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Thread: RAF dog tags

  1. #11
    LXXIV Guest

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    Gentlemen,

    The material used for the discs was NOT Bakelite, more a fibre material, known to many as 'composition'. 'Pressed Fibre' describes it quite accurately. As a matter of interest, below is an extract from a book 'After Battle' referred to on a Guardian blog, which describes the retrieval of bodies from the battlefield in World War 1:

    "Reasons of morale,hygiene and humanity imposed this unpleasant fatigue. Men would have on the nose and mouth pieces of their gas masks and probably sand bags on their hands. Breast pockets would be cut to extract pay books. The red identity disc would be sent to the orderly room, the green one left on the body for identification.

    Regards to all,
    LXXIV

  2. #12
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    Default RAF ID disks

    Thanks, LXXIV. I believe that "composition" indicates that the fibres were embedded into something, a binding agent, as fibres must have been to form a solid disk. At the time, the choice of a binding agent was limited to a phenol and formaldehyde mixture, or in other words: bakelite. The material became available at the end of the first decade of the previous century.

    The need-for-alu & steel argument may tell us something about views of the British on the importance of casualty identification versus the need for War hardware. After WW2, the British fielded the Missing Research & Enquiry Service, that was active until the early fifties. Lacking proper dog tags, the MR&ES task was a huge and very complicated one. The decisive tool of DNA technology was not yet available. Nowadays it is, but the MoD does not allow its use in WW2 and earlier MIA cases. The CWGC puts it in the following diplomatic phrase: "there is no precedent for the use of DNA technology in these cases". Other phrases are: "the dead should rest in peace". I venture to add "never mind if we know their graves or not". When looking at only the WW2 Allied, non-US airmen, and only the Western Theatre of Operations, we are talking about over 2.000, buried all over Europe in graves marked with "unknown". Surely a minority as compared to the British missing from WW1. Meanwhile, the Americans are actively researching their MIA cases, and that includes the standard use of DNA technology. They bring home a hundred MIA's each year, two per week. Having proper dog tags is a great help in this respect. If the dog tag is there, then identification is usually instantaneous. They estimate that of the about 80.000 US MIA's, all Wars of the 20th Century in which the USA participated, about half that number can be retrieved. Most of the others were lost at sea, where different rules apply. This job would take 40.000/100 is 400 years. Still they do it. The applicable US phrase is "until they are home".

  3. #13
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    Default RAF ID Disks

    In correction of a previous statement, I can now report that Dutch RAF ID disks have surfaced, in a private collection. Therefore, the Dutch RAF aviators were in fact given the standard issue Commonwealth ID disks, of Bakelite-like material, also called "fibre" or "composite". Quite the same as other non-Commonwealth RAF aviators. At least this has now been established for the Czechs and the Poles too.

    At least one Dutch RAF aviator preferred to wear the metal disk issued to him by the Dutch during Wartime flying training in the Dutch East Indies. Others may have done the same with metal disks supplied during Wartime training in the USA, in the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School. This could support my opinion that the British disks had a quality that could not be considered as adequate.

    I also stated that the British ID disks were quite often not found at crash sites. I offered the mechanical properties of the disks as an explanation. After having studied a number of exhumation reports from the British Missing Reserch & Enquiry Service (MR&ES), I offer one more possible explanation. The MR&ES was active from about 1944 to the early fifties, trying to find the graves of the missing, and to identify the remains of servicemen buried as unknowns. More often than not, the ID disks were not found. One more explanation is that the disks, and any other identifying items, were taken by the Germans, who in fact identified some of the casualties via these means. That led to initial burials by the Germans, with names on wooden crosses, names that would otherwise not have been connected to such graves. Many of the items themselves, having been separated from the bodies, as well as a good number of German "Totenliste" in which casualties were recorded, did not survive the War. Hence the MR&ES and the Red Cross were presented in the liberated areas with graves with names, without further proof of identity. Forensic exhumations did not yield that proof, but could yield information that confirmed the service and perhaps the rank of the casualty. This, in connection with the date and location of death, if recorded, led to identifications via the logical process of elimination. Example: if the remains of a crew were found buried, and if say one of the bodies could be recognized via the insigna on the uniform as a pilot, and if the location of death indicated the identity of the aircraft, and assuming that the crew of that aircraft was known, then that led to a positive identification of the pilot of that aircraft. If an aircraft had a four men crew, and if three could be identified in a way described above, then the fourth crewmember was identified with that too. All strictly logical and quite valid in the pre-DNA days.

  4. #14
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    Default Identity disks

    Hi all I have attached a photo of identity disks issued to aircrew in the early stages of ww2.
    I hoe that the images are reasonably clear. The cord that they are attached to was also issued at the same time as the disks.
    I agree also with the idea that one disk was fire proof and the other waterproof. I have certainly been told that in the past.
    Best wishes
    Gerry



    <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><img src="http://i187.photobucket.com/albums/x296/gedburke3/identitydisks.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

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