Tracing Your Prisoner of War Ancestors
The First World War
A Guide for Family Historians
By Sarah Paterson
Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk )
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Researching First World War ancestors is presently a very highly popular activity. With the centenary of the start of World War 1 next year the publics’ attention is being directed towards these momentous events. The majority of the British population had a least an ancestor involved in the First World War. It affected the whole population from the fighting men to War Workers such as munitions factory operatives.
In any war there are bound to be men captured by the enemy. These are called “Prisoners of War” or PoWs for short. Also at the commencement of hostilities there are bound to be some nationals in the territorial boundaries of the enemy. These people are normally called “Civilian Internees”.
Researching the British PoWs and civilian internees in German and Turkish hands during WW1 is one of the least known and researched aspect of WW1 military genealogy. Similarly the same also applies to the PoWs and civilian internees in British hands.
The author has given this topic excellent treatment and in the process has created the standard reference work on this topic. She starts the book with a description of the Red Cross in both its International and Domestic orientations. The Red Cross was the international body dealing with PoWs and civilian internees and so it is important to cover these aspects.
Then she discusses British PoWs and British Civilian internees in German hands. Topics such as officer’s and other rank’s experience are compared, Indian PoWs, burials and repatriations. Then British PoWs in Turkish hands are considered followed by Britons in neutral hands.
The final two chapters are on German PoWs and civilian internees in British hands. These are not dealt with as comprehensively as British subject but even so the text is highly informative.
There are 8 Appendices covering topics such as sources of information, British PoWs in Bulgarian hands and East Africa, a glossary, a bibliography and locations on camps both in the UK and abroad.
If you have an ancestor who was either a PoW or civilian internee in WW1 then this is the book that you need in order to research their experiences. I can give this book no higher recommendation than to say it is the text you need for this type of research.