Records of enemy aliens and internees, First and Second World Wars
An array of records exist documenting people who were interned in the First and Second World Wars as well as of people who were exempted from internment. Many of these records are held within our Home Office collections (identified by catalogue references beginning HO) and are available online.
Search for the records of enemy aliens and internees in the First and Second World Wars by first and last name on Findmypast.co.uk and Ancestry.co.uk (£). You can also browse the same collections of enemy aliens and internees by year and by record series.
Among these online collections is the Aliens Department internees index, 1939–1947, drawn from record series HO 396. The index cards which make up this series (example below) provide more detail than any other single record on individual internees. They document mostly Germans, Austrians and Italians, as well as their spouses, interned or considered for internment by tribunals during the Second World War. Most of the cards were originally issued in September 1939 when the first round of decisions on internment were made. They were reused for later tribunals that took place in the early 1940s when larger numbers of resident aliens were interned following panic in Britain about the course the war was taking. Those interned included Jewish refugees who had escaped Nazi persecution.
They contain personal details on the front and sometimes information about the individual’s case on the reverse. Access to records of individuals who were interned is partially restricted, with only the front of the internment card open to access without restriction (you can request the opening of restricted records under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by filling out our Freedom of Information enquiry form or by writing to our Records Enquiry Service at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU. Cards for aliens who were considered for internment but were not actually interned, also held in HO 396, are open without restriction.
An Exemption From Internment Card (catalogue reference HO 396/180/00136). The card shows that although the person in question was exempted from internment in 1939, a decision was then made in 1940 to intern the individual, whose release was then authorised in 1941.
Details of the other record series from which the online collection on Findmypast is drawn are below:
- First World War internment lists in HO 144/11720, 1915 and 1918
- Central Register of Aliens in United Kingdom; policy of internment and repatriation of alien enemies in HO 45/11522 Parts 1 and 2, 1914–1924
- reception and internment of aliens: list of internees in PCOM 9/661–662, 1938–1946
- nominal rolls for various internment camps at Isle of Man: HO 215/469 (Hutchinson), HO 215/471 (Metropole), HO 215/473 (Mooragh), HO 215/475 (Onchan), HO 215/478 (Port Erin) and HO 215/502 (married camp)
- register of some 2,000 enemy aliens interned during the First World War in England and Wales in HO 45/11522/287235
Passenger lists (which may include details of deported enemy aliens), 1939–1942
For the first two years of the Second World War about 8,000 enemy aliens were temporarily interned in British camps prior to being deported to the colonies and the dominions.
Search and download lists of passengers leaving from UK and Irish ports travelling to places such as Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia, including deported internees, on the findmypast.co.uk (£) website.
Many ships carrying internees were torpedoed at sea in enemy action and these losses led to the end of the policy of deporting internees.
Prisoners of war records, 1715–1945
Search and download selected prisoners of war records 1715-1945 from Findmypast (£). These include some civilian internees.
Security Service Personal Files, 1913–1983
Security Service Personal Files may include records of former internees in which the Security Service took an interest. Search among the Security Service Personal Files (KV 2) by name and/or date/year of birth.