Ancestry adds Second World War POW questionnaires
Over 80,000 questionnaires are now available to search on Ancestry
The collection, ‘UK and Allied Countries, World War II Liberated Prisoner of War Questionnaires, 1945-1946’, consists of 83,560 records.
More than 360,000 British soldiers were taken prisoner by the German, Italian and Japanese armies during the Second World War.
The questionnaires were distributed to surviving POWs by the War Office Directorate of Military Intelligence after the end of the war.
They are held at The National Archives in record series WO 344 and were not previously published online.
The records can be searched by name and the complete digitised documents are available on Ancestry.
The questionnaires are marked as ‘Top Secret’. Each man was asked to fill in details including his service number; rank; name; details of any medals; his ship (if in the Navy), unit and division (if in the Army) or squadron and command (if in the RAF); his date of birth; his date of enlistment; his address and telephone number; his profession before the war; his place and date of capture; and the camps or hospitals he was held in, with the dates and names of the camp leaders. The POWs were questioned about their conditions in captivity, whether they were interrogated, any escape or sabotage attempts and whether they knew of any POWs who had collaborated with the enemy.
One record in the collection is the questionnaire filled in by John Edgar ‘Jack’ Harrison. Born in 1912, Jack was a teacher from Glasgow. He served as a flight lieutenant in No. 21 Squadron in the RAF. He was captured on 6 November 1942 in Den Helder in the Netherlands. He was held at Stalag Luft III prison camp and took part in the famous March 1944 ‘Great Escape’ attempt of 1944, where POWs attempted to escape by digging tunnels known as ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’ and ‘Harry’. Only the ‘Harry’ tunnel was successfully used, with 76 men managing to escape before they were discovered, although 73 were later recaptured.
As well as noting that he had made a previous attempt to escape from another camp in 1943, Harrison wrote: “Was to have been 96th out of ‘Harry’, 25 iii 44.”
Rosemary Collins is the features editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine