Middle East - Recovered Prisoners of War (POW), Rolls, 1939-45 War

Accession Number AWM402
Collection type Official Record
Object type Official Record
Maker Commonwealth Government of Australia
Department of Defence
Date made 1941 - 1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

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During the Second World War, troops of the 2nd AIF (Australian Imperial Force) served in the various campaigns in the area known as the Middle East theatre from 1940 to 1942. During that time over 7,000 Australian troops became prisoners of war of either the Germans or the Italians.

Until 28 March 1941 only 21 Australians had become prisoners in the Middle East. However from April 1941, following the disastrous campaigns in Greece, Crete and North Africa, thousands of Australians became prisoners. Following the Japanese entry into the war in December 1941, Australian troops began to be relocated out of the Middle East to the South-West Pacific Area. The last Australian formations left the Middle East after the 2nd Battle of Alamein in November 1942. After this date no more members of the 2nd AIF became prisoners in the Middle East.

Australian troops who were made prisoners in this theatre were sent to prisoner of war camps in Germany or Italy, depending upon where they were captured. Those captured in North Africa were sent to Italy, where they remained until late 1943; after the surrender of Italy, the Germans to relocate the prisoners to camps in Germany. Those captured in Greece or Crete were first held in Greece for several months before being transferred to camps in Germany. Some prisoners escaped and others were exchanged for German or Italian prisoners in prisoner swaps. However, the majority of Australian prisoners remained in camps until the end of the war in Europe, and were repatriated to the United Kingdom in May 1945 and thence to Australia.

The records contained in this series record the capture of Australian prisoners in the Middle East. The records document when individuals went Missing in Action (MIA), when confirmation was received that they has been captured, and movements thereafter.


The records in this series comprise bound folders of individual “Casualty Section” forms. Each of these forms contains the records for a single serviceman. Each form has areas for names, Army numbers, rank, and unit. These are followed by a series of entries that record details of when the individual went MIA, where they were held as prisoners of war, and any movements including repatriation. Next of kin information is also recorded on the form. The records start in April 1941 and continue until July 1945.

The area where the details of capture and movements are recorded includes seven columns. The columns from left to right are:
•Particulars of Casualty (which actually contains a description of the entry such as “Missing” or “Prisoner of War interned Stalag XIIIC”)
•Advice No. (reference number to documents from an unknown series)
•Date (date of the advice, or NDG [meaning no date given])
•Authority (can be a document number or reference to a list such as International Red Cross, or PO WIB Memo 7411, for example)
•Echelon No. (reference number of the 2nd Echelon)
•Telegram sent (date a telegram advising NOK [next of kin] of update was sent)
•Acknowledgement Received (in almost all cases this is not filled in)

The reasons some of the columns are not filled in, or have unexpected information in them, is that these forms were designed for reporting casualties and have been used for recording prisoners of war information instead.

The 2nd Echelon referred to at the top of the forms refers to the Records Management Units of the 2nd AIF. Being a large organisation, the 2nd AIF had both field records units and large records units located back in Australia. It is not known if these records were initially held by AIF (Middle East) Second Echelon & Records, or if they were held by 2nd Echelon LHQ. Either way, from the style of entry and the information contained, it appears these forms were completed as soon as information became available. They appear to have been used to track the location of 2nd AIF prisoners so that the NOK could be informed of any developments regarding their loved ones.

System of arrangement and control

Single number system [semi-imposed].

As the records were bound into volumes in alphabetical order with a sequential book number, it was decided to simply use the book numbers as a single numbering system. Each volume contains roughly 500 forms arranged alphabetically .

Using the series

Each item in the series is recorded on the RecordSearch database which researchers can access via the Internet.

Further assistance in finding relevant information may be gained from related series of records (click on Series Links at the bottom of this page).

It is intended to digitise this series and make it available online some time in 2020-2021.


MAUGHAN, B. (1966). Tobruk and El Alamein: Series One, Volume III of Australia in the War of 1939–1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1417308

AWM Administrative file, AWM402 Series dossier

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