Banknotes during the Emergency
Special Identification Marking added to Legal Tender Note design War Codes
10 Shillings, £1, £5, £10, £20
Ireland, though covertly disposed towards the Allies during the Second World War, was very much a cut off and isolated place. The war years were officially termed “The Emergency” in the Republic of Ireland, after the passing of the Emergency Powers Act, 1939.
This is reflected in most Irish banknote issues of the period 1940-1944, which bear a Special Identification Marking (SIM), coloquially known as a “war code”, on the standard Legal Tender Note design for all denominations except the £50 and £100 notes.
The SIM war code takes the form of a coloured letter in a circle on the top left and bottom right of the face of each denomination. War code notes are a highly collectible variation of the A Series banknotes, and include some of the rarest and most interesting issues of modern Irish paper money.
Usage of the SIM War Code
The SIM was an extra security feature, used to keep track of the Irish banknotes from the time of their production in England to their being delivered safely to Ireland. Like the dates on the banknotes, the code letters were chosen at random by the Issuing Authority.
The main danger to the banknotes would have been from hostile action, bombing for example, most likely at the printing facility in England, or during transit to Ireland. Such an occurrence could have destroyed the notes, or rendered them very prone to theft.
Should such a loss have occurred, then it would have been a relatively simple procedure, knowing the quantities of banknotes printed under each SIM, to identify the losses and where necessary to cancel by decree all notes bearing a particular overprint. Such may have been the intention. However, there is no record of any batch of notes having been so cancelled.
Once banknotes of a certain code had started into circulation in Ireland, the code for that denomination was changed by the Issuing Authority.
The banknotes Currency Commission Ireland, Central Bank of Ireland
The war code banknotes straddle the era when the Currency Commission Ireland was wound up and replaced by the Central Bank of Ireland. Thus, the variety appears under each of the Issuing Authorities.
Linked Picture Pages
Currency Commission Ireland Type 4 1940-42
Central Bank of Ireland 1943 War Code Specimen Images
Central Bank of Ireland War Code Notes Type 5 1943-44
War Code Letters
Twenty eight different SIM codes were used as special markings. Spread across the five lower denominations, they employ twenty different letters. The letters I, O, Q, U, X, and Z were not used. The first four of these are the letters which were always avoided in serial prefixes on the A Series notes, due to their potential similarity to numerals. Perhaps tradition precluded their use as ETO codes also. No pattern to their occurrence is apparent. The code letters were probably chosen at random.
All of the codes are distinctively coloured. The colour tone varies slightly for most of the codes. This is normal, and probably due to variations in the ink supply, the ink itself, or in the force in the press used to print the codes, or a combination of all these factors. For a few of the codes, there is a very significant variation in colour shade. These are the three blue codes (10 Shillings: H; £1: Y; £20 A), which vary from a pale sky blue to a very dark blue. The occurrence of the variation is apparently randomly spread throughout the dates of issue. The difference in shades is most marked in the H code on the Ten Shilling notes.
Below is a chart of all of the letters used as Special Identification Markings. Click on a code for an example of a banknote with that war code letter
Currency Commission Ireland
The four lower denominations (10 Shillings through to Ten Pounds) of Currency Commission notes were printed with various war codes in the period 1940 to 1942.
The Central Bank of Ireland
In 1943 The Central Bank of Ireland was created in place of the Currency Commission. Special Identification Markings appear on the five lower denominations of the Central Bank issue from 1943 to 1944. The Code was discontinued on banknotes dated from 1945 onwards.
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