The History of British Army Service Numbers and the P and Q Prefix to QAIMNS and QARANC
British Army service numbers, in use until recently, were introduced after the First World War in August 1920 (Army Order 338). For other classifications, this was originally a seven-digit number, later increased to eight. Prior to that time, Army personnel had a unique prefix number for their regiment. For example, the Royal Army Medical Corps had "WE". This old long numbering system was introduced in 1857 for regular and emergency reserve officers.
We believe that members of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service were prefixed with the letter P, due to the officer status conferred in 1926, although the rank was only introduced into the QAIMNS in 1941. The National Archives have records of this under the reference WO 339 (War Office) class of April 1922, although unfortunately some records were destroyed by enemy bombing in World War II. This new system was known as the personal or P number system, while other categories retained 'service numbers'. There is an example of the P number for Lieutenant Sister. Rigby from his war diary and further pictureD-Day landings in Normandy.
With the recent introduction of the “Joint Personnel Administration” tri-service, recruits from all branches of all services, regardless of rank, received their number in the same format, originally starting with 300XXXXX. The Army's introduction of the JPA began on April 1, 2007. For the first time in its history, service numbers were taken from the same source.
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In 1950, female members of Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps in the ranks of what are now the non-commissioned ranks were given the number QJunior Rank QARANCbook page.
Territorial Army nurses were also given the prefix number Q.
When other male ranks and officers were reassigned by the RAMC to QAs in 1992, they retained their Army numbers, eight digits for junior ranks, and P numbers for officers.
We ask for clarification that the information about the army's numbering system is correct, as we don't know much about it. If you can help with corrections or additions, pleasecontact-me.
We asked Sue Light for clarificationScarlet Fever Locatorwho specialized in the nurses of the Great War. She kindly replied:
There were no official service numbers for QAIMNS until after 1940, so they had a "number" for official purposes, but no later service numbers. From 1902 they were assigned a "candidate number" which later served for identification purposes - just a four-digit number, e.g. 1234.
During World War I, the system was changed and each service was assigned a serial number. Regular QAIMNS were given a 2-series number depending on the first letter of their surname, i.e.:
2/D/xxx for a last name starting with 'D'
2/A/xxx for a last name starting with 'A' - just as an example, Katharine Allsop was 2/A/100.
Females from the QAIMNS reserve had a similar serial number 2 but in the form 2/ResD/xxxx or 2/ResA/xxxx
O TFNS (Territorial Force Nursing Service) had "9 Series" numbers in the format 9/NursesD/xxxx for a nurse whose last name starts with "D", and so on.
I have hundreds of nurses' records here, and upon review these numbers were used for identification and correspondence right up until her death - certainly well into the 1960's in many cases. And if you look at WO25/3956 which gives details of all the nurses who came to QAIMNS up until 1926 the 'series 2' was still in use.
So if there ever was a "Series P" it didn't start until after 1926, but even if there was it was only an identification number for War Department purposes and not a service number. It wasn't until relative classification was introduced in 1941 that numbering began, and even then there was never a prefix number, even in the early days of numbering. I would suggest it is used to denote permanent service members as opposed to interwar reserves.
Entry into World War II; I have not mentioned 'P' numbers, but I have evidence here that VADs attached to QAIMNS during World War II had 'W' serial numbers followed by six digits and QAIMNS NCOs followed by 'Q' serial numbers from were assigned seven digits of 1000001 of the fifties. At the same time, however, actual QAIMNS officers had six-digit numbers with no prefix (according to the London Gazette), so it definitely wasn't them. So it must have referred to a group of 'somebody' during (or after) WWII, but I can't connect it with QAIMNS unless the P/ was unofficially used for QAIMNS officers.
I'm also not sure if I'm right as one can only learn things through this type of query, but I have a lot of documentation here to back up the pre-1926 numbering, i.e. the 2 series and the 9 series.
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