German Dog Tags From WW1 To Be Returned Home

An example of a World War I German army dog tag. Source: Wikipedia/ Public Domain

A dog tag that belonged to a German soldier in World War I is to be returned to his family.

A New Zealand soldier brought the tag home after the war. His daughters recently brought it to Dunedin’s Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, hoping it could be returned. “They wanted to give it back to his family, if possible,” said Sean Brosnan, curator.

The German soldier went missing in action in the Somme in the middle of 1916. The area is very close to where the New Zealand soldiers saw action.

Brosnan was able to find the soldier on a missing in action list. “I am assuming he died and someone has taken this off his body.”

It was common for soldiers to take souvenirs from dead soldiers, a process known as “ratting”. Items taken included binoculars, badges, helmets, and weapons.

In a startling coincidence, Brosnan’s son lives near the area that the missing man is from. “He lives around the corner from this man’s last address.”

Brosnan contacted the Altonaer Museum in the area. They were interested in the item, and whether they could find the descendants.

Brosnan’s son confirmed that the soldier had married in 1910, raising the possibility that he had children.

The dog tag is being sent to the Altonaer Museum on September 15 – the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand Division’s entry into the Battle of the Somme.

The family of the Dunedin soldier that had the dog tag wishes to remain anonymous.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE