Explore the enemy alien and internee records from The National Archives. Browse the collection by conflict, series, or piece. 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.
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 immigrants and refugees in Britain. 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 wars. 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.
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.
Available series 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
This series contains lists of German nationals who were assessed for internment, but not interned. The names are broken into various classes. Class 1 were Germans living in London who were technically enemy aliens. Most of the individuals claimed to be a neutral nationality but they were technically Germans. Class 3 were Germans living in London who were member of religious orders or ministers of religion. Erdington and Buckfast abbey are listed. The records include notes of investigation into an individual’s nationalist sympathies. For example, Edwin Alphonsus Schreiber, a priest, was invested but the charges against him were proved false. The record explains in more detail how the charges were brought: ‘Charges of pro-Germanism have been made against him. The police made investigations and report that they are without foundation, and that the charges were inspired by a Father Appleby and Father Coglan. Abbleby is jealous of Schreiber having been made Dean and is vindictive. Coghlan has been reported to the Bishop by Schreiber for intemperance’.
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.
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.