BEST WEBSITES: PRISONERS OF WAR IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR
Seventy years on from the final liberation of PoWs in 1945, we survey websites for tracing servicemen who spent time ‘behind the wire’
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.ancestry.co.uk/ search/db.aspx?dbid=1601), Findmypast ( search.findmypast.co.uk/search-worldrecords/world-war-ii-prisoners-of-war), Genes Reunited ( genesreunited.co.uk/ static/militaryrecords), and specialist sites such as forces-war-records.co.uk. 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
icrc.org/ 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.tumblr.com. While researchers on the hunt for WW1 PoWs have their own dedicated and fully searchable website ( grandeguerre.icrc.org), 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.