WO361 - Missing Personnel Files - Database Discussion

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Drew5233, Sep 30, 2014.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Scott

    Good luck with it, I was talking to Lee about this on Thursday at Kew and it's a massive undertaking - you will be know as the Missing Man man for generations to come if you complete it :D

    This attachment may help you identify some useful files. There quite a few in WO 361 that are not missing men but how investigations were carried up, presumption of death, contact with the Red Cross etc etc.

    Attached Files:

  2. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Lol - I don't think there is the poverbial cat's chance of me of completing it in my life time.

    Just think i will keep plugging away at it and see where it leads

    Thanks for the Xls file

  3. jacksun

    jacksun Senior Member

    Scott, the designing of the database isn't that much different from that of an excel sheet - except you can expand it and maybe become more detailed - for example secondary unit - could have secondary unit 1, secondary unit 2 etc with detail fields and year fields for each. If there are multiple documents for the info you can link to each document from a separate field.

    From a search perspective you can control searchable fields and displayed results for different levels of users - so public may see and can search by say 6 fields whereas contributors or maintainers can search by any available field.

    You can also set certain fields to be unique - so for example duplicate soldier numbers are not allowed, duplicate WO reference numbers are not allowed, but duplicate DOB, DOD, date of capture, date MIA are allowed (default is they are allowed).
    Some fields can be selections from drop downs (such as the info Diane has provided), others can be free form text for input.

    I guess the easiest way to start is to define every field you will need, determine if it will be a drop down or free form text, what the content will be (text, alphanumeric, numeric as well as fields) and any controls on the input (for example dates must be in form dd-mmm-yyyy on DOB, DOD, date MIA, date POW etc) and if the field will need to contain a file (uploaded image or doc) and what kind of file (.doc, .xls, .gif, .jpeg or .jpg).

    The easiest way to do this would be in an excel spreadsheet which can then be converted to a database using the defined columns as fields.

    I'll fiddle a bit later today with a spreadsheet to give you an idea of what I mean

  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    As I'm annoyed at the failings of the database option here, and in case hosting proves an issue, I can offer hosting here via an internal system:


    Absolutely no wish to tread on toes if that's being sorted - just an open-handed offer. Could be fiddly to set up but it's there.

    (If any other established members fancy a bit of simple page-hosting of good ideas too, I'd be intrigued to run a few trials and see what could be done - never having used what appears to be quite a good content system here it's hard to be certain.)
    ClankyPencil likes this.
  5. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Thanks Adam for the offer

    Like previously stated, i am going to be heavily reliant on the more tech savvy people sorting out the front end workings.

    Really interested in what Wayne is going to come back with.

    After his last posting, i had a little trial run with a couple of WO361 files to see if any immediate problems or concerns raised their head.

    I previously thought the less 'fields' the better, but after my little trial run and Wayne's guidance, i am now coming to the conclusion the more fields or data options the easier it may be to build up the DB.

    Over the weekend, i will try to catalogue the data fields likely required to build up the DB.
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Clanky

    When I first started using excel for account purposes I bought the 'Dummies for Excel' book and found it very useful (especially as I am a dummy on things like this) and was eventually producing all sorts of charts and tables to explain yearly accounts and year on year accounts etc - might be worth a try and its usually not that expensive to buy the book, its also useful to have as a reference for when you think 'how do I do that' or more especially 'how did I do that'

    Good luck anyway with your project

  7. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Sorry Scott, been away for a few days and only just now spotted this thread. Here's my penny's worth:

    It's probably been said already. But for making the lists in the first place, I'd suggest sticking to simple XLS spreadsheets. Perhaps individual ones for each WO 361 file.
    But don't put the spreadsheets online. For that a proper searchable database is needed. Would be best if the forum can host it.

    Also think it's right as you've suggested to work on particular subsets of the files at a time. Even if the whole series is never completed, the subsets will still prove a very useful research tool.
    And who knows perhaps others might take on particular subsets as well.

    Regarding those who supply copies of WO 361 files to you. Perhaps a way of handling this is that in return for supplying a copy of the file the donator gets back a spreadsheet for that one file?
    Then record in the dataset the donator's ww2talk username which can be displayed in the search results with the transcriber's username. In that way, if somebody wants further information they have the option of contacting one of the two. Neither of which is under any obligation to supply further information unless they want to.

  8. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Not had much time the last week or so due to work commitments etc, but been having a trawl through various WO 361 files to try and come up with an excel 'template' which could cover most eventualities.

    Have attached a basic format of what i think will work, which covers the following

    Front page
    Basically to give an indication of what files have been supplied, transcribed etc and the extent of the info included

    The 361 files
    As suggested, have allocated each one its own tab/page with columns allocated for each potential field.
    The columns in grey would be the suggested 'minimum' info requirements for each entry/service person. The others columns would be optional

    TNA Reference
    361/0001 etc

    NWE, N.Africa, Italy, Malaya, Casualties at Sea etc
    If the majority of these could be identified then possibly these could be selected from a drop-down, with anything else not covered (like General Correspondance files etc) being allocated to "Other"

    Surname, First Name
    Self Explanatory

    Army Number
    Possibly beneficial for this field to be made 'unique' for obvious reasons, but potential issues may result as numerous men (especially NCO's) appear in multiple files i.e. A Sergeant may give a statement/testimony in a N.Africa file and later be listed 'missing' in an Italy file. If each file has its own tab/page it may not be an issue, but if all the names are lumped together at some point it may cause conflicts.

    Attached Files:

  9. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Selection from a drop down for consistancy would be an obvious option, but the 'Casualties at Sea' files cover all branches/services; so along with the Army Ranks list that Diane provided, there would be a need to include RAF ranks (like Leading Aircraftman, Aircraftman second class etc) and also Royal Navy ranks. Then throw into the mix QAIMNS ranks like Matron & Sister and the possibility of some obscure ranks for India troops (like Havildar etc) and it will likely end up unworkable or limited using drop downs

    After having a look at how to cover the input of various units, i came up with the following breakdown (but will be happy to accept any further suggestions)
    Regiment/Corps: Unit: Sub Unit 1: Sub unit 2: Sub Unit 3:

    For examples of how these would work see the examples on the excel file

    Also included an 'Employed within Unit' field as this information is included on most of the proforma i've seen, so things like Stretcher-bearer, Rifleman, No.1 LMG can be added.

    I can't see any reason why the Regiment/Corps couldn't be a drop down option and the other free form input/text

    Date posted Missing (Date format)
    Pretty self explanatory but could mod it to be Date posted missing/incident date

    File Ref Details
    Quite difficult to categorize all types of reference, but the ones i've listed on the excel example should cover 95% of eventualties. Anything else can be lumped under "Other". Therefore could be selected via drop down

    Missing Personnel Category & Bm No
    Included these as probably the majority of the files reference them in places

    Secondary Regt/Corps / Sec. Unit/ Secondary Sub Unit1
    Included these, due to witnesses etc moving units and information included in 'Present Location' requests and correspondence etc within the files. May be helpful to people compiling nominal rolls etc

    Additional Info
    For things like listing Home addresses, Hospital Convalesence etc

    For general notes or to highlight discrepancies regarding the entry

    File Page Ref or Image Ref
    Possibly won't get used, but included them for option of referencing or the possibility of hyperlinking the images at some point

    A few other considerations are as follow:-

    1. A fair few of the Army No's can be difficult to read/interpret, mainly due to them either being hand written on statements or being struckthrough on the missing rolls
    2. There are discrepancies with regard to names (and not just with speliing). I have come across one bloke listed as Freeman in the roll, but other other docs have him as Trueman

    Therefore i could do with a way of highlighting potential errors. I don't know if there is a typical or standard way of doing this, but propose to add an * to any info that may be suspect ot TBC, unless someone can suggest a better method.

    Also, if anyone can come up with any better 'terminology' for the fields then i'm open to suggestions

  10. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Hi All

    Just spotted Recce Mitch's posting & links for some new WO361 files in the gallery, so thought i'd post a note up to say i've not forgotten about this, even though i've been a bit quiet on the subject recently.

    Basically, been working away last few months but finished my contract on friday and am now back home.

    Just gotta sort out my business expenses and a corporation tax payment (eugh!) this week and i will be able to start devoting some serious time back on the subject.

    Already started drafting up a 'Basic Info thread' on the files (but not got very far), and done some trial runs with a few of the files (will post up something about these later)

  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I've been looking through the Missing Men files for the Essex Regiment in Italy and noticed something that strikes me as unusual.

    With reference to one missing soldier, a handwritten note is appended that reads:

    '[NAME] not to be approached regarding [MISSING MAN]'​

    And then on another list of names (different battalion IIRC) two more notes that say something like:

    'Not to go out to [NAME] about [NAME OF MISSING]'
    In this latter case, it sounds likely that contact is by letter and the first named individual has already been contacted or written to--so a second letter would be superfluous--but the former, with 'not to be approached', sounds slightly sinister.

    Do you think it's simply a the same as the latter instruction, or could there be a specific reason why information ought not be sought from somebody?

    My mind immediately turned to a) possible desertion, b) some kind of traumatic incident.

    I shall have to dig more, but the files are a mess and it's pretty difficult to read with tired eyes.
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
    Drew5233 likes this.

Share This Page