FIND WW2 PRIS­ON­ERS OF WAR

Phil To­maselli ex­plains how to trace Bri­tish pris­on­ers of war like Lisa Ham­mond did in her WDYTYA? episode

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

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

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