Prisoner of War Liberation Questionnaires

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In the closing months of the Second World War as Europe slowly began to be liberated and Germany occupied, hundreds of thousands of Allied Prisoners of War regained their freedom. A branch of British Military Intelligence, MI9, recognised that newly released prisoners could provide useful intelligence, especially in the collection of evidence for the prosecution of war crimes.

MI9, with its US counterpart MIS-X, sought out as many liberated Allied POWs as possible and requested them to complete a short questionnaire.

The questionnaire supplied to freed POWs in Europe requests basic information about the serviceman including his name, rank, number, unit, home address and date and place of capture. Then it asks for a list of all Prisoner of War camps the serviceman was captive in with corresponding dates. This is followed by a series of questions relating to medical treatment, escape activity, sabotage and war crimes. These latter questions, more often than not, were not answered but occasionally can give fascinating information. Finally the liberated prisoner signed the questionnaire.

Later Allied prisoners who had been in Japanese hands were also surveyed using a slightly different form but with essentially the same questions. However, these are not usually signed by the serviceman at the end.

Not all Prisoners of War were surveyed but something like 50 to 60% of British and Commonwealth POWs completed a questionnaire. This valuable repository for family historians and genealogists now resides in the British National Archives.

To locate the National Archives reference for a particular Prisoner of War enter his last name below and select whether he was a captive of the Germans or Japanese. The reference given identifies the file in which a liberation questionnaire for a prisoner with that last name will be located in. It does not mean, however, that there will definitely be a questionnaire for the particular prisoner searched for.

Liberation questionnaires can be viewed for free at the National Archives. Alternatively, ARCRE can search the file on your behalf and photograph a POW liberation questionnaire for £4.50. If one is not found then there is no charge.

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