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Second World War heroes' records published online

Published 04/09/2015

Prisoners of war in Rangoon Prison. Picture: The National Archives
Prisoners of war in Rangoon Prison. Picture: The National Archives
Alex Lees, right, Stalag Luft 111 - his heroism was immortalised in the classic film The Great Escape

The heroes of The Great Escape are included in one million records published to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Details of the 76 men who escaped from the Stalag Luft III camp in Lower Silesia, and their fates feature in the records which have been published online for the first time.

The names, ranks and locations for service men, women and civilians taken captive between 1939 and 1945 are now searchable after family history website Findmypast teamed up with the National Archives to make the records available.

Thousands of images, including extracts from the personal diaries of prisoners are also available to view.

The stories of Eric Lomax, whose experience in the camps made it to the big screen in the movie The Railway Man starring Colin Firth, and Ronald Searle, who drew harrowing sketches depicting life as a prisoner before going on to create the St Trinian's cartoons, are also part of the archives.

The details of British doctor Bill Frankland, now aged 103 are recorded, as well as the records for many ordinary people.

Paul Nixon, military expert at Findmypast, said the publication online will allow more people to gain an insight into the horrific conditions within the camps.

He said: "Many of those who were captured during WWII endured barbaric conditions and found it difficult on their return to discuss the experience. Today's publication allows the public to explore their story, and learn more about this dark period."

Aside from well-known names, people may also be able to trace their own family members in the records, said David Langrish, military records specialist at The National Archives.

"Extraordinary stories of ordinary men and women whose lives were caught up in the calamities of war have been told for years, but the online publication of these records makes it much easier for a wider audience to research this period and even find members of their own family.

"The National Archives are committed to widening access to our shared national records and the publication of these files is a significant development in facilitating this."

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