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15 October 2014
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Spies on Malta

by HnWCSVActionDesk

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
HnWCSVActionDesk
People in story: 
Arthur Matthews
Location of story: 
Malta
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A6558410
Contributed on: 
31 October 2005

My name is Philip Matthews.
This story was told to me by my father Arthur Matthews. He was in the Army based in Valetta, Malta:

My father was in Malta and it was crawling with spies. When he and his troops went out to do his tours of the towns in the trucks they knew that the German spies were monitoring their every move. As soon as they got back to the barracks they used to change the number plates on the trucks and go out again this used to fool the spies who then thought there was twice as many troops on the island than there actually was!

This story was submitted to the People’s war site by Jacci Phillips of the CSV Action Desk at BBC Hereford and Worcester on behalf of Philip Matthews and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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Message 1 - Army vehicle registration numbers

Posted on: 31 October 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Phillip

Civilian type number plates were considered too flimsy for army use in WW2. In 1939 specific registrations were introduced (at all other times standard registrations were used). The army used a registration consisting of a letter (denoting the service) followed by a number of up to seven digits, for example: M 1234567. The RAF used a similar system, but instead of the letter, the prefix RAF, and the Royal Navy, the letters RN either before or after the number.

In addition, army vehicles (tracked or otherwise) carried a two digit unit serial number (1st Airborne Division up to three digits: 109, 110, 111, 112), a division flash, and an Allied white star emblem on top for recognition from the sky. But all these were stencilled on in white paint (except for the flash, which was done in colour), not on thin number plates.

The Germans already knew the War Establishments (i.e., the allocated equipment) of divisions, battalions, etc. What was of interest to them was the Order of Battle (i.e.,the individual units) in a theatre.

Regards,
Peter Ghiringhelli

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