How to look for records of... British prisoners of war c1790-1919
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
This is a brief guide to researching records of British prisoners of war during the First World War and before. Records of British prisoners of war (PoWs) for this period are varied and can be complicated. They are also incomplete. Those records which do exist are available either online or at The National Archives. This guide does not cover PoWs in British hands.
An estimated 192,000 British and Commonwealth captives were taken during the First World War. There is no comprehensive list covering all of these PoWs, and any documents which are known to survive only cover a fraction of those who were captured.
There is very little information on PoWs who were liberated after the Armistice on 11 November 1918.
When searching reports for a prisoner of war, you may find information on a person’s:
- home address
- details of capture
- activities before and after capture
Approximately 750 pages of interviews and reports on other ranks who were PoWs during the First World War are known not to have survived.
Upon repatriation, officers were required to detail the circumstances of their capture. If you know an officer was a PoW, their service record may have their capture report with it.
There are no known official or published sources to help determine whether an ordinary serviceman or Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) was a PoW.