Ward's Book of Days.
Pages of interesting anniversaries.
What happened on this day in history.
On this day in history in 1952, Identity Cards were abolished.
Identity Cards were a crude and ineffective system of individual recognition, introduced during the Second World War, which became the subject of ridicule and were finally abolished.
Compulsory identity cards were introduced at the outbreak of the Second World War, as a temporary measure to combat the supposed threat of German spies. It was imagined that the enemy were parachuting in spies and saboteurs, who were living unrecognised, under the guise of ordinary British people. The Germans did, of course, send spies to Britain, but they easily forged the facile identity documents. Most of the spies were caught out by their total lack of understanding of the British way of life. One agent was discovered when he entered a pub and ordered a coffee. Another gave himself away by wearing spats, in the belief that the British wore the garb of Nineteenth century aristocrats. The identity cards were completely ineffective in combating enemy espionage.
After the war, the government refused to abolish the cards, despite growing public resentment. Public opinion began to demand their abolition after the case of Willcock v Muckle. Clarence Willcock was asked to produce his identity card by a constable, but did not have it about him. He was required to produce it at a police station within seven days but, when he refused to do so, was prosecuted. The Lord Chief Justice described the cards as ‘nothing but an annoyance’ and ‘tended to turn law-abiding citizens into law breakers’. Shortly after this, the government finally scrapped the cards.
Current lawmakers are looking into the possibility of reintroducing these pernicious cards, but there is no doubt that public resentment will prevent their introduction!
I D card from the 1950's
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