything from then on wards was negative. Receiving comments about giving them to the families like this
"Easily done put them back in the field.
As they were never issued how can any family say they were their relatives tags?"
Hardly helpful or inspiring.
"...you don't have to have been interested in the popular end of Second World War history for long before you find a) a lot of self-publicists and b) a good number of people out to make money by misrepresenting the past."
Nice, so it's nothing to do with returning dog-tags, but all about me. Is my name even on this website? Hardly self publicising is it, although the next has to be one of my favourites.
"Allow a little scepticism. There's a smattering of archaeologists on here, some quite advanced in the field, and the first question I've been wanting to ask on their behalf is how exactly these tags were found. The media story is 'near an AA site', and I'm told by someone I regard as a very reliable source that most such places are scheduled monuments with permission rather unlikely to be granted."
but all the best comments are from one guy called CRS1418 who simply doesn't believe I thing I have to say.
"why has a load of 1960 pattern identity discs got pre-1950 Army numbers on them?"
"I'm 99% certain that they're 1950's manufactured discs stamped up either erroneously or with obsolete information."
He goes on and on, sadly he has only have a few months to think about these dog-tags were as we have had many years and have spent who knows how long research not only their existence but the soldiers behind them. I got fed up with everyone simply not believing a thing I was saying and ignoring the fact that I wanted help about returning/issuing them home. I snapped, I'm not known for having patience when dealing with people who can't or don't want to listen or learn. I told them, forget it, I'm off. Months went past and I never thought about the group.
Today many months later I got an email saying that someone had commented on the thread. I should have known better! Why did I go and look? I had never had an email from that website before (I never will again, I made sure of that). So I went back and looked, I saw someone had written something positive, interesting start. I think I had actually missed it from before.
"I think your project is both mad in its scale but magnificent in concept.I will look at your FB site with interest."
Nice, I hope you read this and smile that yours is the only actually nice comment on there and that I picked it out to use. I went on to read more from CRS1418 and some interesting theories, some which I sat here shaking my head at. If you couldn't see all the hours, days, weeks, months, in fact years worth of research, you would possibly be mistaken to come up with some of these. However we have already been down that path, trodden those roads and iron out those theories. However, it just doesn't matter what I type on that website, I don't know if they think I am lying, inventing a story or what. What ever I write is just clearly wrong, fabricated or just a lie. I don't even want to talk about what the dog-tags are... I just want to give them away to the right people and as some of them said on that website. They are very knowledgeable when it comes to the Recce guys and I believe them, however getting them to discuss anything other than wild theories is impossible. So I made sure that I will not get any more notifications from there website, I would have deleted my profile, but there is no way I could see of doing it. So I wrote in every space on my profile, "delete me" and on top of that left a message explaining my disgust at the way that everything was all about these fake, made up, fictitious dog-tags. I doubt I will hear from them again... at least I hope so. I wasted days on them, when that could have been spent cleaning, sorting, researching dog-tags. Note to self "If people don't believe or want to learn, don't waste your time".
Although one thing might come out of this as a positive, many many years ago before I would consider myself a grown up, I sold a Lee Enfield No.4 to a chap online, he sent payment and agreed to meet at a militaria fair (I think it might have been Malvern), for some reason he cancelled, and he never got his rifle. Not sure what happened now, this is well over 10 years ago. He appeared on the thread and so contact has been made again, although I no longer have that rifle. I asked him to give me his address and I can send him a cheque. Correcting an error from my past from many, many years ago.
OK... so enough of sharing my frustrations with you all... yup, anyone reading this can share the joys of getting these home and the time wasted dealing with folks at 'ww2talk.com'.
I did get a reply from Martin J Brayley the author of 'Khaki Drill and Jungle Green', he kindly gives us permission to share these couple of snaps below which are of the kit layout he did for the book. In which you can see metal dog-tag layed out. The ones used in the photo were some of Dickie Ingrams and Martin says that although the dog-tags were photographed, nothing was mentioned as these were always secondary to the uniforms.
Above - the kit layout of 1944 Jungle Pattern Kit, the tags seen on vest,
Left - a close up of the second photo of the kit layout, the orange coloured rot proof cord matching the ones we found perfectly.
Thank you Martin, for allowing us use of the photographs.