British WWI Soldier Returns from Spanish Battlefield

Meet George Henry Herbert Morton, who has no medal card in the Nation Archives records, suggesting that he went overseas too late to qualify for the War or Victory Medals. He seems to have been attached to the staff of the British Air Attaché in Madrid, Lt. Col. Sandy. British WWI Soldier Battlefield

This is his Emergency Certificate to travel back to the United Kingdom, issued on 7-6-19 by the British Embassy in Madrid, Spain on the request of Lt. Colonel Sandey, British Air Attaché in Madrid.

UK Emergency Certificate 1919
Emergency Certificate of British Nationality, The Great War Archive, University of Oxford

I never saw such a document before, and they might be pretty rare to find nowadays. British WWI Soldier Battlefield

UK Emergency Certificate 1919, back
Visas on the back, The Great War Archive, University of Oxford

At the turn of the twentieth-century, railways dominated land transport. Motor vehicles had yet to seriously threaten the railways, except for local traffic, while aviation was at an embryonic stage. Consequently, the main belligerent nations of Europe built their plans for mobilizing and supporting their armies in war primarily around railways. The same was valid for the return of troops back to the homeland. What do they find back home?

British NCO Hawtin Mundy visited his hometown, New Bradwell; he found his old social life had been changed by the war. British WWI Soldier Battlefield

Well, as you can imagine, it was great to be back home again from the trenches. But it was not quite what you might expect. Because when I came back here at that time, well, Wolverton and Bradwell were more like a ghost town because all your mates had joined the forces. So there was hardly anyone about. If you went for a drink in the club or a pub, it seemed that all there were old men – well old men then, of course, that’d be middle-aged men, men over 40, that weren’t in the forces. Well, they appeared to us to be old men, and that’s how it seemed. Except for perhaps a few here and there that had not joined the forces and wouldn’t join. Well, of course, you didn’t want their company. And that’s how it worked out.

Charles Quinnell had mixed success in re-adjusting to his old routine during his leave from the Royal Fusiliers. British WWI Soldier Battlefield

The first night I came home, I got into my old bed and did you think I could sleep? No. Sleep wouldn’t come. It was the first bed I’d laid in since I’d joined the Army, and when mother brought my cup of tea up in the morning, she found me fast asleep on the floor. Now that’s true. I’d got so used to sleeping hard that I couldn’t sleep on a sofa. I’d always been a great lover of the country, and before the war, I used to do a lot of cycling – pretty well every weekend in the summer I’d be out cycling. And one of the first things I did was resurrected my old bike; pumped the tires up; oiled it; cleaned it; and I rode around the old country, visiting the old scenes that I knew in peacetime. And that, to me, was the most enjoyable thing. British WWI Soldier Battlefield

British WWI Soldier Battlefield
Coming home, picture IWM


The Passport of a Wellington Bomber Pilot



incl. FREE guideline!

FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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