CR10 record card:-Introduction
The British Government introduced male conscription for the UK, apart from Ireland, in January 1916. It was designed to meet future military manpower needs in the Great War. Men in crucial industries like coalminers and merchant seamen were exempt.
In the spring and summer of 1918 there was a manpower crisis on the Western Front. The British Army suffered 300,000 casualties, including 40,000 dead, in the German attacks of March and April. The Government responded by extending age limits for recruitment. They also decided to check that merchant seamen were going to sea regularly and not using the system to avoid conscription.
In September 1918 the Board of Trade introduced an identity book, including a passport style photograph, for all merchant seamen working from British ports, together with a matching central card index (CR10 cards). Each card lists personal and foreign voyage detail for the seaman and a good quality photograph. Seamen in the home trade were included but their voyages were not recorded. The system operated until December 1921 when it was simplified. The photograph was dropped and men in the home trade were excluded from the central index.
300,000 of the original index cards have survived and are held in Southampton Civic Archives. Between 2006 and 2008 our team extracted the details of some 23,000 Irish born and 1000 Canadian born seamen who are included on this database. We have also included details of nearly 50,000 individual voyage starts.