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W.D. Number plates WW2 Middle East

rupert condick

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From what little research i have done these number plates were fitted (or painted on) to MV's in the Middle east pre WW2,

but stopped being used  around March 1944.

they were fitted even though the vehicles had WD Census numbers. they were written in English and Arabic.

I would like more information on these plates  a really good picture would be handy.





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  • 1 month later...

You realise you have posted this in the Naval section of the forum?

 My father was out there in 42/43 in 58RSU and I have had a look through his photos and can't see this sort of number plate with dual language. Maybe it was a  local thing - perhaps for vehicles operating in Alexandria.





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The website "License Plates of the World" shows under "Egypt" a black on a white plate with red vertical central bar [matching the style in the second picture] captioned as 'British Forces 1930-1945'. It's described as a replica, and oddly has different numbers in English and Arabic; those in the two photos are the same numbers in both scripts. The two 1930s-1940s civilian plates shown on the website are white on black, in different styles.

Military vehicles in Britain had civilian registration plates until early in WW2, as well as census numbers, and some at least kept them for some time, although new vehicles no longer had them allocated. My suggestion would be that something similar happened in Egypt, where the UK had administrative control, so that pre-war and early wartime vehicles in Egypt had civilian style plates and kept them, at least in some cases, but no more were allocated to arrivals after some point  in late 1939/early 1940.

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My mistake with the navy thing,

Middle East numbers were discontinued in about 1943, from then on just using the standard census number displayed in Arabic.

I am trying to get the correct Arabic scrip for the writing under the Arabic numbers, guess at some sort of translation for WD.


this is the later example (although taken in Italy)



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Hi Rupert. I managed to decipher the arabic script on the numberplates in your pics. It reads “ al jaish al britani” (       الجيش البريطاني) which translates to “the british military”, so not quite a literal translation of “war department”. I can just about read standard arabic script, but there are so many ways of writing in arabic that it takes me a while to make sense of what I’m seeing a lot of the time. Number plates are the worst because they squeeze in so much into a given space and there are no abbreviations in arabic!

Hope this helps.

Edited by ltwtbarmy
Added arabic script and explanation
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All of the pictures posted are of vehicles with number plates which are consistent in style [some white on black, some black on white, admittedly] and location, with the exception of the ambulance in the Italian one, which has a number painted on in a more or less random location, partly across the Red Cross marking. At seven digits it seems too long to be a VRN. It may well be a census number, I don't know, but the presence of an Arabic version of the number implies it was added whilst the vehicle was still in north Africa, as there would be no need for it in Italy, which may affect the dating. It also implies, I think, that the vehicle had no number plate when it was done, as the Arabic version of the number plate would make the Arabic version of the longer number unnecessary [I'm assuming that the Arabic version is for the benefit of Egyptian civil police].

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  • 2 months later...

Hi All

thanks for the replies, the Arabic appears to be very short and not many letters i will have to find a really good picture.

Noel17 the number on the Austin K2Y ambulance serving with the New Zealand Army.

and Is WD no. A1207896    WD contract no,A.1445.

The Census numbers (rego) are usually written on the lower edged of the rear door drivers side.

but when overseas these numbers moved to the middle of the passenger side door,

and the prefix letter written above this. this letter was sometimes omitted when not used by the British Army.

it would appear that this ambulance has moved up wards.IMG_5013.thumb.jpg.edd3b1dd953390bed63bed3ec5387495.jpg

AS the Old WD system had been discontinued, the original census numbers are now being used.

this k2y would have had the Middle East WD / Arabic, number on the passenger side Mudguard, and if the Australian Army had record it (a second time) the AMF(ARN) no would also have been painted there. in Australian service this Ambos number was  (AMF) 1207004 the A having been deleted, could have being on the passenger side door.

Aster are not any pictures of the rear of this ambo. in service, ME or Australia, this will do, Although the A was painted out for the 2AACC.

again thanks for the replies



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This is an interesting thread and I am disappointed that I didnt find this earlier. We were planning on restoring our second Peerless as one in the Middle East either Mesopotamia or Palestine. I found a couple of pictures of licence plates that we decided must be in Egypt and were attempting to replicate them.  These are a bit different from what has been listed here previously, but a similar one has been definitely identified as 1915. Any thoughts or observations please?



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