This silver chain bracelet with a French franc coin in the middle belonged to Rifleman Joseph Chambers Thompson. Side one of the coin has a French woman and the words "Republique Francaise". Side two has been smoothed and inscribed "3rd Btn N.Z.R.B. 35651 C.E. Thompson J.C."

Rifleman Thompson was born in Amberley, Canterbury in 1883. He joined the 3rd Battalion of the N.Z. Rifle Brigade in 1916 and served in Western Europe. He was discharged in 1919 and died in Wanganui in 1957.  

The engraving on the bracelet signifies: 3 Btn = 3rd Battalion; NZRB = New Zealand Rifle Brigade; 35651 = personal army number; CE = Church of England; J.C. Thompson (name)  

Peter Doyle & Chris Foster in their book: 'What Tommy took to war', Shire Publications, Oxford [UK], 2014 notes, page 44: 'Identity discs - known as 'cold-meat tickets' to the British soldiery of the Great War - have not always been worn in battle. The first tags were a mid-nineteenth century German innovation while the British Army resorted to the use of an identity card in the uniform pocket - hardly durable. Clearly inadequate, this form of identification was replaced in 1907 by a single stamped aluminium disc, which carried the solder's name, rank, serial number, unit details and his religion. Issued to soldiers on mobilisation, the valuable aluminium was replaced by fibre in August 1914. These discs were much more appropriate than identity cards, but they had their problems; if this single disc was removed from the body, as stipulated in the 1909 Field Service Regulations, the chances of identification of the body were much reduced. Therefore in August 1916, a two-disc system ws evolved, the discs themselves carrying the same information as before, in duplicate, but this time stamped on compressed fibre discs: a green octagonal one that, it was intended, would stay with the body, and a red disc that would be taken as part of the accounting procedure. Both were to be worn on a string around the neck, the red disc suspended from the green one. Unfortunately, neither disc would last long in the damp conditions of much of the Western Front. Perhaps because of this, few soldiers had absolute faith in the discs and many commissioned or made their own identity bracelets, to be worn on the wrist.'  It would appear this bracelet is one of the more durable identity discs that were a back-up to the official identity tags.


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