Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Aerial Imagery from the Second World War

If you live in London it is now possible to view aerial imagery of your neighborhood which was captured nearly 75 years ago, from just after the Second World War. After World War II the Royal Air Force methodically flew over the whole of Britain to photograph the country from the air. This resulted in 24,000 photographs of London - aerial photographs which you can now explore on the Layers of London interactive map.

This aerial imagery provides a stunning visual record of London just after World War II. Because the aerial imagery was captured just after the end of the war the bomb damage from the Blitz is clearly visible in lots of places. For example in my street in East London I can clearly see where the bombs fell.

At the top left of this picture and on the far right you can see the 19th Century terraced housing which survived the German bombs (I live in one of the houses shown top left). All the white areas are where houses were destroyed in the Blitz. When this aerial image was captured the bomb sites had clearly been cleared and have been replaced with what looks to me like temporary structures (they look like large Nissan huts but are probably too big to be Nissan huts).

The RAF Aerial Collection on Layers of London is being mapped by volunteers. Not all of the RAF's aerial photographs have been mapped. If you want to help Layers of London complete the process of georeferencing the RAF's aerial photographs then you can take part at Be a Laymaker. This process involves you overlaying the historical pictures over the correct location on an interactive map.

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