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WW1 British Military Research

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This article was originally published in issues 45 & 46 of "The Armourer" magazine, 2001. References to "PRO" = The Public Records Office; what is now The National Archives.

© Tom Tulloch-Marshall 2001

"On War Service" Badges, 1914-19
The Official Issues

The issue of the badge originated by a very large number of men declaring that they were taken, to use their own words, for “shirkers and slackers” and taunted in the street for not wearing Khaki.” (Ministry of Munitions records at the PRO, sub-file MUN5/64/322/125).

 Great War “On War Service” badges are a fairly common find at militaria fairs and amongst the general ephemera of junk shops, stamp & coin dealers, and the like. There were in fact three official patterns in use by mid 1916, two of which had almost identical issue criteria and associated governing regulations, and the third which came into being for reasons not really associated with the original intention of the official badges, but which nevertheless performed a useful function and was fairly tightly regulated. These three badges (one of which was issued in two patterns) were the “On War Service 1914” Admiralty issue, the “1915” War Office (Ministry of Munitions) issue, and the “1916” WO (MoM) issue which was exclusively for female workers.

 “Unofficial” war service badges began to appear very shortly after the outbreak of war and by early 1915 there were many different examples in circulation, - for example the pattern issued by the British Aluminium Company Ltd which is illustrated here. These badges were entirely unathorised, in any “official” sense, however they were tolerated by the War Office for some time and in certain cases they were viewed quite favorably (railway company issues for example). The raison d’être for the “unofficial” OWS badges seems, on the face of it, to be fairly self-evident; - men (and at this stage it was almost exclusively men) who were not in uniform but were employed in what they and their employers regarded as essential war work did not want to be seen as “shirkers and slackers”. They did not want to be cat-called on the streets or have white feathers pinned to their chests by misguided young women of a certain class.



Unofficial issue 1915. This example from the British Aluminium Co Ltd is typical of the genre, with clever but unauthorised use of "OHMS" lending authority. By December 1915 this company's plants in London, Fife, Kinlochleven, Larne, Stoke-on-Trent and Warrington had been issued with 11,423 official issue 1915 badges.

From the employer’s perspective there was another genuinely serious problem, a situation which was equally concerning to the Government (although they lagged behind industry in recognising the extent of the problem). Voluntary enlistment during 1914 and, to a slightly lesser extent, the early part of 1915, was almost entirely unregulated, and in a great many instances it was the “wrong” men who were presenting themselves for service with the colours. Coal miners, skilled metal-workers, foundry-men, shipyard workers, men employed in the transport infrastructure, etc., etc., - all essential to building up and maintaining the country’s war capability, but many of them were enlisting and their employers were consequently suffering skills shortages. At the same time many “eligible” men who were not essential to the war effort at home were, for whatever reason, not presenting themselves at the recruiting offices.

 There is not space enough here to expand too far on this aspect of the “badging” question, and in any case the broader issues are not crucially relevant to the explanations as to “what” the official OWS badges were and the mechanics of their issue. However, it is worth mentioning that contemporary (1914, ‘15, and‘16) correspondence, minutes, memoranda etc. which can be found in abundance amongst the War Office and Ministry of Munitions files at the PRO do on numerous occasions severely jolt the rather idealised and popular image of a mass rush to arms on the part of the service-eligible men of Britain. The idea of a country entirely united and straining at the bit to do everything possible to secure defeat of the Axis Powers does, on occasions, seem overwhelmed by problems with fractious trades unions, restrictive practices, strikes, shoddy workmanship, downright bloody-mindedness, and determined efforts to prevent “dilution” - especially by the employment of women in what were previously exclusively male dominated workplaces.


The other problem with the unofficial OWS badges, and a major reason for the Government agencies formalising the situation and eventually “outlawing” their issue (though this seems never to have been 100% enforced), was that the unofficial badges were open to abuse and could be used as a smoke screen by men who wished to avoid military service, and by employers who wanted to ring-fence their workforce and secure their own financial well-being. There were therefore two pressing reasons for the Government to get a grip of the “On War Service” situation, - inappropriate enlistment and inappropriate non-enlistment. Other factors played a part, but these were the two key issues which had to be addressed, certainly in the crucial “shells scandal” period of early 1915. Great Britain had entered the war with a “contemptible little army” (words the Kaiser would soon regret) but had the mightiest navy in the world, so it was probably appropriate that it would be the Admiralty who would lead the way towards resolution of the OWS situation.

“On War Service 1914”
The Admiralty Badge



The first official move to recognise and “badge” essential war workers was made by the Admiralty late in 1914 when the “On War Service 1914” badge was first issued to “workmen whose services are indispensable for the rapid completion of HM Ships and Armaments”. An Admiralty memo of 26th December 1914 titles this badge the “Admiralty War Service Badge” and lays down basic criteria for it’s issue, particularly that the men to whom it is given must be bona fide essential war workers and that wholesale or indiscriminate issues must not be made. It is stressed that no man who could possibly be “spared to join te colours” should be “badged”; that any man withdrawn from essential war work or leaving the employment of the company is to return his badge to his employer, and that unauthorised transfer of a badge from one man to another was forbidden.



OWS 1914

The Admiralty Badge

Shipyards and related employers were initially left almost entirely to their own devices with regard to whom they issued badges. They had to maintain a register of the men who were given badges and a card and certificate was also to be carried by these men as back-up “proof” that they were essential to the war effort. Other than that the system introduced by the Admiralty seems to have operated very much on the basis of the employers being entrusted with self-regulation, and to a great extent that system appears to have continued right through the war. This was probably because ship-building and maintenance, and the other work which goes on inside shipyards, tends to be of a very specific nature and there was very little leeway for “inappropriate” men squirreling themselves away inside such establishments. Crucially, it was not to the employer’s advantage for such men to be in their employ, - exactly the same situation cropping up later when the War Office considered the question of the “badging” of coal-miners.

Once the War Office began to look seriously at the OWS situation during the early part of 1915 there obviously had to be some consideration of parity between the existing Admiralty system and any system to be introduced by the War Office. As with all things of this nature the rules and regulations governing the “badging” situation were to evolve rather than be set in stone from the outset, but it appears that there was early agreement that the Admiralty scheme would not be incorporated with the War Office scheme, and that the two schemes would run in parallel.

Having said that, there was one element of the Admiralty scheme which the War Office was not at all happy with. It has to be remembered here that it was the Admiralty who had first formalised the OWS situation and the War Office not only had the benefit of being able to see how the Admiralty scheme had evolved and how successfully it’s regulations were being implemented in practice, but the War Office (by the time they came to formulate “rules”) also had a much clearer picture of how the labour / service with the colours situation was affecting the war effort as a whole. The point which the War Office jibbed at was the fact that the Admiralty had issued it’s badges unnumbered, and there was therefore no immediate and positive way of identifying if any particular badge was actually being worn by the man to whom it had been issued.

This was not a point of huge importance at the end of 1914 when the Admiralty had first begun to make bulk issues of badges to the shipyards, but by early 1916 it had become an issue of some importance because the wearing of the official OWS badges (post introduction of compulsory military service) had become crucial to the immediate recognition of bona fide “exempted” men. The relative laxity of the Admiralty scheme (to date) meant that there was now added potential for some deliberate misrepresentation on the part of militarily eligible men who may have procured an Admiralty badge by some devious means. The Admiralty now swung into line with the War Office and began to number new badge issues, the relevant employers becoming responsible for adding the badge numbers into the schedules of the men to whom badges had been issued. At the same time a system was introduced whereby existing unnumbered badges should be recalled, and numbered badges substituted. The only War Office references which I have seen with regard to the progress of this work say that it “was thought that about 500,000” unnumbered Admiralty badges had been issued, of which approximately 150,000 had been replaced with numbered badges by July 1916. I have seen no explanation as to whether or not this situation was ever properly resolved.

“On War Service 1915”
The War Office (Ministry of Munitions) badge for men

It has been impossible to determine an exact first issue date for the OWS 1915 badge although it was certainly in circulation by the 27th of March 1915 when the War Office issued a circular memoranda about it, and the 1914 badge, to all recruiting officers. This memoranda (27/Gen. No/4100) showed illustrations of both badges and stressed that “These are the only recognised Official Badges.” It seems that various companies continued to issue “private” badges after this date, but no matter how florid or authoritative these looked they were useless as a defence against accusations of “shirking and slacking”, and they would certainly offer the wearer no protection once compulsory military service was introduced.


OWS 1915
The later "economy" badge

OWS 1915
The original enameled badge

It should be noted here that the first 1915 men’s badges had an enameled finish as was used on the 1914 Admiralty badges. This was very quickly dropped and a plain stamped brass badge was substituted once the enormity of the issue requirements became clear. The Admiralty had already dealt with a substantial proportion of the final 1914 pattern badge issues and as far as I have been able to ascertain the enameled finish of that badge was retained throughout it’s life. The 1916 badge for women (see later notes) seems to have been produced as nothing but a plain brass stamping.

The actual patterns of the badges might also be seen as slightly arcane. The inclusion of “1914”, “1915”, and “1916” within the designs leads to a confusion that this signifies when a particular badge was actually issued, and hence that someone with “badging” entitlement may have received successive issues of all three badges. In fact the dates merely signify the year during which the three badges were introduced and no recipient (unless due to changing their employment) ever received more than one badge for their classification of “Admiralty”, “other” men’s qualifying employment, or “women’s” qualifying employment. Whilst the central feature of the Admiralty and Women’s badges is the King’s Crown, signifying Government service, the design of the “other men’s” badge closely mimics the design of the cap badge of the Army Ordnance Corps, to which an obvious association with munitions work may be attached. In fact, if any one of the three qualifying classes of issue could lay just claim to the “ordnance” connection it would transpire to be the recipients of the women’s badge !


Probably the first major problem encountered by the War Office, or more properly the “Badge Committee” and various other branches of the Ministry of Munitions, was determining exactly what was munitions work or “work for war purposes” and who, therefore, should be allocated OWS 1915 badges and thus be given a degree of protection against enlistment. This might seem to be a rather foolish proposition, however the situation is not as simple as it may at first appear. For the Admiralty the question had been quite easily answered because their interest was restricted to the construction, armament, and maintenance of the Fleet and it’s auxiliaries. If you went to work in a naval shipyard and spent the day banging rivets into the hull of a ship then QED you were vital to the war effort. This sort of criteria could be applied to the vast majority of the men who worked in the yards, and that, combined with the self-regulatory nature of the Admiralty scheme, made the situation quite clear cut. The same level of clarity would apply when the 1916 badge was introduced, but with the 1915 badge the MoM had a major headache. 


Of course they ended up with the good-old British compromise, a form of words which could mean all things to all men, didn’t really answer the question, but at least made it look as if the committee had thrashed-out a solution. It was decided that an essential job was “Employment on the production of any commodity directly required for the fulfillment of any contract with the Ministry of Munitions, the War Office, or the Admiralty.”  These became known as “Certified Occupations”, the definition of which was to change virtually throughout the course of the war. The scope of the certified occupations almost beggars belief, but if you think about it it’s all quite logical; - a large naval shell is propelled along the gun-barrel by detonation of an explosive charge; the charge is contained in cloth bags; again, QED, the person who makes the bags is an essential worker. No wonder they dropped the enameled 1915 badge and introduced the “cheap” plain brass one, otherwise a goodly part of the population would have been tied-up manufacturing a sufficient quantity of the things, and probably have been classified as “essential” workers to boot !


Initial Ministry of Munitions calculations estimated that a total of 100,000 OWS badges may be required at a cost of 4¾p per badge,(*) however actual issues quickly ate into this and soon exceeded the initial projections. As of March 27th 1915 a total of 7,513 official badges had been issued, rising to 26,718 by the 3rd of April and reaching 74,067 by July 31st, - exactly a year later the number of badges issued would exceed the initial estimates thirteen-fold; that is men’s badges, nevermind the substantial number by then issued to women. The rate at which badges were being applied for had now started to rapidly accelerate and the authorities were becoming increasingly concerned that “badging”, as a means of avoiding service, was becoming a significant problem.


On the 30th of June 1915 the Badge Committee discussed possible amendments to the issue regulations in order to guard against wrongful procurement, and on the 23rd of July provisional “Munitions (War Service Badges) Rules, 1915” were issued under Section 8 of the Munitions of War Act. Amongst the papers relating to the formulation of these modified regulations there is a list of employers to whom approved issues have already been made, together with the number of badges to each one. Most of these are fairly prosaic, for example, - Austin Motor Company, Birmingham 1,458 – Chilworth Gunpowder Company Ltd 155 – Coventry Ordnance 4,469 –Webley & Scott 290. Some of the other issues are rather eye-catching, for example Explosives & Chemical Products Ltd of Finsbury, London, had applied for and been approved to issue one badge, and Lord Kitchiner appears as having requested and been approved for an issue of three badges ! (no explanation is given, but I would guess they were for his servants or civilian ADC’s).


Regulations continued to tighten, and on the 4th of August 1915 the Committee On War Service Badges (COWSB) announced that any firms who had been allowed by the War Office or the Admiralty to continue to use their own badges (for example the railways) were now to be instructed to withdraw these and that official badges would be issued to them against successful applications. It was now formally decreed that unauthorized private badges “are now illegal.”


Meanwhile a considerable degree of confusion continued to surround the whole “Certified Occupation” / badge entitlement question, especially because there was a mix of companies where the employees were only partially badged, yet there were companies which were considered “certified” wholesale and no individual badging had taken place. At a meeting of the COWSB on the 11th of August 1915 Sir Richard Redmayne (Chairman of the Collieries Committee) said that “it was his view that there should be no further recruiting of coal miners, but he did not consider that it was necessary to badge them”. Apart from our own military and civil requirements coal was by that time Britain’s biggest export commodity and we were supplying the French with one million tons a month, and they wanted that doubled – yet the authorities had still not regularised the circumstance under which coal-miners were still able to enlist in the forces, when they were sorely needed at home, yet in civil employment they were not entitled to be “badged”. (Redmayne had revised his views on “badging” miners by the time the committee met on the 3rd of November, but other events overtook the situation).

On various occasions about this time the COWSB was lobbied by many disparate groups who sought “badging” entitlement for their members, including the British Red Cross, tanners, sugar workers, dockers, omnibus workers, drug manufacturers, bootmakers, canteen contractors, postal workers etc., etc. There was considerable representation on behalf of Civil Servants, though generally badging them was considered inappropriate as the bulk were simply office workers. A compromise was offered in this case whereby men who were eligible for military service and had sought permission to enlist, but been turned-down by their superiors, could be badged.


Abolition of the Certified Occupations list


After the introduction of compulsory military service at the beginning of 1916 the dynamics of the whole “OWS” situation stepped-up a notch and the situation became even more complicated, confused, and liable to abuse. At the same time the army had expanded enormously, the length of the British front in France had extended from Flanders down to the Somme, and the need for a vastly increased supply of not only munitions but all sorts of “war material” was pressing in the extreme. Conscription was proving to be a rather blunt instrument and this, combined with tardiness on the part of many employers who had not adequately managed the badging of their skilled workers, was leading to many genuinely needed men being called to the colours when they could be better employed at home. A revitalised approach was needed, and on the 1st of May 1916 the existing Certified Occupations list was effectively abolished and a new word entered the official vocabulary, - “debadging”. There was to be a much more rigorous approach to the re-appraisal of men who were already certified, with a view to shaking-out all those who would be better employed with the colours. Abolition of the certified occupations list would however create it’s own set of problems.


In the meantime the Ministry of Munitions had written to all trades unions advising that if they had members who were skilled men but not badged or employed in war work, who were called-up, then these men should report to a Labour Exchange at once and enroll as “War Munitions Volunteers”. The exchange would then see if an opening can be found for them in some place which would qualify them for badging. On the 13th of June it was announced that men who had applied for badges before May 1st were not to be called to the colours until their cases have been decided by the MoM, and on the 15th of that month it was decreed that no man whose work in any way involved “heavy shell” (defined as 4½ inch and above) should even be considered for debadging. On the 19th of June it was decided that temporary badges and certificates should be issued to all new badging applications pending proper decisions.


On the 20th of July 1916 the COWSB decreed that all married men and single men over 30 now recommended for debadging due to their employer’s revised status (i.e. ceasing to do critical war work) were to be offered a transfer to another workplace where they could stay badged. Standard forms were issued to such employers and men, and Labour Exchange appointments made where necessary. The same month new rules were issued under the Defence of the Realm regulations requiring that all persons who employ one or more male persons of military age were to keep a schedule of those men prominently displayed on the premises, this form included name, address, badge number and several other details. The situation regarding skilled men was now so critical that when the Belgians called up all civilian men born during 1896-7 (18/7/1916) the British Government made special arrangements with the Belgian Government in exile to allow exemption of any badged Belgians currently employed by British companies.


During the period before the July 1916 revisions a complete survey of every single badged man was undertaken “the returns requiring full particulars of each individual.” As of the 27th July there were 1,347,627 badged men of whom over 900,000 were of military age, 387,670 of those being single men. The metal industries accounted for the most badges with 271,642 and the lowest classification was “Food” with 895 badges issued, 239 of which were not to men of military age.


Now there was yet another shift of emphasis; the 1916 Somme battles had begun and terrifying losses overseas were increasing concerns that the supply of men to the army were again being jeopardised by inappropriate badging. During August the MoM were being pressurised and the Minister was fielding questions in Parliament, - why had there been such a heavy rate of issue of badges during the twelve weeks to July 26th ? The explanation greatly revolved round the passing of the 2nd Military Service Act requiring all married men of military age to serve in the forces, - prior to this they had not needed the protection of badges so there had been wholesale applications. The withdrawal of the list of Certified Occupations (companies with “blanket” exemption) in the spring had exposed a whole raft of men who now needed badge protection, and increased demands for munitions had shifted the balance in the steel and projectile industries. “Dilatoriness” of employers who had taken no action until a recruiting officer had started to call-up their employees was also cited as a major factor in the increased demand for badging.


August 1916, the regulations tighten


During August 1916 the rules relating to certification and badge issues were both tightened and clarified. Unauthorised transfer of a badge from one man to another was absolutely prohibited and under no circumstances was a man leaving an employer’s service to be allowed to retain his badge. If he did then he would be committing a criminal offence. Furthermore, the MoM “are not prepared to issue a new badge in place of a lost badge.” and if a “loss” was reported the employer was to inform the local Labour Exchange who would return it direct to the employer if it was handed in. If a man left employment and took the badge with him then his employer had immediate responsibility for it’s recovery, but if he failed then he was to report the matter to the police who “have been instructed to assist”.


Badges had to be surrendered immediately if the man’s employment within any company changed to a non war-essential category, and the wearing of unathorised (i.e. not officially issued) badges became an offence under the Munitions of War Act. Supplying, selling, buying, pawning or accepting badges in pawn all became offences, and the Police were given power of arrest without warrant if they suspected that an offence may have been committed.


Penalties under the Act were draconian; for non-serious cases (cases of a “minor character”) the Courts could sentence the offender to up to 6 months imprisonment with or without hard labour, or up to a £100 fine, or both. Serious offences were to be sent for jury trial or Court Martial and the sentences available became penal servitude for life, or, “if the offence was committed with the intention of assisting the enemy the death penalty may be inflicted. The court may order the forfeiture of the offending badges etc.” (the note regarding confiscation of the badge seems rather ponderous, but then the document was drafted by a Government Department !).

“On War Service 1916”
The Women’s Badge


For many years I had thought that the “1916” OWS badge was just a natural progression from the 1914 and 1915 badges, and it was not until I started digging around the MoM and War Office files that I found out that it was in fact an entirely different kettle of fish. All this time a fairly obvious clue as to it’s purpose had been staring me in the face, - the official issue 1914 and ’15 badges all have a button-hole type fastening at the rear, but the 1916 pattern is equipped with a pin-catch attachment. In fact the 1916 badge is not a badge at all, it’s a broach, - designed that way because women often did not have the facility of a buttonhole !

“On War Service 1916”
The Women’s Badge


For many years I had thought that the “1916” OWS badge was just a natural progression from the 1914 and 1915 badges, and it was not until I started digging around the MoM and War Office files that I found out that it was in fact an entirely different kettle of fish. All this time a fairly obvious clue as to it’s purpose had been staring me in the face, - the official issue 1914 and ’15 badges all have a button-hole type fastening at the rear, but the 1916 pattern is equipped with a pin-catch attachment. In fact the 1916 badge is not a badge at all, it’s a broach, - designed that way because women often did not have the facility of a buttonhole !

“Technically” there was never any need to issue OWS badges to women because they were not required for service in the Forces under the circumstances which men were, and they were never subjected to any form of conscription. Of course many women did volunteer for the various women’s services and did make a significant contribution to the war effort, but that is not really relevant to the question of OWS badges for female civilian employees.


Having said that, it was only natural that women employed on essential war work should expect some recognition of the fact that they also were making a contribution to the war-effort. When civilian employers began to issue “unofficial” OWS badges to their male employees many also issued badges to female employees, sometimes with implicit MoM “permission” and sometimes not. However the new regulations issued on the 4th of August 1915 had declared the unofficial badges to be illegal (though it is not clear how strenuously this was policed), so “officially” the women were again unrecognised.


Other than the ad hoc issuing of unofficial badges by private employers there had been as near as make no difference no official recognition of women. Certificates (3,108) had been issued to women working for five armaments firms in July 1915, and the Director of Voluntary Organizations at the War Office did authorized the issue of a badge to voluntary workers on hospital appliances and comforts for the troops. The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries provided a green armlet with a red crown on it to women working on the land, but that was just about the strength of it. As late as August 11th 1915 the COWSB reviewed the question of badging women and decided that they were absolutely against it, however there seems to have been relentless (and understandable) pressure on them to reverse their position.


Amongst others, the Chief Inspector at Woolwich Arsenal appeared before the committee and reported that “his” women were keen to be issued with some form of badge, noting that “Apart from sentimental reasons, a badge enables it’s wearer to obtain cheap traveling  facilities by rail under certain conditions and secures to it’s wearer preference on crowded trams.” (in other words the conductor would admit a woman who was badged in preference to one who wasn’t). Another point put forward to justify issuing badges was that “it will be useful as a protection to women. They have often to travel distances at night back from their work and an official badge will help secure them from annoyance.”, the MoM diarist earnestly noting here that “Special emphasis was laid on this last point.”


However the COWSB dug their heels in and the issue of the badge to women was strongly resisted because of, “the expense”, and the fact that “the badge is not intended to be a mark of honour or distinction like a medal but merely a visible token that the wearer is not to be accepted for enlistment.” It is noted that Lloyd George was with the faction which agreed to the proposal to badge women (an MoM minute of 12th August 1915), however the COWSB temporarily won the day by insisting that the departments concerned were overwhelmed with sorting out the badging situation for men. They couldn’t drag their heels forever though, especially as they seem to have been haunted by the persistent use of some of the unofficial badges. “It is very desirable to avoid another plague of private badges.” was one comment noted in a set of MoM meeting minutes – but COWSB held out till 1916.



The women’s pattern triangular broach was finally introduced in May 1916. It was available for women “engaged in the manufacture of munitions of war or other urgent war work”, which included women employed full-time in canteens “etc” of such establishments, skilled and unskilled workers, clerical staff in the approved companies, charladies, and cloakroom attendants. A woman could not be given a badge until she had two months on the job training and badges were not to be issued to girls under 16. No individual certificates were issued with the women’s badges and the employer could control allocation and re-allocation of badges, - they were basically left to their own devices in this respect although the same rules as for the men’s badges applied regarding illegal wearing and handing in when leaving employment or coming off war work.


During the eight months from May 1916 over 270,000 women’s OWS badges were issued. I have found no statistics for what the final number may have been, but suspect that it may have been quite enormous.


War’s end

From the beginning of 1916 till the end of the war the Admiralty and War Office (MoM) men’s and women’s badge schemes seem to have ticked over without major revision. During March 1920 there is correspondence from the War Office to the MoM asking what arrangements, if any, had been made for withdrawal of badges of civilian employees of the Ministry to be disposed of as scrap, or are they to be retained by the employees ? The MoM replied to the effect that no instructions had been issued and it was not intended that any such instructions would be issued (no mention is made of the commercial companies). The question seems to have died a death and the only further relevant reference I can find is a scribbled and rather anonymous note on a War Office folder;

“... it seems to me quite useless to attempt to get in the old War Service Badges … I cannot conceive any advantage which would accrue from getting in the badges, except that we may have a few more tons of brass scrap to dispose of.” (and that’s why we keep finding them in junk shops !).


Further research ?

“The Lists”

I have not come across any lists in the War Office or MoM files which would allow any particular badge number to be tied to a particular company or employee. This was probably to be expected as the original badge allocation lists were maintained by the employers and there seems to have been no requirement for copies to be submitted to any Government department. If any such lists do exist then they are likely to be squirreled away in the companies archives. There are however some fairly informative lists to be found amongst the MoM correspondence at the PRO:-


# There is a list of all firms to whom badges have been issued up till 6th May 1916. This runs to 136 typed pages and gives the name and location of the companies / organisations etc but does not give numbers of badges issued or trade classification. It includes such things as the Co-Operative Wholesale Society Ltd (Fat & Bones Dept.), Pontefract, and the Londonderry Corporation Electricity Department.


# A further 312 page file contains a complete list of all firms to whom badges have been issued as of 31st December 1916, together with the number of badges issued to them and a coded classification of the work they are engaged in. The YMCA appears in this list with an issue of 25,000 badges under the classification “SF” which means they were a “Manufacturer not otherwise classified; Food”. All kinds of unlikely looking companies appear here.

# The official list of “protected occupations” seems to have been last updated 1/2/1918 and includes such things as “Forceps spring maker (surgical & dental)”, “Vice forgers assistant (misc metal trades)”, “Bell maker (bugle & Trumpet making)”. There are hundreds of occupations listed here, from the obvious and expected to the bizarre; in fact there are so many that it’s a wonder that there was anyone left to go to war !


The bulk of the material relating to official issue OWS badges is to be found amongst the Ministry of Munitions files at the PRO, record sub-class “MUN5”.
© Tom Tulloch-Marshall 2001




(*) that's just under 2 pence in modern decimal currency - less than 4 US cents