National Registration

Identity Cards

The National Registration system under which all civilians were centrally registered and issued with corresponding identity cards, was based initially on an enumeration carried out on 29th September 1939 using the machinery which had been devised for the Census of 1941 which, but for the war, would have been carried out. This was followed in October by the issue of the identity card, a small document containing one's name, address and National Registration number.
Transcripts from the 65 000 enumeratorsí schedules were centralised at Southport and this Central Register was kept up to date by the entry of births, deaths, changes of address and recruitment into the Armed Forces. The originals of the schedules were transferred to local Food Offices under the Ministry of Food where they were used for the issue of ration books.

On the 22nd May 1940 the following instructions were issued by the Ministry of Home Security:-

The address and signature must be written at once on the inner right-hand page, which is headed, "Do nothing with this part until you are told."
From now on everyone should carry his identity card, properly filled in, and be ready to show it if required.

From then until 22nd February 1952 every civilian had to carry such a card at all times as proof of identity and address. These had to be produced on demand to the police, members of the Armed Forces on duty and national registration officers. Each card had a personal number of six or seven digits and although no photograph was needed, a green identity card was issued to anyone who required an official photograph-bearing identity document, or if their duties required it a buff card, N.R. 107.
Early in 1943 registration and rationing was combined and, in May of that year, the opportunity was taken to issue a fresh set of identity cards at the same time as the new ration books. Civilian members of the population over 16 received a blue card to replace the previous buff card and under 16 year olds retained their existing buff card. A new type of buff card, which expired on the holder's sixteenth birthday, was issued to children under 16 on those occasions when a fresh card was necessary; on registration at birth; on registration upon entering the country; to replace a lost or damaged card; or on change of name.
It was obligatory to carry them everywhere.
Some employees of public utilities; members of the Civil Defence Reserve and the Civil Defence General Services (Wardens, First Aid Post, Rescue, Ambulance, Gas Identification, Decontamination, Messenger and Report and Control Centre Services); members of the National Fire Service and certain officers commissioned for service with the Air Training Corps were issued with a pale blue, three panelled card marked "N.R. 107A", either with or without a photograph. A photograph was only necessary if the service to which the holder belonged required it. Cards relating to members of the Civil Defence and National Fire Service did not require a photograph. It contained a description of the holder, and a certificate of the holder's official capacity. The card was designed merely to facilitate rapid identification, and did not confer any special status upon the holder.

Copyright © 2003 Peter N. Risbey.