Were your ancestors suspected of being enemy sympathisers or spies? Were they interned or declared exempt from internment? During the First and Second World Wars, thousands of foreign nationals were investigated and interned in camps across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. These records comprise enemy alien index cards from the Home Office, nominal rolls, correspondence, and much more.
With each result, you will find a transcript and an image of the original document held at The National Archives. The details in each transcript depend on what was recorded in the original record.
Conflict – either the First or Second World War
You will find additional information about your ancestor when you view the original document. Some records have more detail on the reverse side of the document. Use the next button on the right side of the image to view the back of the document. You can also use the previous and next buttons to move through the documents and discover more names or why the document was created. By viewing the image you may discover the following details about your ancestor.
Names of children
How long your ancestor has been in the country
Previous offences or convictions
Remarks about character
Britain, enemy aliens and internees, First and Second World Wars records are from The National Archives. Most were created by the Home Office with a couple of series created by the Prison Commission. This unique collection, only available on Findmypast, will provide you with insight into the lives of your ancestors. They include people from Germany, Italy, Japan, Austria, Finland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and more. The types of documents vary, ranging from individual index cards recording a person’s movements and background to nominal rolls of internment camps. This is not a comprehensive collection of the names of every enemy alien registered or interned in Britain.
Enemy aliens are natives of a belligerent country. At times of war and conflict, people living within the United Kingdom who were natives of enemy countries such as Germany in the First World War or Italy in the Second World War were suspected to be sympathisers or spies for those countries. Foreign nationals were investigated and, in some cases, interned. Some internees were sympathisers with enemy nations and a threat to security, but others were innocent and had even fled to Britain due to persecution in their native country. Furthermore, some enemy aliens were individuals who had immigrated to the UK years even decades before the conflicts. In some cases, spouses of foreign nationals were investigated even if they were born in Britain. These circumstances are sometimes noted in the files. For example, the index card for Vena Bermme from 1939, explains that she was a refugee from Nazi oppression and exempt from internment. Internment camps were located all over the United Kingdom. The largest settlement of camps during both wars was on the Isle of Man. Internees could also be deported to other nations within the Commonwealth. However, after casualties resulting from enemy attacks on ships, this practice ended. The individuals arrested were taken away from their families and were not told where they were going or for how long. In the records, you will find the names of 910 Germans and Italians who were on board the SS Arandora Star in 1940 when it was heading to Canada. The ship was hit by a U-boat commanded by German ace Gunther Prien on 2 July and the engine room immediately flooded. Ten lifeboats were launched and people scrambled to survive. Many were so overcome with terror that instead of getting in the lifeboats, they went down with the ship.
Some entries include more about the person’s life and background. In an entry on an internment list from World War One, we discover more about the life of Frederick E A Schouten, Manager of F A Shuton & Co. Ltd. The record states, ‘The case did not apparently come before the committee but he was exempted by the Home Secretary on 29 September 1915. He states he is the illegitimate child of Dutch parents. His mother went to Germany shortly after his birth and married a German. He did a years’ service in the German army. In 1887 he went into business in Antwerp and in 1888 in London. In September 1894 he was extradited to Germany and was imprisoned in a fortress. In 1895 he returned to London. Home Office minutes describe him as a clever rascal but as the German Government seemed hostile to him he was accepted as being pro-English’.
The records hold 5,640 names from World War One and 133,908 from World War Two. For the First World War, there are two series which comprise interment lists and enemy alien registrations. During World War One, the main prison camps were at Douglas and Knockaloe on the Isle of Man. Knockaloe was recently a site of excavation to discover more about the size and scale of the camp.
The bulk of the record collection comes from the Second World War. When war broke out, foreign nationals were categorised by the Home Office and investigated by tribunals to determine the threat they posed to national security. Category ‘A’ meant an immediate threat and the need for internment, category ‘B’ were individuals who were not initially detained but were given certain restrictions on travel and ownership, and category ‘C’ were those who were identified as refugees. As the war continued and more countries joined, the list of enemy aliens and those chosen for internment grew.
At the beginning of the war, internees were sent to transit or temporary camps, held in derelict mills, warehouses, or even vacant lots surrounded by barbed wire. Larger camps were created on the Isle of Man at Mooragh, Peveril, Rushen, Onchan, Central, Palace, Metropole, and Hutchinson. There are 166 names found from the Rushen camp for women and children. At its maximum capacity, it held about 3,500 internees. Within the camp, the women organised classes for painters, dressmakers, sculptors, and typists, and they even spent time on the beach. Not all the camps were as accommodating and life in internment was far from easy. People of different classes, nationalities, and political sympathies were mixed. A single camp could have Germans, Austrians, Italians, Finnish, Japanese, Bulgarians, and Hungarians, as well as Jewish refugees and Nazi sympathisers.
In this section, we have included a list of the series available within this collection and a brief description of what you can discover in each.
First World War
Classes 5 and 7 were also Germans in London and who were separated by the number of years they lived in the city and their age when they first arrived in London. The files list individuals separately with their address, spouse’s name, and occupation. The files do not contain classes 2, 4, or 6. The rest of the documents list Germans living in England by county and borough. You will also find minutes from the House of Commons discussing enemy aliens’ status in the country.
Second World War
PCOM 9/661 - Reception and internment of aliens: list of internees, 1938-1946 The lists include internees from prisons in Holloway, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Lincoln, Lewes, Dorchester, and Leeds. You will find notifications of the reception of enemy aliens into prisons and the dates of their arrests and arrivals. These files include a large number of female internees.
PCOM 9/662 - Reception and internment of aliens: list of internees, 1938-1946 In this series, you will find reports of internee movements and transfers and internee complaints about conditions and investigations. For example, three internees complained that the prisons were not set up for non-criminals and that they were kept in solitary confinement for 19 ½ hours a day. However, the prison officers disputed the complaints.
HO 215/469 - Hutchinson, Isle of Man: Nominal roll, September 1943
HO 215/471 - Metropole, Isle of Man: Nominal roll, October 1943
HO 215/473 - Mooragh, Isle of Man: Nominal rolls, 1943-1945
HO 215/475 - Onchan, Isle of Man: Nominal roll, May 1943
HO 215/478 - Port Erin, Isle of Man: Nominal rolls, 1943-1944
HO 215/502 - Married camp, Isle of Man: Nominal roll, November 1943 Nominal rolls will include your ancestor’s name, birthdate, and birthplace. Some rolls will have additional remarks such as the name of your ancestor’s spouse or occupation.
HO 396 - 308 volumes of people interned or considered for internment by the British in the Second World War (1939-1947)
In this series, you will find individual index cards for enemy aliens. The cards record a person’s name, date and place of birth, nationality, address, and occupation, as well as the name and address of the person’s employer and the decision of the tribunal. Tribunals were set up at the beginning of the Second World War to determine if an enemy alien should be interned, exempt from internment with restrictions, or exempt from internment without restrictions. Those who were not interned were recorded as ‘at liberty’. The cards will also show the date of the tribunal’s decision. On many of the cards, there is additional detail on the back. You may discover your ancestor’s religious denomination, spousal information, length of time in the country, and travel history, as well as if another citizen vouched for your ancestor and, if so, the name of that citizen. For all pieces from 107 onwards, the reverse image of the cards were not imaged as there may be sensitive information listed there.
Many first names are recorded as only first initials. Try searching for your ancestor by last name only. Then narrow your search by the first initial and check the images for corroborating evidence such as birthplace or occupation to work out if the person is your ancestor.
Due to clerical errors at the time the records were created, some may include misspellings of names or places. Use the name variant search while looking for your ancestor. Also, look at records that may have a similar spelling as your ancestor. By using additional clues, such as dates or places, you may discover that it is your ancestor’s record.
The birth places mentioned may have multiple different spellings in the records because they were occasionally written in a foreign language. For example, Düsseldorf appears as Dusseldorf and Duesseldorf in the original documents and Wroclaw appears as Breslau.
Nationalities and places of birth reflect the national borders at the time the records were created. For example, someone born in Pressburg when it was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire maybe be recorded on a card as being born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.