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Photograph of prisoners of war, Hiroshima, Japan (Catalogue reference: AIR 49/384)

This is a brief guide to researching records of British prisoners of war during the Second World War. Records of British prisoners of war for this period are varied and can be complicated. They are also incomplete. Those records which do exist are mostly available at The National Archives. This guide does not cover prisoners of war in British hands.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name of the person
      • the rank and regiment (where applicable)
      • a date range and location to help focus your search
  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Websites

      Search the British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945 database on Ancestry.co.uk for information about some British prisoners of war.

    • Books

      Read the books below for lists of approximately 169,000 people held captive by German forces up to April 1945:

      • Prisoners of war, British Army, 1939-1945, J. B. Hayward (1990, Imperial War Museum)
      • Prisoners of war, naval and air forces of Great Britain and the Empire, 1939-1945, J. B. Hayward (1990, Imperial War Museum)
      • Prisoners of war, armies and other land forces of the British Empire, 1939-1945 (2nd edition, Polstead, 1990)

       

Did you know?

The record series WO 344 contains questionnaires of approximately 140,000 people who were liberated by the Allied forces at the end of the Second World War.

When searching records for a prisoner of war, you may find information on a person's:

  • unit
  • home address
  • details of capture
  • activities before and after capture