Catalogue description War Office: German Record cards of British and Commonwealth Prisoners of War and some Civilian Internees, Second World War

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Details of WO 416
Reference: WO 416
Title: War Office: German Record cards of British and Commonwealth Prisoners of War and some Civilian Internees, Second World War
Description:

This series comprises some pre-printed cards, containing personal details of some 200,000 individuals held by German Authorities during the Second World War, most relate to prisoners of war though there are several hundred relating to civilians. The collection also includes details of several thousand airmen whose bodies were found in German occupied territory. Cards are printed in old style German and have been completed in English, and are in a number of differing formats. Some cards have very few details completed whereas some include photographs and fingerprints of the prisoners. A few cards include chest x-rays, and there are separate, usually pink, cards which record basic medical conditions (if applicable). The number of cards for each individual varies from one to fifteen, but in most cases there are just one or two.

The cards record (with certain exceptions) a varying amount of detail which can include the following:

  • Camp name.
  • Camp number.
  • Country of origin.
  • Surname.
  • First name(s).
  • Place and Date of birth.
  • Father's first name.
  • Mother's maiden name.
  • Name and Address of Next of Kin.
  • Religion.
  • Date and Place of Capture.
  • Where transferred/transported from.
  • Details of escape.
  • Details of death.
  • Service (e.g. Army, Air, Navy, Civilian).
  • Service rank.
  • Service number.

While the majority of the cards are of British military service personnel, many cards relate to Merchant Navy Ratings, Merchant Navy Officers, South Africans, Canadians, Rhodesians, Palestinians, New Zealanders, and Australians, and a limited number of cards are for individuals of other nationalities such as Norway, China, Arabia, the USA, and Cyprus. Although there are separate pieces (WO 416/407-414) for those serving in the Merchant Navy and for those of Cypriot, Australian, New Zealand, South African and Palestinian origin, such details may instead or in addition be found in the main alpha-numerical run (WO 416/1-406) and a number of cards have been misfiled (see arrangement).

There are also a number of cards for individuals who are listed as 'unknown' at WO 416/415-417. The entries on these cards are written in German only (and are usually noted as English with a blue cross).

Cards show details of deaths by use of symbols such as blue, black and red crosses.

Information recorded at item level in square brackets indicate information added from other sources to confirm an individual's identity. Sources include Prisoners of War (Polstead: J B Hayward in association with the Imperial War Museum, Dept of Printed Books, 1990) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Cards for some service personnel may be missing as part of claims made by ex-POWs, cards were taken out of the collection and used as evidence to support the claim. In most cases, the card was placed on the claim file and not returned to this series.

Date: 1939-1945
Arrangement:

Cards are arranged in boxes by surnames according to alphabetical groupings, though some cards are mis-filed (e.g. cards for an individual named James Thomas may have been filed as Thomas James). Also, some can be found in pieces with descriptions outside their surname range. Also, occasionally, cards for the same individual can be found in multiple pieces. There is one main alphabetical run by surname (pieces 1-406) and a smaller run (pieces 407-414) arranged by specific nationalities and/or service arm.

With the support of volunteers we are cataloguing pieces 1 to 414 by name of individual (pieces 415-417 cannot be catalogued as these contain cards for unidentified deceased individuals). The records are being catalogued in numerical order by piece with the following current projected completion dates, which may be subject to change:

  • Pieces 1-51 (Erling Aaby-Cyril Burrows) and 407-414 (various sub-series). All fully catalogued by name.
  • Pieces 52-110 (Dennis Burrows-Albert Elliot) by end of July 2018.
  • Pieces 111-171 (Alexander Elliot-Alec Heggie) by end of December 2018.
  • Pieces 172-220 (Andrew J Heggie-Reginald V Leggett) by end of July 2019.
  • Pieces 221-271 (Samuel Leggett-Edward C Nicholson) by end of December 2019.
  • Pieces 272-320 (F W Nicholson-G Scarcliffe) by end of July 2020.
  • Pieces 321-406 (Trevor Scard-Piotz Zyzmiewski) by end of December 2020.

With the above information in mind, you may wish to consider our paid research service in pieces not yet catalogued. To request this please go to the relevant piece level information (e.g. WO 416/406) and submit a request for paid research.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Creator:

War Office, Adjutant General, Directorate of Prisoners of War, 1940-1945

Physical description: 417 box(es)
Restrictions on use: Closed whilst access is reviewed unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

in 2014 Ministry of Defence

Custodial history: These cards came into the possession of the British Army at the end of the Second World War, which passed them to the War Office in London. As part of claims made by ex-POWs, cards were taken out of the collection and used as evidence to support the claim. In most cases, the card was placed on the claim file and not returned to this series.
Accumulation dates: 1939 to 1945
Selection and destruction information: Selected under Records Collection Policy, selection criteria 3.1
Accruals: No further accruals are expected.

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