What have we learnt so far...
Well, its been at least four years since we first dug found some of these dog-tags. (I will try not to repeat too much in this, but I feel we need to summarise a little. We wondered when we first found these if anyone could be returned. Well we did, so far only over a 100 have gone to where they belong, but this is still only the start of this project and that will continue.
The biggest puzzle was why all these were made of metal, but with the help of Mark Smith and the BBC we got to the bottom of that also. Some people seemed to think they were made for soldiers not yet drafted into the Army, clearly that was wrong with all the reports going back to the 1930 (must give credit to the 'ww2Talk' website for there lack of knowledge, unwillingness to help and refusal to learn, on top of that their lack of manners. Funny thing is, they claimed to be experts in RAC,RTR,Recce but couldn't offer a single bit of information on anything), the same people also suggested I made these! All 24,000+ of them. They were all made for the Royal Armoured Corps and all the units that fell under that title. They would be issued to the serving troops to replace the fibre dog-tags that were not suitable to tropical climate. As recommended by Major-General Leathbridge who compiled the huge report detailing every aspect of what was needed for the ground assault on mainland Japan.
We can prove these dog-tags were to be given to existing soldiers in a number of ways, we have hundreds of reports of these soldiers Wounded, going missing, getting captured, being awarded all types of medals and mention in dispatches. Not only this, but we are now finding items that belonged to these men, including an AB64 pay-book and the RAC Italy booklet. More importantly I have seen mentioned on EBay the fibre dog-tags belonging to a soldier that we have the stainless steal dog-tags for. Sadly this was years ago and no photograph is shown.
What I have recently found is important; a medal group (unnamed of course) with dog-tags to a soldier that we do have a dog-tag for. Both proving that the fibre dog-tags were issued to these soldiers and that these stainless steal dog-tags we found were never issued. Of course we knew this, but its nice to see further proof. I do feel these items are an important part of this story and of course, its another dog-tag that I don't need to return. The family already sold off his medals and tags, so do I really want to give them something else to sell when I can treasure it the way it should be treasured?
As well as being lucky enough to find these, I started hunting around all over the internet to see if I could find anything else. Sure enough, I soon found a General Service Medal with Palestine
1945-48 clasp which was certainly outside my usual collecting window. It came with the original medal issued box as well. So makes for a perfect displayable piece in a cabinet now totally devoted to this dog-tag project.
I looked further into the Palestine conflict and a member of ERH, David Hill brought the medal rolls to my attention, in particular the one that lists all the soldiers issued this medal to all the armoured units under the Royal Armoured Corps. I started to go through the names/serial numbers these contained, checking them against my database and hundreds matched, giving me more details on these tags, most importantly the exact units they served with. I have started to find these from the drawers and have organised these into folders by unit. I have an entire folder from 17/21st Lancers just from that one Palestine campaign, that one is bulging to the point of almost bursting! I have another 4 folders to cover the other units and still have a long way to go before I have sorted them all.
With so many names and numbers to these Palestine medal, I started searching medal lists online to see if I could find any more. Sure enough, another popped up, so I contacted the seller who gave me a few more names and numbers, none of those matched, then he said he had sold a couple previously. One of those did match! However, as it was sold off, its one dog-tag that can be struck off the list, anything to limit down the ones to work on next is a positive step. Seeing so many names and numbers to work on can be rather daunting. The other medal arrived, Trooper F W Dunn.
It seems if I try hard enough I could probably fill a cabinet with these GSM Palestine medals. Although the cost of purchasing them would certainly start to be a problem before long! I started to look for more personal items connected to soldiers, it has always been our goal to actually see photographs of the soldiers who's faces are hidden behind all these names and numbers. That posed the question of how? I started looking for pay-books and sure enough found a nice lot to Bryan Colleir 19032095 who served with the RTR. Included with his pay-book, was a couple photographs, receipts from the NAAFI/Mess hall, passes to leave camp and other bits and bobs. He wasn't the best soldier in the world, after asking around about the grades he got that are in his pay-book, it would seem he got the bare minimum not to be bumped down to a shelf stacker, or truck driver.