Stripes, medals & dog collar

Dad's service in the Boys' Brigade

Reaching the rank of sergeant in the Boys Brigade;

Alec Davis Non-commissioned Officers Appointment: Boys Brigade

Dad’s Service Number

His ID (or ‘dog collar’) bears his name, his religion (Church of England), and service number 897204.

WW2 Service ID Tag: Alec Davis

When you were called-up/signed-up for military service, they always asked for your religion. If you said “none” they always stamped your ID with “C of E”.

The reason there were 2 ID tags on the same chain is that if someone was killed on the battle field, the red tag was cut off and used to record the death, while the green one was left with the body for burial details (e.g. grave marker).

I understand these tags are made from vulcanised asbestos, but have been unable to establish whether they represent any kind of health risk or whether the asbestos is inert. Asbestos is a generic name for various types of fiborous minerals which have a sharp, needle-like structure. These fibres can became embedded in the lungs if inhaled and the body is unable to deal with them, often with fatal consequences.

Rising through the ranks

Judging by the information on the Army website ( http://www.army.mod.uk/structure/32321.aspx ) it can take a regular soldier many years to achieve promotion to the level of Sergeant during peacetime. But things clearly move quicker during wartime.

59th Regiment RA HAA: Gunner Alec Davis to Lance Bombardier

From a Gunner in 1939, through Lance Bombardier and Bombardier, to Sergeant in August 1942.
He was granted war substantive rank of Sergeant (w/Sgt) on the 19th January 1943.

59th Regiment RA HAA: Bombardier Alec Davis to Sergeant

As far as I know, progression through the ranks from basic "Gunner" normally followed this sequence in wartime:-
  1. Lance Bombardier; 1 stripe
  2. Bombardier; 2 stripes
  3. Lance Sergeant; 3 stripes (see Lance Sergeant Mason below)
  4. Sergeant; 3 stripes with the Gun emblem above (see dad's photo above)
  5. Staff Sergeant; 3 stripes with the Crown emblem above (see Staff Sergeant Innes below)

59th Regiment RA HAA: Lance Sergeant "Mago" Mason
Lance Sergeant "Mago" Mason

59th Regiment RA HAA: Staff Sergeant Innes)
Staff Sergeant Innes (59th R.E.M.E.)

To make matters even more complicated, my Dad's service records include the following entries:-

20-1-41   Appointed U/L/Bdr
4-2-41    Amended to U/A/L/Bdr wef [with effect from] 10-1-41
11-5-41   Appointed P/L/Bdr
27-6-41   Promoted A/Bdr (unpaid)
4-10-41   Having held A/Rank of Bdr for 3 months is granted W.SR
18-2-42   Appointed U/A/L/Sgt
4-8-42    Appointed U/A/Sgt
19-1-43   Granted W/Sub rank of Sgt

I think the abbreviations mean:-
  A/ = acting
  P/ = permanent
  U/ = unpaid
  W/ = W/SUB = W.S.R. = War Substantive Rank (e.g. rank can't be taken away [in wartime] except by Court Martial)

End of service report

Dad's release papers include a simple report (rather like a school report).

Military Conduct: Exemplary

Testimonial: A very capable mechanic (gun & vehicle) who has given his service most willingly. A very keen & intelligent man & good sportsman. Completely honest, sober & trustworthy.

I can only assume "sober" had a different meaning back then!

Dad’s Medals

From left to right (in order of wearing);
  1. 1939-1945 Star for at least 180 days service overseas
  2. Africa Star for service in Africa. The “1” on the ribbon denotes the 1st Army
  3. Italy Star for operational service in Italy
  4. Defence Medal often awarded with a Campaign Star
  5. War Medal for at least 28 days war service

Sgt Alec Davis - WW2 medals

Note that the ribbons for the 1st and 4th medals have been accidentally switched (i.e. sewn onto the wrong medals).

Sgt Alec Davis - Campaign Stars, Clasps & Medals

The Efficiency Medal (Territorial) was apparently awarded to my dad for military service of at least 12 years. Since each year of the war (1939-1945) counted as 2 years, his service period from 1938 to 1946 was long enough for him to qualify.

Alec Davis Efficiency medal 1945

It is his only medal to include lettering along the edge:-
897204  SUT  A.S.Davis  R.A.

I think SUT = soldier under training, but this doesn't make any sense to me.

A.S.Davis Efficiency Medal (Territorial) 1945

Certificate of Appreciation

WW2 Certificate of Appreciation - A.S.Davis
Job done!