Two days after war was declared a bill passed through Parliament for a National Register, which was explained to the general public as being a way for the British Government to control manpower and to maximise the economy. With many children being evacuated to the country and there was a likelihood of rationing, which was introduced from January 1940 onwards, the Government needed more recent statistic than those of the previous 1931 census. The National Register acted as a immediate census and was very similar in it’s method. It was organised by Sir Sylvanus Vivian who had been Register General since 1921.
About 65,000 enumerators were employed and all received instructions enabling them to deal with questions raised by householders to whom they delivered in person the identity card for each man, woman and child in the house.
Approximately 45 million cards were issued and some mother’s didn’t add their son’s names for fear of them being called up, but then when rationing was brought in they realised they had to no choice but to declare them. you were expected to keep your identity card with you at all times and were expected to show it to the police force is asked.
Basic Facts required on 29th September 1939 were:
- Date of Birth
- Marital Status
- If member of armed services of reserves
Additional instructions were given at a later date for anyone over the age of 16 to sign and date their own card and include their address. Under 16s were told not to carry their card with them, but to carry a luggage label with their details and registration number on. The card changed colour in 1943 to blue when rationing and registration were combined. The ID card was abolished in 1953, and the registration information had served to provide the basis of the new National Health Service in July 1948.