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Stock No. 5501

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RNAS Named Medal Grouping and Identity Disc - Click for the bigger picture

RNAS Named Medal Grouping and Identity Disc

Anything relating to the Royal Naval Air Service is now pretty scarce seeing it was only formed on 1st July 1914 and disbanded 1st April 1918 when it was merged with the Royal Flying Corps to become the fledgling RAF.

The grouping arrived contained in a quality fitted case named to George Kenning & Son London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow. This firm were founded in 1860 and acquired Spencer & Co in 1947. Mr Kenning was a manufacturer and supplier of regalia to various societies and was also a Masonic jeweller. We speculate the owner stored his medals in this box that originally contained something else.

The medals are the British War and Victory Medals 1914-1920 which were awarded in simple terms 'for just turning up! However unlike WWII campaign medals these are both engraved '201925. 1. A.M. E.E. Lister. R.A.F. ' but what adds additional interest is the inclusion of the relating aluminium Identity Disc. On line research confirms in WWI thin aluminium discs (as here) were the first official types issued, typically made at Regimental depots on fairground-style machines, punching into the soft metal one letter at a time and the layout was rarely in perfect alignment. By 1915 the requirement was to wear two official tags, both made of compressed fibre, deemed more comfortable to wear in hot climates and both carrying identical details. These were again stamped out in a similar manner and an eight-sided green tag with two holes was strung through one hole and hung around the neck and through the second hole another much shorter cord was strung, which had a round red tag on it. Thus when a casualty was encountered on the field of battle this allowed the red tag to be retrieved simply by cutting its short string, leaving the green tag still in place on the body. It meant that others subsequently finding a body with only a green tag would know that the death had already been reported and the details on the green tag remained to prepare a grave marker.

Our ID disc is characteristic of the pre 1915 pattern and reads 'R.N.A.S. LISTER.E.E. Ship No 1888 Off. no 1935'. So clearly issued to Air Mechanic 1st Class E.E.Lister, although we have so far been unable to identify what 'ship nos 1888' relates to. We were also confused by the 'Off No 1925' as that did not line up with service number engraved on the medals but further research revealed why the service number does not match the one in the Muster Roll. We learned men who transferred from the RNAS to the RAF were given new numbers, to avoid confusion with similar RFC numbers. Thus RNAS men who transferred to the RAF had a '20' prefix added to their RNAS number, so here Lister's RNAS service number was modified from '1925' to '201925'. All RNAS personnel were renumbered in this way in 1918, somewhat confusingly including the dead, even if they never got to serve with the RAF.

We have currently been unable to trace E.E.Lister's service career but he does not seem to appear to be listed on the War Graves Commission site, so we are assuming he survived the war but is certainly worthy of further research. Whist a modest medal grouping it is made scarcer by relating to a Royal Naval Air Service mechanic, with the added interest of the inclusion of his early pattern identity disc. The medals and accompanying ribbons remain in fine condition and it is apparent they were never worn by the recipient.

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