§ Mr. J. Hobson
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will investigate the desirability and possibility of introducing a simplied system for coding personal files, thereby identifying those persons who may in future join the Army by less than eight digits.
§ Mr. Soames
There are two ways in which Army personal numbers could be shortened. We could begin again at number one; or we could introduce a combination of letters and figures.
Personal numbers were introduced after the First World War and many holders of the early ones are still alive. Their documents are kept for pensions and other purposes long after their actual service is completed. Though the time will come when it will be possible, to start now at the beginning would mean duplicating numbers and would cause confusion.
Letters are already used to prefix personal numbers in colonial and other forces raised abroad. More than 150 letter combinations have already been allotted. To extend this system or some modification of it to the United Kingdom without duplication would involve using a combination of letters and figures which 38W would be more complicated than the present one.
I have concluded, therefore, after looking carefully into my hon. and learned Friend's suggestion, that although the present system has disadvantages it provides a sure means of identification in a large Service, and there is at present no substitute on which we could rely.