Service numbers were allocated to individuals upon enlistment into Australia’s armed forces as a form of identification.
The navy, army, and air force each used different combinations of numbers and letters, and these were changed over time. As civilians, seamen of the Merchant navy were not issued service numbers.
The Australian army used a regimental numbering system until 1921. Under this system, each infantry battalion, light horse regiment, and service corps issued numbers from its own series. Officers and nurses were not issued with a number. From 1921 all army personnel were issued with a unique army number.
Navy and air force
Royal Australian Navy officers were not assigned official numbers until the introduction of an electronic personnel data management system in 1965, although they were issued with a pay number for administrative purposes. Permanent Naval Force ratings were assigned official numbers without any prefixes.
Members of the Royal Australian Air Force were issued with official numbers, also known as personal numbers.
The use of service numbers to identify individual members of Australia’s armed forces was progressively phased out in 2000 and 2001. With the introduction by the Department of Defence of an integrated personnel management system, service numbers were replaced with employee numbers.
The Auditor-General, Management of the Personnel Management Key Solution (PMKeyS) Implementation Project, Australian National Audit Office, Canberra, 2005.
The Defence Acts 1903–1904: regulations and standing orders (provisional) for the military forces of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1905, Robt S. Brain, Government Press, Melbourne, 1905, standing orders 192–95.
National Archives of Australia, series A6769, Service cards for navy officers, 1911–70.
National Archives of Australia, series A12372, RAAF personnel files – all ranks.
Navy Office, Commonwealth Naval Orders 653, 1 November 1965.
Military Board, Military Order 524, 19 November 1921.
R.D. Williams, Medals to Australia, with valuations, 3rd edition, Pocket Book, Dubbo, New South Wales, 1990.