WW2 Soldier Research - Tips and Links for New Researchers

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by jacksun, Aug 28, 2012.

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  1. jacksun

    jacksun Senior Member

    So you have a relative who served in WW2, and your just itching to know more. So what can you do and where do you start?

    This isn't an easy question to answer, every case is different. But there are some things you can do to help speed things along. One of the main things you can do is order the Soldier's Service Records. Below is information on where to go to do this depending on the Force your Soldier served with along with other pertinent research information where appropriate.

    For Soldier's who were POW's

    - POW List Search
    If they were a POW there are lists available to search. They may have been held in Europe, Japan, Italy, as well as other places in Asia too numerous to list.
    Various sites have the European POW lists available (Ancestry, Findmypast), and some have lists on Japanese or Italian prisoners, although those are harder to find. I have a searchable list of European POW's (German held), as well as images of Japanese and Italian POW lists on my site. Feel free to go look | Powvets

    - Liberation Reports for British and Commonwealth Soldiers
    Once you have a Soldier/Army number for your relative you can order a Liberation Report (LR) if one exists. They are held at The National Archives in London, England (KEW) for British Soldier's. You can dig them up online and order them, or you can contact Psywar.org or Drew5233 on this site via PM. They regularly go to KEW and can get you copies of the LR if it exists. They are cheaper than ordering direct.
    Liberation Reports can contain valuable information but not all POW's completed one, and if they did they may not have documented details.

    - International Red Cross - Soldier's from all Countries
    If your relative WAS a POW submit a request for information to the International Red Cross. They monitored all POW Camps during WW2 and hold information on soldiers who were in the camps. This is free, but it takes anywhere from 12-24 months to receive an answer.
    Fill out the form at this link as completely as possible and submit it.
    ICRC Archives

    Next, follow the advice below pertinent to your Soldier's Country for POW and non-POW soldiers.

    For British Soldiers

    All British Soldiers (POW's or not)
    If your relative was not a POW, or you don't know if he was here is what you can do to obtain information on them. This also applies to Soldier's who were POW's.

    - Order Service Records for Deceased Service Personnel
    The service records for British Soldiers are held at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). You can order them for a fee of £30, unless you are a spouse (or a parent if no spouse), then they are free. There is currently about a 12 month wait to receive the records once you apply.
    What MoD will release, and to who is documented on their website. It all boils down to how closely related you are to the Soldier, and how long ago they passed away.

    (-)Soldier - Next of Kin includes:
    1) Spouse/ Partner or Parent (if no Spouse) of Soldier
    2) Son / Daughter of Soldier
    3) Grandchild of Soldier
    4) Father / Mother of Soldier
    5) Brother / Sister of Soldier
    6) Nephew / Niece of Soldier
    7) Grandparent of Soldier

    Whoever is living and closest to the top of the list must apply, or approve the form so you can apply.

    **If you aren't on the above list or if you are on the list, but someone in the family is alive and closer to the top of the list, you need their consent to apply, or you must apply as a General Enquirer.

    There are 2 forms you must complete, the first is the application. You either complete the Next-of-Kin form or the General Enquirer's form.
    The second form is Service specific. You submit either the Army, Royal Navy/Marines, Royal Air Force, or Home Guard form.
    Select the form appropriate to your relative and complete it.

    Both forms are on the link provided at the bottom of this section.

    Note: You MUST have the Soldier's Service Number and/or Date of Birth to apply. You must also provide a copy of the soldier's death certificate (unless they died in service).

    Fill the form out as completely as possible, attach a copy of the death certificate and your payment.
    Mail the forms to the address indicated on the "Service Specific" form.

    Go here for more information and the forms.
    How to apply for records of service of deceased Service Personnel

    For Australian Soldiers

    From a previous post, and many thanks to Diane (dbf), here is the Australian WW2 records information. Just go to this link, Diane has well documented what is available and where to go.


    For New Zealand Soldiers

    Please visit the New Zealand Defence Force web site for information on how to obtain a Soldier's record.

    NZDF - Personnel Records at NZDF Archives

    For South African Soldiers

    How to obtain Military Documents in South Africa

    To obtain access to this information, the members written permission is required, or if he/she is deceased, that of his/her next-of-kin.

    You are thus requested to submit the following documentation in order for your enquiry to proceed:
    a) A certified copy of the requester’s identity document or passport.
    b) A signed letter of permission from the member, if passed away.
    c) A certified death certificate of member, if passed away

    It the member has passed away, a signed letter of permission must be obtained from a living blood relative including proof of the identification.
    The approximately 3 million personnel records in the Department of Defence Archives are indexed according to a specific convention. You are therefore requested to provide the Documentation Centre with as much detail as possible regarding the person you are seeking information on.

    The following are guidelines:
    a. Force number
    b. Date of assumption of military service
    c. Date of discharge from military service
    d. Regiment/unit where the person served
    e. Name and address of next-of-kin at the time of his attestation

    Upon receipt of the required documentation, the matter will receive further attention.
    This law now falls under the new Access to Information Act (Act 2 of 2000), certain restrictions have been placed upon the release of information to third parties.

    - Obtaining Military Documents
    Street: Documentation Centre of the SANDF
    Department of Defence
    Private Bag X289
    Tel: +27 (012) 322 6350
    Fax: +27 (011) 322 6360
    Email sandfdoc@mweb.co.za (unlikely anything but questions will be answered by email, you can't submit you request by email.)
    Contact: Miss Louise Jooste
    South African servicemen’s records from the Army, Navy and Air Force are held in these archives. Copies of service records can be obtained if a written application is made.

    For Canadian Soldiers

    How to Send an Inquiry Concerning Your Own or Another Individual's Records for Soldier's who were not killed in action

    Your request must be signed.

    To identify a file, we require surname, full given name(s), date of birth, and service number or social insurance number.

    If you do not know the date of birth, service number or S.I.N. (social insurance number), secondary information (e.g., the names of next of kin, postings, dates of service, place of enlistment) can assist in identifying the correct individual.

    Consult the section below on Access Restrictions.

    - Please specify what document(s) you require. If you are doing family history research, we recommend that you request a "genealogy package," which will include copies of selected documents from the file that highlight/summarize the individual's service.
    - We do not accept email inquiries for these records. Inquiries must be sent by mail or fax.

    Your request can be written as a letter or you can print off a blank copy of the Application for Military Service Information form available in http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/022/f2/022-909.007-e.pdf [PDF 663 KB] or http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/022/f6/022-909.007-e.rtf[RTF 44,516 KB] format, which should be filled in, signed and sent by mail or fax.

    Inquiries should be sent by mail or fax to:
    ATIP and Personnel Records Division
    Library and Archives Canada
    395 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
    Fax: +1-613-947-8456

    Access Restrictions
    - Access to personal information relating to an individual who is still living requires that person's signed consent.
    - If the individual has been deceased for less than 20 years, limited information may be released to immediate family. Proof of death and relationship must be provided.
    - There are no restrictions on access to information relating to an individual who has been deceased for more than 20 years. Proof of death is required.
    - Proof of Death: A copy of a death certificate, newspaper obituary, funeral notice or photograph of the gravestone. Note that proof of death is not required if the individual died while in service.
    - Proof of Relationship: A document that clearly demonstrates the relationship between the individual concerned and the person requesting the record. Both names must appear on the document. A newspaper obituary, baptismal certificate or full-form birth certificate are acceptable. A wallet-sized birth certificate that does not indicate parents' names is not accepted. Please do not send original documents; photocopies are acceptable.
    - Immediate Family: A parent, spouse, child, sibling or grandchild of the individual.

    Source: What to Search: Topics - Genealogy and Family History - Library and Archives Canada

    - Canadian - Soldiers Killed in Action

    Second World War (1939-1945): Canadian Armed Forces Members who Died in Service
    There are no access restrictions on the service files for members of the Canadian Armed Forces who died in service between 1939 and 1947, including those killed in action, those who subsequently died of injuries related to service and those who died as a result of accident or illness while in service.
    To identify a military service file for these individuals, you can search the following online database. Please read the online help pages to find out how to order a copy of a file.

    Introduction - Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead - Library and Archives Canada

    - Canadian - Royal Newfoundland Regiment, Newfoundland Forces, Navy and Royal Air Force

    Members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who enlisted for active service but did not go overseas, Newfoundland Forces (Artillery, and Forestry Corps), Navy and Royal Air Force (Newfoundland Enlistments) all during Second World War (1939-1945)
    For records of these individuals, you should write to:

    The National Archives of UK
    Ruskin Avenue
    Kew, Richmond
    Surrey TW9 4DU
    United Kingdom

    - Pacific Coast Militia Rangers
    These military personnel records were never placed in Library and Archives Canada's custody, and it is our understanding that they no longer exist.

    For American Soldiers

    Please visit the US National Archives

    NARA - AAD - Main Page

    Cost for Archived records starts at $60.00 USD

    For Polish Soldiers

    Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe
    ..:: Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe :: Strona g³ówna ::..
    (Available in Polish only)

    For Polish soldiers who served with the British Forces:
    The Ministry of Defense
    Army Records Center, Polish Section
    Bourne Avenue
    Hayes Middlesex, England UA3 1RF
    Phone 0181 573 3831
    Fax 0181 569 2751

    For Irish Soldiers

    Please visit the Irish Military web site.

    Military Archives | Info Centre | Defence Forces

    For German Soldiers

    Please visit the German Archives

    Bundesarchiv - Über uns

    For French Soldiers

    Service historique de la défense

    Other Sources of Information

    - Soldier's Killed in Action, WW1 and WW2
    If your relative was killed in action you can use Geoff's Wonderful Search Engine to search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database. This database documents all those killed in action and includes information on the soldier, their memorial location and more.
    Geoff's 1939-47 Search Engine
    Geoff's 1914-21 Search Engine

    - Headstone and Memorial Photographs
    If your relative was killed in action, and you locate their information in the CWGC database, you can visit The British War Graves web page, fill out their contact form with your relatives information. If they have information and/or photo's relevant to your inquiry they will send them to you free of charge.


    - WW2 Medal Inquiries
    If your relative didn't claim their Medals, you can apply for them at the VeteransUK website. Many Servicemen did not claim their Medals, finding a job and a place to live was a priority at the time.
    The application form is at the very bottom of the page.
    Claiming for campaign medals
    Ministry of Defence Medal Office

    When you get your records
    When you finally receive your relatives records, feel free to scan them and upload them here with any questions, especially those about all the "Military Speak" and abbreviations. We are always willing to help, and Service Records provide the exact information needed to identify which War Diary is relevant to your relative. With a war diary you can see what their unit was doing day to day during their time in service.

    That's about it. Lots of applying, searching, and waiting I'm afraid. However, while you are waiting feel free to ask any questions you may have, or scan and post any photo's, letters, or other memorabilia. As they say, every picture tells a story, you would be surprised what some folks here can tell you from a photo.

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