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Army Alias - general question

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Army Alias - general question

Postby Norfolk Nan » Sat Mar 28, 2020 6:59 pm

I came across a Service record on FMP of someone signing up as John Lee in 1881 but having to sign a Statutory Declarations Act form in 1887 to confirm his actual name was Charles Henry Mitchell. This was almost at the end of his period of service and shortly before he was transferred to the Reserve. On enlistment in 1881 he he produced a Conditional Release by the 2nd Middx Militia which was so that must have been in his alias (John Lee).

I'm puzzled why someone would use an alias and how they could produce documentation in the false name. Would there be more information to look for elsewhere? How would this come to light after 7 years - would he have needed to show a birth certificate to apply for his pension? He signed the Declaration in April and was transferred to the Reserve in June. Any information or suggestions would be very welcome. I'm totally puzzled. :shock:
Norfolk Nan
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Re: Army Alias - general question

Postby AdrianB38 » Sat Mar 28, 2020 9:19 pm

A puzzle indeed.

how they could produce documentation in the false name

Dangerous to sound certain but I will bet that there was never any requirement to produce any documentation. Gut feeling is that people knew very well that soldiers and sailors changed their names to get away from ... something ... and why would anyone want to keep such a person out providing they knew which end of a rifle was which? Indeed, the alias business seems so common that the document completed appears to be a duplicated form, not a letter written specifically for him!

Bear in mind that in English & Welsh Law there is no such thing as a "real" name, so "John Lee" was just as valid legally as "Charles Henry Mitchell".

As for why he owned up to his "real" name (presumably birth name), that is the puzzlement. It certainly wouldn't be for a pension - I think 21y service was needed to qualify for a long-service pension. Maybe the clue is that the admission of the different name comes just before he returned to civilian life. If he wanted to apply for a job in his birth name and had to supply references from the Army, they wouldn't be much good to him in another name. There are other reasons that might apply - Royal Navy sailors could arrange to remit part of their pay to their wife at home - tricky if it's the wrong name. But I don't know if the Army had a similar arrangement and in any case, that surely couldn't be the case right at the end of his active service.

A need for references is my best guess.
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Re: Army Alias - general question

Postby Norfolk Nan » Sat Mar 28, 2020 9:36 pm

I think I’ve worked out how he produced a document in his false name - he had neighbours called Lee - but the question is why lie in the first place? I think this chap did return to civvy-Street and carried on in his birth name, which is a nuisance because I’m looking for a John Lee. Thanks for you comments, AdrianB38.
Norfolk Nan
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Re: Army Alias - general question

Postby bebopc » Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:39 pm

I don't know too much about this but my mom had a cousin who did not want to be in the army when he was drafted. They would not let him change for some reason so he went AWOL and rejoined the navy instead, under a different name. Because he did that he could not go home or he would have been arrested so never did but spent the whole WW2 doing great things. As far as i know he never did get home later either but i heard that he may have tried to contact his family by way of postcards, etc to let them know he was ok. not sure though about how he did it That may be one of the reasons why your relative changed the name
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Re: Army Alias - general question

Postby Paparico » Sat Apr 04, 2020 12:33 am

It was a common practise to substitute someone else for military service for many different reasons. Your chap may have had some obligation to serve for someone else who subsequently died or was no longer a threat, thus enabling your man to claim credit for his own service. Aloha! Rico
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