You Can Now Easily Free Details of 100,000 British Prisoners of War; among Them Is Famous Welsh Actor Desmond Llewelyn

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 27, 2009 | Go to article overview

You Can Now Easily Free Details of 100,000 British Prisoners of War; among Them Is Famous Welsh Actor Desmond Llewelyn


Byline: James McCarthy

NAZI records of more than 100,000 British prisoners of war captured across enemy lines, including one of Wales' most recognisable actors, have been published on the internet.

The details, which were until now held at the National Archives in London, were compiled by the Germans under the 1929 Geneva Convention.

Family history website Ancestry.co.uk was behind the project to put the information on the net, which it says is a world first.

Royal Welch Fusilier Lieutenant Desmond Llewelyn - who went on to achieve global fame playing Q in the James Bond movies - was imprisoned from 1940 to 1945 at Oflag IX-A/Z in Rotenburg, Germany.

His son, Ivor Llewelyn, last night said he plans to use the online service to see his celebrated father's records.

The 60-year-old, who lives in Bexhill-on-Sea, said: "He tried to make an escape but was caught at the bottom of a tunnel.

"It gave him a certain dislike of highly-enclosed spaces. He didn't like them or the idea of suffocation, because the tunnel would only have been a couple of feet high.

"He acted a lot while he was a PoW. They put on lots of productions. They even put on a world premiere of a play by Noel Coward - Post Mortem."

Newport-born Desmond, who died in a car crash in 1999, was one of a group of a dozen prisoners who tried to burrow to freedom from the camp.

The actor was in charge of oxygen supply and made a pipe from butter tins that used a bellow system to ensure there was fresh air in the tunnel.

His proud son added: "I suppose one expects it from reading all the books about the Second World War and prisoner-of-war camps. You get the impression they spent their lives escaping."

Ancestry.co.uk spokeswoman Laura Buchan said: "Until now all personnel records were in the National Archives and if someone wanted to find out if a relative was a PoW they had to go to London and trawl by hand through over 100,000 files.

"So far we have done the British army records but we are hoping to get air force records done as well."

Other notable prisoners whose records are now online include, blue blood George Henry Hubert Lascelles and serial escapee Jock Hamilton-Baillie.

Lascelles - known as Viscount Harewood - was seventh in line to the throne when he was caught in 1944. He was sent to Colditz until the end of the war. He is now 40th in line.

Hamilton-Baillie achieved notoriety by breaking free from five different camps before being sent to Colditz.

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