FIND WW2 PRISONERS OF WAR
Phil Tomaselli explains how to trace British prisoners of war like Lisa Hammond did in her WDYTYA? episode
Eastenders actor Lisa Hammond was shocked to discover that her grandfather, Harry Hammond, had been a prisoner of war during the Second World War. Between them Germany and Italy captured a total of 142,319 British prisoners, with Japan capturing 50,016. There were, of course, many thousands more Commonwealth prisoners. The good news about having a Prisoner of War (POW) relative is that there’s probably more information openly available about them than any other category of serviceman in the Second World War. Ancestry, TheGenealogist and Findmypast have lists of army prisoners of war held by the Germans, Findmypast has records of those held by the Japanese and Forces War Records casualty records usually mention if a man was a prisoner. These records usually give the name of at least the POW camp, but there are ways of finding out more.
Finding POW kin
Once you’ve established that someone was a POW, it should be possible to trace their POW interrogation form. Towards the end of the war MI9 began a mass interrogation of released prisoners and compiled a general questionnaire that each man was required to complete. The reports are held alphabetically in WO 344 series at The National Archives (TNA) in Kew and are not online. It consists of approximately 140,000 liberation questionnaires completed by mainly British and Commonwealth POWs of all ranks and services, plus some other Allied nationals and Merchant seamen. While plans to question all liberated POWs never materialised, these records represent a large percentage of those still in captivity in 1945. Files WO 344/1 to WO 344/359 contain reports on POWs of the 344/410 contain questionnaires for POWs of the Japanese, again these are held alphabetically.
As well as giving personal details, name, rank, number, unit and home address, these escape attempts; sabotage; suspicion of collaboration by other Allied prisoners; details of bad treatment by the enemy to themselves or others. Lance Corporal Colonel (his real given name) Gordon Appleton, East Riding Yeomanry, recalled sabotaging a German saw mill; another soldier noted the deliberate killing of an RAF flying officer who was recaptured after an escape; another recorded that “no praise is high enough” for his camp ‘man of confidence’ (a prisoner chosen to liaise with
British prisoners of war are led away from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940