This series comprises some pre-printed cards, containing personal details of some 190,000 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.
- First name(s).
- Place and Date of birth.
- Father's first name.
- Mother's maiden name.
- Name and Address of Next of Kin.
- 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.