Most of the territories which Britain managed in the earlier years of the 20th. century were given registration systems firmly anchored in the design and layout of the Construction and Use regulations of the home country. As a result, far-flung places could have identical plates and an early spotter relied on the vehicle carrying an international oval at the back, if it travelled outside its own land.
The most prolific type was the letter ‘P’ (which usually stood for Private vehicle-but not always) followed by up to four numbers. First, though, are three ‘AY’ examples, all still legally circulating in their respective countries. First, Turkish Northern Cyprus, AY 255.
Then, AY 230 – Alderney, Channel Isles (GBA)
and Hong Kong (HK) ( a re-issue, as AY 995 is quite old now, on a new car.)
No identifying ovals, unfortunately, but I do remember where I took the pictures!
Perhaps the most confusing set of identical plates was issued in the Windward Islands. One had to chase the car and interview the driver to obtain the island of issue, as they hardly ever carried an international oval….
GRENADA (WG) on an MG TD in Newmarket, GB in 1964. P 2734
1972 photo of a Morris 1300, P 475, in London, from Barbados, where P codes the parish of St. Philip.
P 2909 – the original series for Antigua.
P 335 – St. Kitts & Nevis went on to P and numbers, when it had exhausted its original CN prefix (Christopher & Nevis). 1980 picture on a Rover 90, by Vic Brumby on St. Kitts.
St. Vincent, the rarest of the W set of Windward Islands, (WV, WG, WL & WD) seen in London in 1969, and still the only one ever. The owner had to be stopped and asked, to learn the island of source. Months later, P 2277 was found parked in a far distant part of London, ad a photo grabbed – Peugeot 404 – Brumby archive.
Trinidad used up to P 9999 long ago, but still re-issue P as cherished plates if needed. That’s what this one is. P 6000, taken there in 1987 by VB. Black on white indicates taxi licence, as with Mauritius below.
Bermuda is not far away, though not in the West Indies, and used the same P system. The motorbike shows P 1936 and was photo’d in the early 1950s.
P 135 is from distant Mauritius, where the white background shows it to be a taxi – a Hillman Minx, shot by VB in Port Louis, 1980s.
Northern Rhodesia allocated ‘P’ code to Lusaka and Mumbwa and Reg Wilson captured P 1106 in Britain in 1961.
P 5373 was issued to Penang as a Straits Settlement in Malaya in the1920s – and this Ford Anglia was photographed there as recently as 2012, by Douglas Fox!
France kept the enclaves of Pondichery and Karikal in Madras State, South India, tagging the vehicles there in the P and K series, using the British-style font of India. This Cadillac P 1452 had survived the obligatory change to white Indian plates, when this photo was taken. Thanks to Cedric Sabine.
P 8825 – Similarly , French Tahiti sometimes used British-style plates for the original series of up to four numerals followed by a ‘P’ for Privé. VB photo on a Land Rover in Papeete, 2002.