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The detention of non-enemy civilians escaping to Britain during the Second World War

Photiadou, Artemis ORCID: 0000-0003-4629-4035 (2022) The detention of non-enemy civilians escaping to Britain during the Second World War. Historical Journal, 65 (2). 482 - 504. ISSN 0018-246X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0018246X2100008X


Thousands of civilians from Allied and neutral countries reached Britain during the Second World War. Nearly all who arrived between 1941 and 1945 were detained for interrogation - an unprecedented course of action by Britain which has nevertheless seldomly been studied. This article focuses on the administrative history of this process and the people it affected. It demonstrates how certain parts of the state treated non-Britons with suspicion throughout the war, long after fears of a 'fifth column' had subsided. At the same time, others saw them favourably, not least because many either offered intelligence, intended to volunteer with the Allied Forces, or work for the war industry. Examining how these conflicting views co-existed within a single detention camp, this article thus illustrates the complex relationship that existed between non-Britons and the wartime state, which perceived them simultaneously as suspects, assets, and allies. By making use of the thousands of resulting interrogation reports, the article also offers more detail than currently exists on the gender and nationality background of those who reached Britain, as well as about the journeys they took to escape occupied territory.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2021 14:57
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2024 04:00

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