Seventy years on from the fi­nal lib­er­a­tion of PoWs in 1945, we sur­vey web­sites for trac­ing ser­vice­men who spent time ‘be­hind the wire’

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - Jonathan Scott

There are sev­eral printed sources list­ing Bri­tish or Com­mon­wealth pris­on­ers of war. In­deed, the se­cond edi­tion of Pris­on­ers of War, Armies and Other Land Forces of the Bri­tish Em­pire, 1939-1945 recorded the names of ap­prox­i­mately 169,000 pris­on­ers, list­ing name, rank, ser­vice num­ber, reg­i­ment, PoW num­ber and fi­nal camp lo­ca­tion. The book forms the ba­sis of much data cur­rently on­line.

Sev­eral com­mer­cial sites hold rel­e­vant datasets, in­clud­ing Ances­try’s Bri­tish Pris­on­ers of War, 1939-1945 ( search.ances­ search/db.aspx?dbid=1601), Find­my­past ( search.find­my­­drecords/world-war-ii-pris­on­ers-of-war), Genes Re­united ( ge­nesre­u­ static/mil­i­taryrecords), and spe­cial­ist sites such as The lat­ter boasts datasets in­clud­ing Pris­on­ers of War of the Bri­tish Em­pire held in Ger­many 1939-45 and Im­pe­rial Pris­on­ers of War held in Italy 1943.

1 In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross en/ who-we-are/ his­tory

Above is the gen­eral his­tory page from the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross, trac­ing its de­vel­op­ment back to 1863. There’s also an il­lus­trated Se­cond World War gallery, plus a fas­ci­nat­ing blog on Tum­blr at icrchis­tory.tum­ While re­searchers on the hunt for WW1 PoWs have their own ded­i­cated and fully search­able web­site (, there is no WW2 equiv­a­lent yet. In­deed, the re­search ser­vice is cur­rently lim­ited due to a pro­ject to con­serve the Se­cond World War ar­chives. In the mean­time, you can fol­low the pro­ject’s progress and find out more about the ma­te­rial held here, in­clud­ing the in­dex cards used to store cru­cial in­for­ma­tion about in­di­vid­u­als.

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