Monday, 20 December 2010

Unidentified airfield - Western Front?

Can anyone identify the town and airfield shown in these two air photos of the First World War period which I've just found in a local flea-market? Look to me like they might be German photos, possibly of a German airfield in northern France or Belgium. Both photos show fiducial marks, which is not normally the case for RFC/RAF photos (though RNAS photos do sometimes show them). The top one is approx. 163 x 217 mm (about 6.5 x 8.5 inches), while the bottom one is approx. 163 x 188 mm (about 6.5 x 7.5 inches).

Added 23 Dec 2010: Ha! I've beaten you to it. I have identified the village and airfield as Abscon, just to the west of Denain (SSW of Valenciennes) in northern France. I thought I'd look at some First World War maps (British 1:40,000 series) to seee if I could spot the street plan with the distinctive feature of the church on the road-bend. I lloked at Sheets 51 and 51A, and sure enough, within a minute or two I found the village of Abscon. Google Earth seemed to confirm it, and when I searched Google images for Abscon I found photos of the church and the Mairie next to it.

So there we are; they're German photos of a German airfield. It now remains to pin down the year. It's clearly the summer, and, given the type of German aeroplanes shown (Steve Suddaby gives his opinion that 'it might be a Hannover CL II or III. It looks to be the size of a two-seater based on comparing it with the wagon and team of oxen/horses pulling it. If my eyes are not deceiving me, it seems to have a double horizontal stabilizer which greatly narrows the number of aircraft types of any country that it might be. The wing configuration seems to match a Hannover. If I'm right about the aircraft type, it would date the photo to late 1917 or later'), may be 1917-1918.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Notes on the Interpretation of Air Photographs, 1924

The following volume is a fascinating link between the air photo (AP) interpretation manuals produced during the First World War and the later developments in the inter-war period and the Second World War. I believe there is a copy in The National Archives at Kew. I'll post some images in due course.

Notes on the Interpretation of Air Photographs, War Office, May 1924. For Official Use Only. Air Min. 2235. ((40/Misc./2235). [HMSO] Print code: (C4357) Wt.W1149/PP2982 6/24 250 Harrow. 1 page Contents. 1 page List of Plates. Text pages 5-15. 143 plates: Photographs Reproduced by Advanced Photographic Section, AP&SS, British Army of the Rhine, covering Western Front, Rhine, Italy, Palestine, Macedonia and Gallipoli fronts. ‘This manual embodies the experience gained in the interpretation of air photographs during the stabilised periods of warfare on the various fronts between 1915 and 1918. The photographs reproduced in the plates exemplify types of work which may, or may not, be met with in the future.’ Large portrait-format album, 14” x 12”, thick buff covers, with black cloth spine. All plates are real photographs, not half-tone reproductions, except for one for guidance in interpretation of certain features (gunpits, trench mortar emplacements, etc.) which is based on wartime drawings.

I'm currently working on a book exploring the relationship between air photos and tactical maps such as artillery maps and trench maps. This will examine the developing sophistication of interpretation, and the exploitation of its fruits in the proliferation of tactical (and topographical) signs on the maps.