Thursday, 27 August 2009

Ancestry's World War Two databases - update

The following is the official press release from Ancestry.co.uk concerning the new WW2 databases I announced on Tuesday:

COLDITZ PRISONER OF WAR RECORDS NOW ONLINE

To mark the 70th anniversary of the start of WWII Ancestry.co.uk publishes records of more than 100,000 British Army POWs

Records include British and Commonwealth personnel imprisoned between 1939 and 1945 in Germany, Austria and Poland

Included are actor Michael Goodliffe, serial escapee Jock Hamilton-Baillie and George Henry Hubert Lascelles – at the time seventh in line to the throne
These POW records have never before been available online

For the first time, Ancestry.co.uk today launched online the British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945, a collection of records detailing more than 100,000 POWs captured during World War Two.

The collection includes records for all British Army personnel held in Germany, Austria and Poland during World War Two. They were compiled by the German military authorities under the 1929 Geneva Convention, which requires opposing forces to notify each other of captured combatants.

As one of the few World War Two sources currently open for public inspection because of the 30-year rule1, this collection is a valuable resource for anyone looking to trace British and Commonwealth soldiers captured during the war. Very few World War Two records are currently available to the general public because the release of individual records is still restricted under the rule.

The vast majority of the records are for British army personnel, although records for hundreds of Canadian and Australian troops are also included. The collection however does not feature the thousands of Airforce men shot down over Europe, who were recorded elsewhere.

The camp in which a soldier was imprisoned would depend on where they were captured and their rank. The Stalag (base camps) held general personnel, whilst the Oflags housed officers only. The most famous camp included is the notorious Oflag IV-C, situated in Colditz Castle, a high security prison for officers who had become a security or escape risk, or regarded by the Germans as being particularly dangerous.

Included within the 100,000 POW records are the following famous prisoners:

Desmond Wilkinson Llewelyn – the English actor most famous for playing ‘Q’ in the James Bond films served as a lieutenant with the Royal Welch Fusiliers during WWII. He was captured in 1940 and held at Oflag IX-A/Z in Germany for five years

George Henry Hubert Lascelles – the Viscount, 7th Earl of Harewood, KBE, currently 40th in line to the throne and 7th at the time of his capture. Viscount Harewood was incarcerated in Colditz Castle from 1944 until the end of the war

JRE (Jock) Hamilton-Baillie – ‘Jock’ Hamilton-Baillie was a serial escaper from German prison camps, getting beyond the perimeter of five separate camps before being sent to Colditz – where he nearly escaped dressed in a tight-fitting black burglar’s cat suit

The conditions the prisoners faced in these camps varied greatly, with western forces receiving better treatment from the Germans than their allies in the East, particularly the Russians. British officers often did not have to work in their camps while soldiers were compensated if they did.

However, conditions were far from comfortable, with the most frequent complaint being the scarcity of food.

In addition to the POW records, Ancestry.co.uk has also published online the UK Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945, featuring the records of all British Army personnel killed in action during World War Two. Included are those who died of natural causes, wounds and disease.

The ‘Roll of Honour’ contains more than 170,000 names and was compiled between the end of 1944 and 19492. Details include the perished soldier’s name, rank, date of death, service number, birth place, residence, branch at enlistment and regiment at death. Well-known names in the collection include Ronald and Anthony Cartland (real names John and James), the brothers of Dame Barbara Cartland.

The brother officers were killed in action just one day apart, during the British Expeditionary Force evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940. John was also a famed politician who just before the war made a prophetic speech in the House of Parliament stating that “we are in a situation that within a month we may be going to fight – and we are going to die” – both statements of which came to pass.

Daniel Jones from Ancestry.co.uk comments: “The unwavering spirit of British Prisoners of War was astounding, with many trying to escape their captors at every opportunity in order to rejoin the war effort.

“This collection of records will be a way for people to find out more about the heroes in their family.”

(With thanks to Ancestry)

Chris

www.ScotlandsGreatestStory.co.uk
Professional genealogical problem solving and research
http://twitter.com/ChrisMPaton

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