Catalogue description Registry of Shipping and Seamen: War of 1939-1945; Merchant Seamen Prisoner of War Records

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Details of BT 373
Reference: BT 373
Title: 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 373/1 - BT 373/359are indexed by ship name which was captured or lost due to enemy action. These contain miscellaneous papers relating to the circumstances of loss/ capture.

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.

Date: 1923-1952

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.

Related material:

Rolls of honour for those merchant seamen who died in the Second World War are in BT 339

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

Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, 1872-1992

Physical description: 3722 file(s)
Access conditions: Open
Immediate source of acquisition:

in 2000 Registry of Shipping and Seamen

Accumulation dates: 1935-1952
Selection and destruction information: All the surviving merchant seamen prisoner of war records have been preserved.
Accruals: No future accruals expected.
Administrative / biographical background:

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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