Catalogue description War Office: Directorate of Prisoners of War: Prisoners of War Lists, Second World War

Search within or browse this series to find specific records of interest.

Date range

Details of WO 392
Reference: WO 392
Title: War Office: Directorate of Prisoners of War: Prisoners of War Lists, Second World War

Alphabetical lists of prisoners of war from all branches of HM Forces, including other nationals under British command, held in Germany or German-occupied territory, Italy and Japan or Japanese-occupied territory.

The lists in this series were apparently compiled by the Directorate of Prisoners of War PW.3 section in collaboration with Cas(PW), presumably from information supplied by a protecting power and/or the Red Cross.

There are three distinct groups, each of which includes details of PoWs from all branches of HM Forces. The groups are:

  • (i) prisoners held in Germany or German-occupied territory;
  • (ii) prisoners held in Italy; and
  • (iii) those held by the Japanese either in Japan or Japanese-occupied territory.

The lists of personnel held in Germany are arranged in ten sections alphabetically by surname. Officers are listed before other ranks, and each entry shows - as far as possible - the prison camp number; PoW number; name, rank, service number and branch of service, regiment, corps, unit or ship as appropriate. Each list commences with a guide to the abbreviations used to indicate the prison camp number, and a key to the location of the camp.

The lists referring to PoWs held in Italy are similar in nature but, in some instances, do not include a key to the designation or whereabouts of the camps. This key can be found at the beginning of all but the first section of WO 392/21

These two groups also include names of personnel of the Merchant Navy, those belonging to the Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African forces, and a miscellaneous section which includes entries referring, among others, to locally-enlisted, Palestinian, Cypriot, Italian and North African personnel.

The third group, those held in Japan or Japanese-occupied territory, is set out in a different format and is type-written, whereas the lists relating to prisoners in Germany and Italy are professionally-printed.

The lists comprise four volumes - A-D, E-J, K-Q and R-Z - each section containing particulars of all ranks of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. Also included are details of certain civilian internees, some not of British nationality. The lists are arranged thus: serial number (within the list, not the PoW number as indicated in the rosters for Germany); name, rank and number; branch of service; dates of capture and liberation; prison camp, and remarks. The prison camp designation is indicated by a two-letter code.

Date: 1943-1945
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

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

Physical description: 26 volume(s)
Unpublished finding aids:

Indexes to the abbreviations appearing in the Catalogue are in the reading rooms at The National Archives, Kew.

Administrative / biographical background:

Articles 77-80 of the International Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War [PoWs] imposed upon a country detaining PoWs a duty to report their capture to their own government. This was achieved usually through the agency of another state - generally a neutral country - acting as a 'Protecting Power' for such personnel. The function of a Protecting Power exists only during war-time, and can only be carried out with the consent of the belligerents. Thus, it provides a channel of communication between them. Information regarding PoWs was also communicated via the International Committee of the Red Cross, based in Switzerland .

During the war of 1939-1945 information of Pows was collated for the most part in the War Office by the Directorate of Prisoners of War [DPW], which was set up under the department of the Adjutant-General to administer all PoW matters.

By 1941 the directorate was comprised of five sections. Broadly speaking, PW.1 and PW.2 dealt with enemy PoW matters, PW.3 was concerned with British Empire PoWs, PW.4 with censorship and intelligence and PW.5 with camp security, camp inspections and completion of the directorate's war diaries. Other branches were involved in PoW matters in concert with DPW, including a casualty branch - Cas(PW) - under the Department of the Permanent Under Secretary of State for War and AG.3 directly under the Adjutant-General.

The Director of Military Intelligence also had responsibility for certain PoW matters, MI.9 handling escape, evasion and debriefing of allied PoWs, with MI.19 involved in interrogation etc of enemy PoWs.

Have you found an error with this catalogue description?