The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) is situated about 8 miles south west of Central London on the District Underground Line. The station is Kew Gardens and it is then about a 5 minute sign-posted walk to the building. Refreshments are available inside the building. You need to take identifying documents on your first visit in order to obtain a readers ticket.
Documents can be pre-ordered by e-mail once you have a readers ticket.
Identifying the documents you want at Kew may take some time. If they are original documents unavailable on microfilm then the latest time you can place an order is 4 pm, and you can only order three documents at a time. Once you have ordered them they can take up to 40 minutes to be delivered (sometimes longer at busy times and in exceptional cases). Allow plenty of time to find, order and of course, read your documents.
Escape and Evasion reports are in files WO 208 3298 to 3327 each file contains about 70 reports. The reports were written by MI9 when the evader returned home to England probably at the Great Western Hotel London. They do not have the appendicess with the Names and Addresses of the helpers attached. I believe these are lost.
There is a card index in the Research Enquiries room which lists some of the evaders. There is an index at the front of each file. In W.R. Chorley's series of books RAF Bomber Command Losses he list evaders and gives file references. These books can be purchased in the bookshop in the National Archives.
Liberation Reports are in two sets of files, ignore at first WO 208 3328 to 3385. Use instead WO 208 3348 to 3352. There is a card index of names in the Research Enquiries room but it is not comprehensive. The files consist of Evaders who were captured and POW Escapers reports from all war zones. They are in number order but if you do not know the Ex POW's report number from the card index it may take a day or more of searching unless you areparticularlyy quick and used to the system.
The Liberation reports do have theappendicess with the Names and Addresses of the helpers attached but remember usually several years had passed since these men evaded, the war was over, they just wanted to get home.
If you do not find the person in these files try WO 208 3328 to 3385 which do not have theappendicess with the Names and Addresses of the helpers, but there are more of them. I believe most of these reports were written in Brussels where the majority of Ex. POW's were processed before being flown to England.
I have about 150 copies of these reports so it may be worthwhile Emailing email@example.com to see if I have it, before going to Kew.
SOE files concerning Belgium are under HS 6 reference for instance HS6 272 is Ratweek in Belgium: elimination of traitors 1943-44. It mentions De Zitter.
Captives of the Germans & Italians
The PRO Library holds alphabetical registers of approximately 169,000 British and Commonwealth PoWs of all ranks who were held in Germany and German-occupied territories (Ref: 940.547.2) They give details of name, rank and service/army number as well as regiment/corps, prisoner of war number and, presumably, their final camp location details. The lists are corrected generally up to 30th March 1945, the three volumes are:
Prisoners of War: British Army 1939-1945
Prisoners of War: Naval & Air Forces of Great Britain & the Empire 1939-1945
Prisoners of War: Armies & other Land Forces of the British Empire 1939-1945
Opening Times at Kew are:-
Monday 9am - 5pm
Tuesday 10am - 7pm
Wednesday 9am - 5pm
Thursday 9am - 7pm
Friday 9am - 5pm
Saturday 9.30am - 5pm.
All the U.S. World War II (European theater) escape and evasion materials are
in the Archives II facility at 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD, rather
than in the main Archives location in downtown Washington, DC. Weekdays,
there is a shuttle bus that runs hourly between Archives II and the main
Archives in downtown Washington, DC. I can't recall if there is a modest
fare for using the shuttle. The Archives II facility is open for research:
Monday & Wednesday 8:45 am - 5:00 pm; Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 8:45 am -
9:00 pm; Saturday 8:45 am - 4:45 pm; Closed Sundays and Federal Holidays.
Researchers need to obtain a "researcher identification card" before being
allowed to work with the files.
Almost all of the relevant material are the original documents located in Record Group (RG) 338 (these materials used to be in RG332 but have been moved to RG338, yet some of the Archives material still indicates erroneously that they are in RG332). [Also of interest, "missing air crew reports" are in RG18, and are available on microfilm M1380.] The summary for some of the escape and evasion records in RG338 reads as follows:
"Records of Headquarters MIS-X (Military Intelligence Service, Escape and Evasion Section) Detachment
History: Headquarters 6801st MIS-X Detachment established at Le Vesinet, France, effective May 2, 1945, by General Order 36, Headquarters Military Intelligence Service (HQ MIS) ETOUSA, May 6, 1945. Responsible for compiling information, for reward purposes, on civilians in the formerly occupied areas of western Europe who had assisted downed Allied airmen in escaping and evading the enemy. Redesignated 7709th MIS-X Detachment, effective November 1, 1946, by letter of HQ USFET, October 17, 1946. Abolished, effective January 31, 1947, by HQ USFET radio message CM-IN 251, February 1, 1947. Textual Records: Case files on French, Dutch, and Belgian civilians ("Helpers' Files"), 1945-47 (272 ft.), with index."
In addition to the Belgian, Dutch, and French "helper files" in RG338, there is a set of case files for American airmen, filed in chronological order by E&E case number, with one file for each American airman who was assisted by the escape and evasion network. A set of 3x5 cards, alphabetical by airman surname, helps one obtain the E&E case number for any airman. In addition, there are miscellaneous files of material on various E&E "Lines, esp. those in France. A loose-leaf notebook (RG338, book 57), available in the "Research Assistance" room within the main second floor research area at Archives II, identifies the various files and outlines their organization (I'll discuss some of this organization later).
Before visiting the National Archives, it's often helpful to ask a number of questions and receive answers using the Archives "inquire form" system at [http://www.archives.gov/global_pages/inquire_form.html]. Use the "I have a question" link and fill out the form completely, including contact information below the question block. Usually the most helpful questions are those of whether a certain kind of record is available and, if so, where it is located at Archives II (which RG, stack area, row, compartment, shelf - you need to know all of these to order the records). Any question sent in online with this form eventually obtains an answer. For some, I've heard back within a day, others may take weeks to receive the answer. Often the answer will be from an Archivist knowledgeable about these records who can answer directly any followup questions you might have if the initial answer is incomplete or not exactly what you seek. Asking these questions and receiving answers will save you much time when you eventually arrive at Archives II to work with these records.
The U.S. National Archives has recently allowed the use of digital scanners and laptop computers in its research rooms. That would be an excellent way of capturing the photographs in escape and evasion files. Unfortunately, I'm not currently equipped to do this. Something to think about for the future? I am equipped to scan documents at home and send them, but my scanner is not really small and compact to take to the Archives nor do I currently have a laptop.
I've found photographs in about 5% of the escape and evasion helper files I copy. Usually these are passport-type photos of the helper, occasionally they may include a spouse, and rarely a collection of photos of the various airmen assisted.
I do know that the U.S. National Archives does have an extensive photograph and film collection, some of it being captured material from Germany. It could be productive for one to use the "inquire form" system for the National Archives to query about the type of photographic material that might be available from the National Archives collection relevant to escape and evasion, etc.
Part II: Locating Dutch and French Helper Files in the U.S. National Archives.
All of the escape and evasion files are located in Record Group 338 at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. Note, to enter the research areas and use these records at Archives II you will need to obtain a reference identification card from the Information Center, the first room on the right after entering Archives II. (more on this in Part IV, later)
The Dutch and French helper files are organized similarly, but somewhat differently from the Belgian helper files. With the Dutch and French files, all helper files are filed alphabetically, regardless of their level of involvement with the escape and evasion lines. Altogether, there are about 410 files boxes of French helper files and 145 file boxes of Dutch helper files. Each file box contains a variable number of files (from one to two dozen), depending upon the amount of material in these files.
All files are requested by filling out and turning in a "Reference Service Slip" for each file or sequential group of files. Copies of these forms are available in the research assistance room, immediately to the left upon entering the main second floor research room at Archives II. On the Reference Service Slip, in the space marked "Record Identification", you should write the following (caution, only pencils are allowed in these research rooms), the first line should specify "Escape & Evasion; MIS-X Files; the second line should specify "French Helpers" (or "Dutch Helpers"); the third line should give the helpers full name; the fourth line should contain the file box number (see next paragraph).
For French and Dutch helpers, the file box number is obtained using an alphabetical key to box numbers, available in the research assistance room, immediately to left upon entering the main second floor research room at Archives II (the same location where you obtain the Reference Service Slips). Standing in the entrance facing inward into this room, the wall ahead of you will be filled with loose-leaf volumes. On the far left of this wall, you should be able to find a series of volumes for Record Group 338 (all volumes are filed on these shelves in numerical order, according to Record Group). Within Record Group 338, there is a Volume 57 (shown on the spine of this volume) which contains material on the escape and evasion records. Tabs in this volume will identify French and Dutch helper sections, wherein you can cross-reference the helper surname to identify the correct box number which should be requested on the fourth line of the Reference Service Slip in the "Record Identification" section.
On the Reference Service Slip, above the Record Identification section, is a series of boxes for noting the record location - RG No. (Record Group Number), Stack Area, Row, Compartment, Shelf. For the French and Dutch helpers, it is sufficient to identify the location where these records begin, which should be filled in the same for all French helper files (RG no. 338, Stack Area 290, Row 55, Compartment 28, Row 3- (the dash indicates this is the starting row, where these records begin). For all Dutch helper files (RG no. 338, Stack Area 290, Row 55, Compartment 23, Row 7-).
When the Reference Service Slips are completely filled out, they can be turned in at the reference assistance room (within the second floor research room at Archives II). No more than 23 file boxes can be requested together (filling one 3-shelf research cart) and a researcher can have no more than two carts of records (46 file boxes) on request at any one time (2 separate requests of no more than 23 file boxes each). About an hour after the reference request slips are submitted, the carts of material can be claimed at the service desk to the right as you face the entrance of the reference assistance room.
Gene Buck can help with your research at N.A.R.A he can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
The CEGES/SOMA was founded in 1969 as the Centre for Research and Studies on the History of the Second World War, attached to the State Archives and under the direction of the Ministry of Education. On 1 March 1997 it changed its name to the Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society, a change of name which derives from the wish to approach the history of the twentieth century as a whole (and more specifically the period 1914-1960).
Square de l'Aviation 29 – 1070 Brussels
Tel.: 02/556 92 11 – Fax: 02/556 92 00 – E-mail: cegesoma@cegesoma .be
The reading room and the administrative offices of the CEGES are open from Monday to Friday - 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Rink door bell for entry. It costs one euro per day. Digital camera may be used. The staff can speak English. Use the computers to search for the records you wish to view or use CEGES website before you go. You order documents on a small card upto 20 per day may be viewed.
Access by car:
Parking facilities: Boulevard du Midi.
"Lemonnier" station or "Bruxelles-Midi" (Brussels-South) underground station.
Train: "Bruxelles-Midi" (Brussels-South) train station.
Telephone 020 7416 5320 (International +44 20 7416 5320)
Open daily: 10.00am - 6.00pm
Nearest underground: Lambeth North, Waterloo, Southwark, or Elephant and Castle Nearest Train: Waterloo or Elephant and Castle
Bus: 1, 3, 12, 45, 53, 59, 63, 68, 100, 159, 168, 171, 172, 176,188, 344, C10
The Imperial War Museum hold the records of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society.
© John Clinch 2002