This Merchant Navy (MN) identification badge was issued to seamen on British ships in January 1940 and to those on New Zealand ships from July 1941.
The Merchant Navy name had been adopted in Britain in 1922, as part of King George V's formal acknowledgement of merchant seafarers' service and sacrifice during the First World War. That conflict cost the British Empire's merchant marine – as it was then better known – 2500 ships and 15,000 seafarers.
During the First World War, merchant seafarers were not issued with any sort of identification badge, and as they did not wear uniforms many were made to feel uncomfortable ashore. The issue of MN badges during the Second World War was designed to indicate that the wearer was taking an active part in the war effort.