Registry of Shipping and Seamen: War of 1939-1945; Merchant Seamen Prisoner of War Records
The pouches record the circumstances of capture and the eventual fate of merchant seamen captured during the war of 1939-1945. They were originally stored in card index drawers.
BT 373/360 toBT 373/3716 contain individual pouches of seamen respectively. Each pouch typically contains the following papers/ details: name of the ship lost usually written in red ink on the POW envelope; a card or form containing circumstantial details (including POW camp, POW number, Surname, Christian names, date of birth, place of birth, Discharge A number, rank or rating, name of ship, ships official number, date of loss of ship, next of kin, relationship, address and country of detention); Prisoner of War Branch PC 96 (postal censorship) forms vetting messages to and from family and friends; Envelope RS3 which usually has notes of release from captivity/ repatriation written on it where appropriate, containing many of the details from the POW card and additionally a National Service AF Account Number. Some of the pouches may also contain personal letters to and from prisoners of war.
Collective alphabetical listings of prisoners of war (as opposed to individual pouches) are contained in BT 373/3717 and BT 373/3720 - BT 373/3722. BT 373/3722 and BT 373/3721 include details and particulars of prisoners of war who died in captivity in Japan and Germany.
Arrangement consists of a number of A to Z alphabetical listings as follows: pieces 1-359 (vessels captured or destroyed by enemy action containing allied merchant seamen); pieces 360-1350 (prisoners of war United Kingdom and foreign subsequently repatriated); pieces 1351-1840 (foreign allied prisoners of war recovered and returned to the United Kingdom); pieces 1841-2078 (deaths of allied prisoners of war in Japanese concentration camps); pieces 2079-2195 (Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Chinese and Asian allied prisoners of war); pieces 2196-2355 (United Kingdom allied prisoners of war); pieces 2356-3100 (United Kingdom and foreign allied prisoners of war); pieces 3101-3621 (United Kingdom and Asian allied prisoners of war); pieces 3622-3693 (a miscellaneous nationalities selection); pieces 3694-3716 (reception camp servicing cards), and; pieces 3717-3722 (collective A to Z listings of surviving and deceased prisoners of war and ships captured).
The original reasons for compiling so many alphabetical listings are unknown.
The Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen was created in 1872 and became the Registry of Shipping and Seamen in 1992. From the records it is evident that a Prisoner of War Branch existed in this department at some time during the War of 1939-1945.
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- BT Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies
- Records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and successor
- BT 373 Registry of Shipping and Seamen: War of 1939-1945; Merchant Seamen Prisoner of War Records