Australian World War 1 Army Identity Disc – JR Abbott 6200
Shown is an unofficial Australian World War 1 identity disc fashioned from an Australian penny dated 1916. It is bent and the obverse has been skimmed off. Inscribed into the skimmed surface is:
The inscription has probabaly been achieved by tapping the coin with a nail or something similar leaving a series of dents that form the letters and numbers. Overall the appearance of this impromptu identity disc is quite crude. One point of note is that the disc is not holed which is quite unusual.
John (Jack) Purdy Abbott, service number 6200 enlisted on 30 March 1916 at the AIF base at Cootamundra, NSW. His service records on the National Archives of Australia are incorrectly filed under “John Purdey Abbott”. His service records sometimes spell the middle name correctly, other times they use the mis-spelling.
At the time of enlistment Abbott listed his residence as Redfern in Sydney. However he was born in Adelaide in 1890 to English parents. According to the English Census of 1891 those parents appear to have returned to England and were living in the county of Cumberland. In the Census of 1911 a John P. Abbott, born in 1890, birthplace Adelaide, was listed at a boarding house in Cumberland and with a listed occupation as labourer. Sometime between then and 1916 John Abbott returned to the country of his birth, perhaps to seek better opportunities in a country he would have had no memory of.
Upon his 1916 enlistment Abbott was taken into the 18th Battalion as part of the 17th Reinforcements and departed Sydney on the HMAT Ascanius in late October 1916. Arriving in the UK in late December that same year he spent the next 10 weeks with training battalions and departed for France in mid-March 1917. Records indicate that he was taken onto the strength of the 18th Battalion on the 19th of March.
Nothing else is to be found in his records until he is listed as killed in action in the field, Belgium on 20 September 1917. The 18th Battalion was part of the Third Battle of Ypres. The first phase of that was The Battle for Menin Road which commenced on 20 September 1917, the same day that John Abbott was killed. More than 5000 Australians were killed or wounded along with Abbott on that terrible day.
Abbott is buried in the Aeroplane Cemetery 2 miles NE of Ypres. His effects were mailed back to his mother in England in late 1917 but the ID disc shown above was not listed among them. It’s interesting to postulate how this disc thus returned to Australia.