Tracing Your Second World War Ancestors

Phil Tomaselli, (Pen & Sword Books Limited, 2011), A5, 166pp

Many of us have ancestors or indeed living relatives who played their part in the Second World War, some of them in the Army, Royal Air Force or Royal Navy, however there were many other and some obscure organisations involved. This book is a guide to locating and understanding the records available from their many different sources. It includes case studies and uses real examples. The “Getting Started” chapter tells how to collect and collate the information you may already have, including memories of relatives, obtaining records and tips on how to get the most from visiting the National Archives at Kew. It should be noted that not all records are readily available as some are not released until a minimum of twenty five years following the death of the serviceman or woman. Each service is given its own chapter with in depth information on sources of information and a case study. There are sections on military units and campaign medals, Home Guard, civilian services, prisoners of war, women’s services, Commonwealth and Empire and much more. The chapter on the Royal Navy includes the Submarine Service, the Fleet Air Arm, the Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), Courts Martial and Women in the Royal Navy. There is a chapter on the Merchant Navy which covers medal and service records. The Army chapter includes sources such as War Diaries, Army Courts Martial and Women in the Army. For the Royal Air Force there are references to online sources, Operation Record Books (ORBs), Log books, Combat Reports, RAF Regiment and Women in the RAF. MI5, SOE and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) are referenced in the chapter on Secret Organisations. Prisoners of War, includes where to find basic information about life in the camps. Camp histories were compiled by each of the services are available at TNA and online. There is a useful glossary of the acronyms used by each of the three main services, and a list of useful web sites, an introduction to the National Archives and details of other useful sources. In all, this fascinating book is a comprehensive guide to tracing relatives who served in World War Two.

Mary Smith 

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