Regimental and Army Numbers

Federation to World War 1

The regimental numbering system introduced for the Citizens Military Forces (CMF) in 1901 made regiments responsible for issuing their own service numbers. Officers did not have regimental numbers and those commissioned from the ranks relinquished their number upon commissioning.

At the time, a regiment was defined as being an infantry battalion or a light horse regiment. These troops made up the majority of of both militia and volunteers. In practice both infantry and light horse units were state-based and within each state, regional in nature, with infantry companies and light horse squadrons scattered throughout regions.

Each such battalion and regimental headquarters had its own series of numbers commencing with '1' and would allot blocks of numbers to its regional sub-units in order to forestall possible duplication.

Corps were comprised of soldiers with the same specialisation - artillery, engineering, ordnance, medical and service corps. These specialised units were smaller in number, smaller in size and widely scattered. Each corps headquarters was responsible for the allocation of numbers commencing with '1' within the corps. Again, this was often managed by the headquarters allocating blocks of numbers to regional subunits.

A change of Regimental Number was triggered when a soldier transfered:

World War 1

The formation of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) to serve overseas required each battalion, regiment or corps to issue its own regimental numbers commencing with '1'. This did not include officers or nurses. Those commissioned from the ranks relinquished their regimental number on commissioning. Until 1921 Regimental Numbers continued to be allocated by the original battalion or corps, and were unique only within that battalion, regiment or corps.

Up until 1915 some units continued the practice of allocating a new number to those transferred in from another battalion, regiment or corps, which shattered the continuity of record-keeping for the individual. Specific instructions issued in November 1915 required that when an individual transferred into another unit, regiment or corps, duplicating an existing number, the transferee was to be given an alphabetic suffix, eg 1234A, 567B. Where such changes had been made, they were to be cancelled and the original number reallocated with any necessary suffix.

World War 2

At the time of the Second World War, each State had its own register of Army Numbers, prefixed with the State letter. These were:

Additional prefixes were introduced as the war progressed. These included:

The Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was raised as a separate Army and had its own numbering system. Numbers were allocated according the the Military District in which the soldier enlisted. That number was prefixed with the Military District index letter and an X to indicate enlistment in the 2nd AIF, eg VX 73561.

Army Numbers for CMF and PMF used the same district prefixes and also included a P to indicate they were serving with the permanent forces, eg VP 2472.

The Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was raised as a separate Army and had its own numbering system. Numbers were allocated according the the Military District in which the soldier enlisted. That number was prefixed with the Military District index letter and an X to indicate enlistment in the 2nd AIF, eg VX 73561.

Initially, members of the CMF who volunteered for service in the Second AIF had an M inserted into their service number, eg VMX1234. Due to tension between the two forces and confusion over duplication of numbers, the practice was discontinued in 1942. New AIF numbers, without an M were issued to all soldiers who transferred to the AIF.

Post WW2

Australian troops joined the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF) in Japan on 21 Feb 1946. Members of the Second AIF serving in Japan kept their original service number. New elistments for the BCOF between 1946 and Jun 1947 were issued with an X500000 number which also included the district prefix, eg NX506387.

The Second AIF officially ceased to exist on 30 June 1947. All Second AIF personnel still on full-time duty were transferred to the Interim Army on 1 July 1947. From July 1947 until October 1947 new enlistments for the Interim Army were issued numbers from X700000 (for example, QX700220).

With the establishment of the Australian Regular Army (ARA) on 30 September 1947, the responsibility for the issue of army numbers reverted to the military districts. Numbering for each district started at 1 and was prefixed with the district number followed by an oblique stroke (e.g. 3/107). The stroke was removed in 1960.

Korean War

Men who enlisted to serve with the Australian forces during the Korean War (the Korean Force) were issued numbers starting from 400,000. Those who enlisted for three years’ service in the Regular Army Supplement were allotted numbers from 900,000. Members of the Interim Army who transferred to the Korean Force were assigned numbers from 905,000. Each of these numbers was prefixed with a number indicating the state in which the person enlisted:

The 900,000 series of numbers continued to be used until the army number system was phased out in 2002. Different number series were used for 3 year and 6 year enlistments.

National Service

Men recruited during the Vietnam War under the National Service (NS) Scheme were issued a seven-digit number. The second digit was always the number seven or eight (for example 3793130) to distinguish National Servicemen from members of the CMF who were also allocated seven digit numbers from the same blocks.

Australian Regular Army male personnel had five- or six-digit service numbers, 5-digit for 6-year enlistments and 6ix-digit for three -year enlistments.

The first digit for all service numbers continued to indicate the state of enlistment, using the same prefixes as during the Korean War.

Multiple army numbers

As a result of changes to the procedures for issuing army numbers, servicemen and servicewomen could have been issued with several different numbers. In a period of five years of service it was not uncommon for a soldier who enlisted in New South Wales to have an X500000 number, an NP number and a 2/0000 number.

Lieutenant Colonel Kathleen Annie Louise Best, founding Director of the Australian Women's Army Corps, was issued with five different numbers throughout her service (V148401, VX102728, NFX12617, VFX700147, and F3/91).

Those who transferred from the CMF to the Australian Regular Army, mostly retained their CMF number, but this was not always the case. Due to the proliferation of systems and anomalies within them, not all army personnel were issued with new numbers. As a result, different numbering systems were in use concurrently.

The author has a NSW CMF number issued in 1964, a NSW six-year enlistment number issued in 1966, a PMKeyS number as a military member and a separate PMKeyS number as a civilian employee of the Department of Defence.

Personnel Management System Key Solutions (PMKeyS)

With the introduction of this system which integrated the personnel management system, all members of the Australian Defence Force and civilian staff are issued with employee identification numbers, with different series for civilian and military members.