Section of document on internment of aliens of enemy nationality, 1940 (Catalogue reference: CAB 67/8/109)

This is a guide to help you find records of an interneea civilian believed to be a potential threat and to have sympathy with the enemy's war objectives. Information on individual internees is held in different record seriesa grouping of records held by The National Archives, based on common function or subject and is not always easy to find. Very few records of individual internees survive for the First World War and The National Archives has no registers of all internees. Some records can be searched online using the name of the internee, but the chances of finding any one person are not high.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name and nationality of the internee
      • the date of their internment
      • where they were interned
  • What records can I see online?

    • Internees index (1939-1947)

      Browse the indexes in HO 396 for people interned or considered for internment in the Second World War. These can be downloaded as digital microfilm.

      They are arranged alphabetically and give personal details and occasionally details of the individual's case. Individual internees may have more than one card.

    • Records of enemy aliens exempt from internment (1939-1942)

      Search and download free of charge records of internees at liberty in the UK during the Second World War on the Moving Here website. Tick 'Catalogue of digitised records' and then enter a person's name in the search box.

    • Records of enemy aliens exempt from internment (1939-1942)

      Search and download lists of passengers leaving from UK and Irish ports and travelling to places such as America, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia, including deported internees, on the findmypast.co.uk (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.) website. 

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • International Committee of the Red Cross

      Contact the International Committee of the Red Cross, which keeps information on all known prisoners of war and internees of all nationalities affected by conflicts during the 20th century. Searches are only made in response to written enquiries and an hourly fee is charged.

Did you know?

During the First and Second World Wars both sides set up internment camps to hold enemy aliens - civilians who were believed to be a potential threat and have sympathy with the enemy's war objectives. Internees were treated differently to prisoners of war and were given more privileges.

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.

Many ships carrying internees were lost at sea by enemy torpedoes and these losses resulted in the end of the policy of deporting internees. It is worth searching outgoing passengers lists for these deportees.