Until quite late in the war, all Regiments and Corps of the British Army were allocated their own blocks of seven-figure identification numbers for Other Ranks. The DLI sequence was in the range of 4435001 to 4523000.

Thus a soldier with a seven-figure number in this range would have been with the DLI from his enlistment. And, obviously a man with a seven figure number outside of this range would have originally have been a member of another Regiment or Corps and posted to the DLI at some later point in his Army career. This extra information has been included in the Roll of Honour section of the site.

For a complete listing of these Army Block Numbers, click here.

For 16 DLI fatal casualties arranged by Army Number and in sequence with known 16 DLI POWs and Gallantry Award holders, click here

Called up in December 1941, Pte Tom Tunney’s Army Number was 4469365. Men called up into the Battalion on its formation in July 1940 had numbers in a lower range. For example, future 16 DLI Carrier Platoon Lance Sergeant Joe Drake, who was in the first draft of recruits to the Battalion and was awarded the Military Medal for his actions during the Battle of Sedjenane, was assigned the Army Number 4464742. Pte Syd Shutt, of Thornley who was also from the Battalion at the start in Scotland, in B Company, had the number 4465664. So we can confidently speculate that all new DLI recruits in mid-1940 would have Army numbers in and around this range.

Men who were enlisted into the DLI slightly later than my father, for instance Pte Evan Darlington who was called up to 4 ITC at Brancepeth on 14th April 1942 and was eventually taken POW at Sedjenane, had the Army number 4470373. It's thus possible to get a rough idea of when a man was called up into the DLI simply by looking at his Army number, at least for the 1939-42 period.

However, for men joining up into other units before transferring to the DLI matters are much more complicated: they would retain their Army number assigned on enlistment. For example, CQMS W 'Jimmy' James of D Company 16th DLI was assigned the number 5950427 on enlisting into the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment at Kempston Barracks, Bedford in January 1940 and retained this 'Beds and Herts number' throughout his DLI career. Similarly Sgt Charles Bray of D Company, who was called up directly into the 6th Battalion Beds and Herts, kept his number, 5950691, on transfer to the Durhams.

A further complication is that a soldier who was subsequently commissioned as an officer would then be assigned a new officer's Personal Number. For example CSM Arthur Pearson of C Company was assigned the number 4441917 on enlistment in the early 1930s, but ended the war as a Major with the Battalion with the new officer’s Personal Number 301498.

In 1940-42, the new DLI Army numbers seem to have assigned to batches of around 240 recruits arranged in alphabetical order by surname (thus making eight 30-man training squads). This becomes clear when looking at the various casualty and POW listings and the information I will be adding in the following pages has been assembled mainly from a close study of these sources. With most detailed World War Two Army service records still withheld, the only soldiers whose fate can easily be established are those who died on active service, those who were taken POW and those who received gallantry awards. Those that simply survived are currently much more difficult to account for.

Examining any consecutive listing of Army numbers also shows just how arbitrary chance, fate, and the Army's bureaucracy could be in deciding the path of a man's war service.


WW2 British Army Numbers, A General Introduction

DLI ARMY NUMBERS

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Sgt Charles Bray 16 DLI 1942

Sgt Charles Bray, Army number 5950691, D Company, 16th DLI. This photograph was taken outside a requisitioned house in Folkstone in January 1942. Called up into the 6th Beds and Herts in January 1940, Charles Bray was one of the 16th DLI’s original NCOs from July 1940. He was taken POW during the Battle of Sedjenane on March 2nd 1943. Charles Bray’s Army identification tags are at right. Photograph courtesy of Charles Bray.
Pte Syd Shutt POW

Pte Syd Shutt of Thornley was in one of the initial drafts of recruits to the 16th DLI in Edinburgh in July 1940 and was assigned the Army number 4465664. He served in B Company through to being captured on March 2nd 1943 at Sedjenane. Photograph courtesy of The Sunderland Echo.
Charles Bray, 5950691, 16 DLI