Records of Australian Military Forces prisoners of war and missing, Far East and South West Pacific Islands

Accession Number AWM232
Collection type Official Record
Object type Official Record
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain

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This series documents Australian Military Forces (AMF) prisoners of war and missing personnel from operations in the Far East and South West Pacific Islands during the Second World War.

The records were created by The Australian Military Force's 2nd Echelon, Land Headquarters which was located in Melbourne. 2nd Echelon was an administrative organisation and an integral part of the staff of the Adjutant-General. Their functions and responsibilities included the custody and maintenance of personal records of every member of the Force, including prisoners of war and those reported missing, as well as the recording of casualties. 2nd Echelon also had a statistical and information gathering role as well (AWM52, 1/15/2/10).

With these functions and responsibilities in mind we can presume that these records were created in order to efficiently consolidate and manage all the information they had on personnel who were either missing or were known to have been captured. Apart from assisting with their function of personnel recordkeeping and statistical reporting, another of 2nd Echelon's responsibilities regarding casualties was 'the dissemination to next of kin and other approved parties of suitable particulars of such casualties' (AWM52, 1/15/2/10).

After the war these records found their way to the Department of the Army's NSW Echelon and Records (formerly known as NSW Line of Communication Area Records Office). As part of a major post-war disposal of obsolete unit records, the series was transferred to the Australian War Memorial in 1952 (AWM93, 417/20/31). The records were originally accessioned by the Memorial as 3DRL 1917 and given a Library classification number 424.111. The library appears to have also been responsible for having the volumes bound in their present lime green buckram covers. In 1989 the series was transferred from the Memorial's library collection into its Official Records Collection, and was designated Series AWM232.


The series comprises the following items:

-Item 1 (two parts): an alphabetical listing of personnel

-Item 2: a listing by military units

-Item 3: a listing by geographical locations

-Items 4 & 5: photographs in numerical order by (state) Line of Communications Area of enlistment

-Item 6: a further classification of casualties other than prisoners of war (this relates to missing personnel and extends to cover RAN, RAAF, AMF and UK personnel missing in the AMF area). This item was compiled at January 1946.

-Item 7: photographic negatives reproduced from a few of the photographs in items 4 and 5.

System of arrangement and control:

The items in this series had no apparent overall numbering or system of arrangement of control whilst in the custody of the Army. After being incorporated into the Memorial's Official Records Collection, they were given an imposed system of arrangement and control. This was a single running number from Item 1 to Item 7. Item 1 is split into two parts, i.e. Item 1 Part 1 and Item 1 Part 2.

Using the series:

Although the arrangement of items 1-3 is different from one to another, the information within them is largely the same. Most researchers seeking to identify a prisoner of war will probably find it necessary to refer to only one of the three. To identify the appropriate photograph in item 4 or 5, it is necessary to have the prisoner of war's Army number, obtainable from items 1-3 and other sources. The photographic volumes were compiled for the assistance of Prisoner of War Contact and Inquiry Units and Interrogation Officers to help establish the fate of prisoners of war and missing personnel. These two volumes represent personnel reported as prisoner of war and missing as at 30 June 1944, and exclude c. 300 personnel for whom photographs were not obtainable. The series is not, therefore, a complete record of all Australians reported as prisoners of war or missing in the areas of operation to which it relates.

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