Find details of relative service number FX749013


My uncle served in WW2 as AM FX749013 FAA. My cousins (his children) live in the USA and wanted to get his service records. Unfortunately John Barnes their father (my uncle) disappeared in the USA 40 odd years ago. He has not been heard of since. It was believed he died at some point as he was homeless and unfortunately an alcoholic.

I said I would try to help. The problem is they don't have a death certificate so cant easily access the records formally. I am going to speak to the Navy records but wondered if anyone can shed light on the service numbers.



War Hero
A clear explanation and a date related list regarding the issue of RN Service Numbers can be found on the Godfrey Dyke website (this link had been missing for a while, but I've just done a searched and found it again :)). Godfrey Dyke Link not working, please see #4 post below.

Lostsoul, Do you have an approximate birth date and birth location for John Barnes, and also, does anyone in the family know of his last location, ie, which County in the USA did he last reside in? Without this information I doubt his death certificate will be found - There will be many John Barnes listed in the US records/death registers, so we need to narrow down the search.

The MoD will still hold the service record of John Barnes and they will be able to locate it as you have his service number, but I doubt they will be happy to release a copy of it without a death certificate.
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War Hero

On the 1st January 1894, the official numbering system for all ratings entering the Service became sub-specialised and six blocks of numbers were assigned to six different BRANCHES of ratings.



Seamen and Communicators 178001 to 240500

Engine room Artificers 268001 to 273000

Stokers 276001 to 313000

Artisans and Miscellaneous 340001 to 348000

Sick Bay staff and Ships Police [RPO'S] 350001 to 352000

Officers Stewards, Cooks and Boy Servants 353001 to 366450

However, by 1907 there was a danger of the blocks of numbers over spilling into other blocks, so from the 1st January 1908 [which lasted until 1925] the Admiralty decided to add a PREFIX to a new series of numbers. They used the letters J, K, L and M, where 'J' became executive [seamen and communicators], 'K' for Stokers, 'L' for Cooks and Stewards and 'M' for the other three Branches listed.

In 1925, Admiralty introduced a major change in pay scales, so that those joining from this year would enter on a lower pay scale than those who were already serving whose pay would remain the same. To be able to readily recognise the men on the Lower pay scale from those on the Upper scale, they changed the Official Number system. At the time of the change, the official numbers of the four lettered prefix systems had reach J115433; K66973; L15101 and M39555, so to differentiate, they started yet another series of numbers and added the letter 'X'.


UPPER PAY SCALE PRE 25th October 1925
[Those already serving]

LOWER PAY SCALE POST 25th October 1925
[Those joining on or after this date]

Seamen and Communicators

J...... to J115433

JX commencing with 125001

Stokers K66973

KX commencing with 75001

Officers Cooks and Stewards L15101

LX commencing with 20001

All others M39555

MX commencing with 45001

The 1931 pay review which led to the Invergordon lower deck junior rates mutiny, issued under AFO 2239/31, added the dreaded 'X' to all official numbers, taking the 1919 pay rates of the single letter prefix official numbers down to the 1925 lower level ; those already with the 'X' didn't suffer - their pay stayed the same. So, taking the seamen and communications branch for example, all ratings had a JX prefix to their official numbers.

In 1943 when the majority of the Navy were pre-occupied with fighting the war, the administrators decided to introduce the change. Commencing on the 1st April a common bank of numbers would be used for all entries in the RN commencing with the number 500000. The prefix J,K,L and M, plus the letter F for Fleet Air Arm would remain for all normal engagements, and the letters SS = seamen and communicators and some stokers, SK = other stokers, SL = officers cooks and stewards, SM = ERA's and miscellaneous branches, SF = fleet air arm, were introduced for special service engagements. Thus, a man serving a twelve-year engagement could be PJX ******, whereas a man serving seven years in the RN and a further five years on the books of the RNR {the same twelve years} could be PSSX******.

Coronation year, 1953 brought two more changes. The letter 'X' was dropped for all new entries after the 1st April, and a new number series was adopted starting with 925000 onwards. I joined just 5½ months later on the 13th October 1953 so my number was J930735: note that the P for Portsmouth in my case, was not added until we were assigned a home port towards the very end of our fifteen months training at HMS Ganges. If your calculator is working properly, that should tell you that I was number 5735 recruit on the new system, and isn't it uncanny that the last three figures match the last three figures of my official number?

1955 saw the introduction promulgated through AFO 1293/55 of a computerised pro forma which helped the administrators but didn't affect the men or their official numbers.

The next change to official numbers came in 1934 and involved the addition of a third letter in front of the number. Although other letters were used [L = Lee-on-Solent, for Fleet Air Arm - E for Maltese LEP'S {locally entered personnel} and others], the main letters were C, D and P representing Chatham, Devonport and Portsmouth respectively. After this change, an observer could ascertain from a mans official number his Port Division [Welfare Authority] and in the case of the J and K, his Branch, but the L and M had to be guessed at especially the M which covered many Branches and sub-Branches. The actual number remained a problem because it was possible to have two men in the service with exactly the same number but different prefixes. Another change was required.

Home Port drafting, conducted from the three main barracks in Chatham, Devonport and Portsmouth plus Lee-on-Solent for the fleet air arm, ceased in 1957 when central drafting took over, rendering the need for the Port Division prefix letter obsolete. Nevertheless it was kept to denote the mans "selected" depot. From then on, central drafting was carried out from the sleepy Surrey town of Haslemere {named HMS Centurion by DCI [RN] 1283/64} later to be supplanted by HMS Centurion at Gosport Hampshire.

Administrators, not wanting us to think that they were under employed avoided boredom by introducing another system on the 1st April 1959. All recruits on or after this date used the number series 050001 and upwards with just a single letter prefix denoting their selected Welfare Authority now to include HMS Cochrane in Rosyth Scotland, along with the existing south of England old home ports.

Then, for those still serving with official numbers like PJ etc, a change was made, for computer reasons, whereby the welfare authority prefix letter would cease leaving just the J in front of the existing number but adding a single letter suffix [the computer verification code]: my number for example became J930735X and that is the one I left with in July 1983.

Officers {although not part of my story}, hitherto without any form of official number, were given one with a single prefix letter of 'C', meaning, I would think, 'commissioned'.

That then gentlemen, is how the officials made you official as a Royal sailor. Even today, long after leaving the navy, your number is still required by researchers into records held either in HMS Centurion or the Public Records Office [PRO] at Kew, and it was your official number which gave you your service pension number - if you receive one! If, and I trust it will not happen, you ever fall upon hard times and wish to seek the assistance of SSAFA, the RNBT, the Royal British Legion etc, you will need to quote your official number. So remember, after your National Insurance Number, it is still the second most important number in your life's story.

On the subject of Official Numbers, which I found most interesting, I wonder how many different Official Numbers have been held during one's service.
I seem to remember that I have had five!
Originally (being a Londoner) I was a Chatham rating on emerging from Ganges, thus I was C/JX 819724 (it is still imprinted on the bottom of my kit bag). Then I changed to Pompey (can't remember why) and became P/JX 819724. Whilst serving at Whitehall Wireless (1954-1956) they brought out the 7 and 5 short service commission and I once again changed, this time to SSX 819724 (I don't think there was a prefix to SSX). After I changed my mind about Short Service and having signed for 12 years it changed back to P/JX 819724. At some stage I became just J 819724 C, which remained right up to leaving Mercury as an FCRS in November 1975. The last change made my Official Number C 025055 A!

Unashamedly copied from the Godfrey Dyke RN Website for future reference.




Thanks for the comments. Yes we know his birth date and that he resided in Chicago but all US databases have been searched already and he probably died as a John Do. It is highly unlikely he is alive based on his lifestyle.

I have spoken to the RN Disclosure office who are coming back to me on what can be done.

Thanks again

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