General collection information
This collection comprises questionnaires filled out by prisoners of war who were liberated at the end of the Second World War in 1945. The questionnaires were given to thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers captured by Germany, Italy, or Japan. The questionnaires provide information about various dates related to each soldier's military service and time as a prisoner of war. Some records may only have dates while others can provide rich details about the treatment of prisoners of war, attempts to escape, and the conditions in the camps in which they were held.
Using this collection
Records in this collection may include the following information:
The information in the questionnaires can be used to verify that enemy forces captured your ancestor at a specific place and time during the Second World War. You also may discover if your ancestor had any serious illnesses during captivity or if they witnessed any courageous acts by fellow prisoners of war. If your family member attempted to escape, you may find out about their evasive activities and any people who helped them during the attempt.
Collection in context
The questionnaires were created by the War Office Directorate of Military Intelligence, and they were filled out by individual prisoners of war. The documents are high-quality primary historical sources that may have unique details about the lives of prisoners of war that can't be found in other records. The original documents are housed at the National Archives in Kew.
The Second World War was fought between 1939 and 1945. During that time, more than 360,000 British soldiers were held as prisoners of war by German, Italian, and Japanese armed forces. Many of the soldiers captured by the Germans and Italians were taken during a series of Allied defeats between 1940 and 1942. During your ancestor's time of captivity, they may have suffered from malnutrition and additionally may have been a victim of physical abuse.
Prisoners of war were typically subjected to heavy labor. Due to the lack of proper nutrition and fatigue from long hours of work, there were few attempts to escape. In Japanese prisoner of war camps, escapes were even more rare because camps were often built in remote places. Prisoners in Japanese camps were generally treated more harshly than those in European camps and were seven times more likely to die in captivity.
Imperial War Museums. "What Life Was Like For POWs In Europe During The Second World War." Accessed 23 June, 2023. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-life-was-like-for-pows-in-europe-during-the-second-world-war#.
---. "What Life Was Like For POWs In The Far East During The Second World War." Accessed 23 June, 2023. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-life-was-like-for-pows-in-the-far-east-during-the-second-world-war#.
The National Archives. "War Office: Directorate of Military Intelligence: Liberated Prisoner of War Interrogation Questionnaires." Accessed 23 June, 2023. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14548.