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German Luftwaffe Archive of Aerial Images

Allied Air Force Research would like to thank Nigel Clarke

for contributing the following guest article to our website.

Note- that Nigel is not Affiliated to the Allied Air Force Research Website.

The images in the collection are a unique archive of German World War Two reconnaissance pictures taken by the Luftwaffe and collected over the years by Dorset author and historian Nigel Clarke. The photographs of Britain and Ireland were taken between 1939 and 1943 for target and intelligence purposes by the German air force (the Luftwaffe).


The Luftwaffe photographs were the first ever aerial survey of the United Kingdom. The changes to Britain in the post war years have been dramatic; where there were once fields are now houses, new towns and urban sprawl. The cities of Bristol and Birmingham have spread into large conurbations and once-distinctive boundaries have merged. Industry and shopping centres have migrated from the centres to the suburbs. Pre-war Britain only had one international airport at Croydon although there was a flying-boat service to the colonies from Poole Harbour. Long distance transport was by train and there were no motorways, and most people lived close to where they worked.

'A definitive history of the Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance images of the United Kingdom'


In 1939 there were few farms in Britain of over 500 acres and the average farm had only 10 cows. There few arable farms and most grain that was grown were for animal feed. In the post war period field size has expanded and hedgerows have disappeared. Vast areas of chalk downs and common land have been ploughed and huge areas of arable land created.


At the end of the war the Luftwaffe aerial photographs were eagerly collected by the Soviet, American and British intelligence services. With approaching cold war both sides were eager to gather all available information on each other's economic capability.


The huge main Luftwaffe Archive had been destroyed by a fire at the end of the war,

and the only available sources were the files and material that had been kept at former German airfields and military installations. The amount of material captured by the allies was vast, and a sorting and interpretation centre was established in the UK.

'The secret Luftwaffe archive classified till 1973'


In the 1950s all the records were shipped to the United States and taken to Washington where the archive was classified as top-secret and disappeared from the public domain till its release in 1970s. The captured records had been a primary source of intelligence during the Cold War but were eventually superseded by satellite imagery.

Aerial Image of Queensferry

Interesting Images in the Collection.

Image 14 - Slough. There is a famous poem by the late Sir John Betjeman published in 1937


Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!

It isn't fit for humans now,

There isn't grass to graze a cow.

Swarm over, Death!


Come, bombs and blow to smithereens

Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,

Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,

Tinned minds, tinned breath……….


It would seem the Luftwaffe were willing to oblige!

Image 69 - Portland Bill. The photograph is taken in 1940 and shows the medieval strip lynchets in the fields. Most of these have been lost.

Image 101 - Sandbanks in Poole - now some of the most expensive land in Britain.

Image 126 - Dublin. One of a series of Luftwaffe pictures marked up with targets despite Ireland's neutrality in WW2. Ireland was one of the few countries to send condolences to Germany on the death of Hitler.

Aerial Image of Dublin Barracks

Image 152 - Glasgow. The Clyde when Scotland had a ship building industry.

Image 210 - The strange aerial image of Dungeness and the shingle beach.

Image 244 - Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park.

Image 290 - An attack on HMS Edinburgh next to the Firth of Forth Bridge. Mud plumes can be seen rising up for the seabed where the bombs have landed.


Image 330 - Croydon International Airport. Britain's only international airport where Amy Johnson landed. This was soon put out of operation by major Luftwaffe bombing early in the war.

Image 363 - The haunting image of Port Talbot

Image 395 - Plymouth. The area of Devonport was extensively bombed and many of the buildings in this area were destroyed. Ironically the Government in the early stages of WW2 evacuated children from London to the safety of Plymouth.

Aerial Image of Plymouth

Image 410 - Dartmouth. A brilliant clear aerial image of the Royal Naval College and estuary.

The Collection 520 Contact Negatives

There are 520 contact negatives which cover the whole of the United Kingdom and included are 16 images of Ireland.


Original Target and operation portfolio material issued to Luftwaffe Pilots.

Aerial Pictures-Target Sheets-German Extracts of Ordnance Survey Maps.

There is a collection of 57 items which are all original and captured by the Belgium Resistance Group who raided an abandoned Luftwaffe Airfield. Some of the images have the Lion Stamp of this group.


British Original War Photographs 71 images.

A diverse range of images by war photographers including a number of planes in flight such as Hurricanes, Lysanders, Wellingtons. Images of combat groups The American Eagle Squadron-The Czechoslovak Pilots-RAF Pilots.

King George-German POW’s-Blitz pictures (St Pauls, London) Aerial images of Dunkirk and bombing missons by the allies.

A Collection of Aerial Images of the United Kingdom all original

Nigel had also Published a book 'Adolf's British Holiday Snaps' you can purchase the book on Amazon via the following link


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