Exploring prisoner of war records: Jack Shaw’s story

Jack Shaw's shaving brush and map. Image © IWM (EPH 809).

Jack Shaw’s shaving brush and map. Image © IWM (EPH 809).

Have you had a chance to explore the ICRC prisoner of war records yet? Charlotte Czyzyk explains how she used this incredible record set to uncover more about the life of Jack William Shaw, whose story features in the brand new First World War galleries at IWM London.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is digitising its vast archive about prisoners of war in the First World War. Altogether, 5 million cards on prisoners and 500,000 pages of records associated with these cards will be available to view online.

I have used this exciting record set to populate the Life Story page for Jack William Shaw, who owned this intriguing object on display in the First World War Galleries at IWM London – a map hidden in a shaving brush.

Jack William Shaw’s story

The ICRC registers confirmed that Jack was born on 14 December 1891 in Marlow on Thames. He was a Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and was captured near Beselare in Belgium on 7 June 1917 during the Battle of Messines.

Searching the official records on Lives of the First World War provided many more interesting details. Prior to his service with the Royal Flying Corps, Jack served with 2nd King Edward’s Horse, and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

He was taken prisoner at Messines in 1917 and held at Freiburg. He escaped from this camp and when recaptured was imprisoned in Holzminden POW camp. While there he assisted in the construction of the famous ‘Holzminden Tunnel’ through which 29 officers escaped. The map, hidden in a shaving brush, was used to help to plan their escape.

Was someone you’re remembering held as a prisoner of war during the First World War? Why not try exploring the ICRC records and see what you can find out about their life story.

  • Read our ‘5 steps’ guide to exploring the prisoner of war records
  • View the Community Page for Prisoners of War
  • Charlotte Czyzyk is Life Story Coorindator at Imperial War Museums


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