Exhumation Related Effects Forms

What are EFx Reports and how do they relate to Comprehensive and Concentration Reports?

This section begins with an extract from a General Routine Order (an administrative order) issued by the Adjutant General, the head of personnel based issues for the British Army (including the local D.G.R.E.), in this case for the France and Belgium based British Expeditionary Force on the 29th August 1919:

‘7260-Effects-Disposal of.— …Warrant Officers’, Non-commissioned Officers and men should now be addressed to War Office Effects Branch (Men), 36 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London, S.W. [Editor’s note: officers’ effects were sent to relatives via regimental agents/banks such as Cox and Co. after processing and recording by the War Office].

N.B.— Care must be taken to ensure that the existing regulations as to the method of packing, labelling, etc., are strictly adhered to, and that only such portions of the effects as were sent to the Effects Branch of the late 3rd Echelon [Editor’s note: a theatre of war based personnel administration organisation for each of the British expeditionary forces] are forwarded to the above address.’

From National Archives (TNA) WO 162/201 General Routine Orders France

The Adjutant General was according to the Army’s instructions for administrative procedure during a campaign, Field Service Regulations Part II (1909) responsible for administering the organisation that first received the effects from deceased soldiers. The effects (both from the field and those not with the soldier when they died in Battle) were carefully recorded. They were then passed to Army Record Offices and eventually to next of kin.

The ‘Effects Branch’ was based at 3rd Echelon. It is worth a reminder that the role of 3rd Echelon was that of a theatre of war based personnel administration organisation for each of the British expeditionary forces, for example 3rd Echelon for the B.E.F. in France and Belgium was based for much of the War in Rouen. Effects Branch was based in France until the summer of 1919 and a small amount of correspondence between them and the Directorate of War Graves and Enquiries survives in Enquiry files, for example a slip of scrap paper sent in 1919 to D.G.R.E. in London (which survives in C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file PH 24/11963) shows the use of the EF acronym to indicate correspondence sent out by Effect’s Branch.

The note was written on a scrap of Army Form B. 103, the main form used by the Army 3rd Echelon to record casualties of all kinds and manage service personnel in the field. The Effects Branch EF references can be seen within the stamp next to the date of 5/5/19. The note was sent to the D.G.R.E. at Winchester House, both were concerned with the purpose as set out in Field Service Regulations of ‘identification’ and ‘verification’ of the deceased (War Office (1909) Field Service Regulations Pt II: 165-166).

The D.G.R.E. and later I.W.G.C. interest in effects was purely in the effects retrieved from the exhumation of buried soldiers for identification processes and we find many references to these reports in surviving enquiry files and often on the surviving Enquiry Index Cards such as that for 2/Lieutenant G.E. Cecil, which has the reference EF/X/13479 on the bottom left hand corner of the card (in Enquiry File HLG 30605). The same reference can be seen in the surviving Comprehensive Report and Burial Report for Guards’ Grave, Villers-Cotterets Forest:

Guards' Grave1
Guards' Grave2

See http://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/578661/CECIL,%20GEORGE%20EDWARD

Some early versions of the Concentration of Graves (Exhumation and Re-Burials) form survive such as this example from Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (printed in France February 1919 by the Army Printing & Stationery Services (A.P. & S.S.)) have “A” printed in the top right hand corner:


See http://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/146066/MAURICE,%20S

Update: Going back through the Concentration of Graves (Exhumation and Re-Burials) forms for Cement House Cemetery I noticed that a “B”  Concentration of Graves (Exhumation and Re-Burials) Effects Form, which was also printed in France (in September 1919) had survived. The significance of this survival (which was updated [?] in 1950) becomes clear as you read the article:

Cement House B Effects Form Printed 1919
An Army Printing And Stationery Services (A.P. & S.S.) produced copy of a WW1 related Part “B” Concentration of Graves (Exhumation and Re-Burial.) Effects Form. It was printed in France in September 1919. There are other surviving copies of this form printed by the War Office, originally for use by the Army, but no other surviving copies of this form yet identified printed by A.P. & S.S. in France. The form was designed to be used with Part “A” Concentration of Graves (Exhumation and Re-Burials) forms such as the earlier example from Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, which was also printed by  A.P. & S.S. in 1919.

The following transcribed form is based on a copy made by Australian Army clerks of the effects form for 5895 Private N.F. Skinner sent to them which is preserved in his service file. The original page from Skinner’s service record can be found here https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Gallery151/dist/JGalleryViewer.aspx?B=8086046&S=24&N=67&R=0#/SearchNRetrieve/NAAMedia/ShowImage.aspx?B=8086046&T=P&S=24

Transcription of an effects from as used from 1919 by D.G.R.E. and then I.W.G.C. with exhumations/reburials. The form is parts ‘B’ and ‘C’ which accompanies the part “A” Concentration & Burial Forms (see the above example from Lijssenthoek) which often survive in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive. The surviving effects forms have an E.F.x. file number stamped on them and references to this number can be seen in the Casualty Archive documents (see examples below). It is also possible that the 6/348 file references sometimes used in the Concentration documents (e.g. Tyne Cot) are an alternative way of referring to the effects forms, as the later 1919 printing of the effects form has the printing reference HP6348. The part “B” transcription comes from an actual copy preserved in an Australian service file (Caldwell), whilst “C” comes from a copy made by a clerk on a document preserved in another Australian service file (Skinner). In terms of font and layout the copy of “C” from which my transcription derives appears to lack the precise fonts etc probably used in the original. The font sizing for “C”s heading here is based upon the size difference between title and text used in “B”.

References to Skinner’s EFx number (noted as EF/X/6337 on the transcribed page in his service file) can as usual be found in the Casualty documents (although not on the Concentration form in this case):


Comprehensive Report extract and Burial Report extract from Hooge Crater Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen see http://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/459296/SKINNER,%20NELSON%20FRANCIS

Efx form

The above image is of the only original  completed Effects form filled in before WW2 (in 1928) currently known to survive and comes from the file of an Australian serviceman, Private W.H. Caldwell. It is clearly the same form as the transcribed blank copy seen above and shows how these forms got their EF/x number, it was stamped onto the form. Below can be seen the same EF/X number written on the Burial Report from Serre Road Cemetery. Although the original image comes from the Australian service record this record was first seen on a web page devoted to Caldwell (http://www.rgcrompton.info/crompton/1821info4b.html . For reference to the original form in the service record see https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Gallery151/dist/JGalleryViewer.aspx?B=3188728&S=1&N=38&R=0#/SearchNRetrieve/NAAMedia/ShowImage.aspx?B=3188728&T=P&S=23)


Comprehensive Report extract and Burial Report extract from Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, Somme http://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/608305/CALDWELL,%20WILLIAM%20HENRY

The duplicate title between the effects form and the example of a burial return from Lijssenthoek, together with the printed “A” and “B” references on the respective versions on the forms suggest that the effects forms were part of a package issued together with the burial returns. The print number H.P. 6348 is also shared between the Serre Road burial return and the original copy of the effects form from Caldwell’s service file. Part “C” was the address label for to return the package of effects to London. Not all burial returns have a corner “A” and it seems that the reference was not needed whereas it was retained in the two print runs we know of the Effects Form. The EFx label in common with the EFx form is likely to have been an innovation of the post 1918 concentration of cemeteries and associated exhumations.

Imperial War Museum (IWM) Transcription of 1919 copy of Concentration of Graves (Exhumation and Reburial) “B” Form donated by the I.W.G.C. to IWM in 1932

Blank copies of a number of forms, including a single 9/19 version of the above (which is the same as the completed copy in the image) are kept as part of the IWM collection. The link to the catalogue item containing this form can be found here:


Update: Since this article was written, I have come across an excellent blogpost
on the Derbyshire Territorials in the Great War blog ‘Caberet-Rouge British Cemetery at Souchez’ which shows surviving envelopes and identity discs for two Nottingham & Derby Regiment men’s identity disks which had been found by the I.W.G.C. whilst concentrating bodies into Cabaret Rouge Cemetery. The men died in October 1915 and the EF/X numbers given by the I.W.G.C. to their effects (the identity discs) in 1926 were Ef/x/18943 and Ef/x/19054. For the Derbyshire Territorials in the Great War post click: https://derbyshireterritorials.wordpress.com/the-great-war-1914-1918/1915-2/lost-cemeteries-of-loos/