RAF Reconnaissance in the Second World War

Yokel

LE
The other week I was watching Foyle's War and part of the plot involved Foyle's son's Spitfire squadron to fly a photo reconnaissance sortie against a port in occupied France, using film that could capture infra red images. Did such a thing exist in 1940/1941? The film Sink The Bismarck! also features a photo reconnaissance Spitfire looking for the Bismarck in a Norwegian fjord.

Whilst I am sure there must be books by veterans, and there have been documentaries about the RAF people how managed to produce three dimensional images from photographs, and determine things like heights, the effort of the aircraft themselves is still largely unknown. Did they come under Fighter Command, or what? What sort of aircraft did they use before there were sufficient Spitfires and Mosquitos became available? What modifications did they receive for the new role? Did they use systems like Gee or Oboe for navigation?

What technical developments happened? In addition to infra red photography, I think the first radar images of the ground were made in 1944. I have also seen a picture of aircraft fitted for sniffing out enemy radars - what we would now call ELINT. So by 1945 the RAF was doing photo reconnaissance in both visible and IR wavelengths, radar reconnaissance, and SIgnals Intelligence.

What cooperation was there with the US Army Air Force and RCAF? Or our own FAA?

@Archimedes I seem to remember that we have discussed this before.
 
Look up the PRU. The RAF used specially built and fitted out Spitfires,when it became obvious that all other recce aircraft of the time were little more than target practise for the Luftwaffe. The USAAF got Spitfires for their own PR use. The use of aircraft for electronic recce was already in hand before the war started,as both sides used aircraft to listen to enemy radio transmissions and to record them in flight. As for navigation, PR aircraft used standard navigation practises and the compass of the aircraft was swung before every mission. They also got as precise a weather forecast as they could before take off, often literally only minutes before the actual take off, to prevent a wasted flight. Only bigger aircraft like bombers carried Gee and Oboe.
 
The other week I was watching Foyle's War and part of the plot involved Foyle's son's Spitfire squadron to fly a photo reconnaissance sortie against a port in occupied France, using film that could capture infra red images. Did such a thing exist in 1940/1941? The film Sink The Bismarck! also features a photo reconnaissance Spitfire looking for the Bismarck in a Norwegian fjord.
Yes.


also

 
I've always liked the pink camo they used for low level recon.

1614540106867.png
 
As an aside...
Mate of mine is colour blind.
He only found out when he was called up for national service.
Straight out of infantry, into recce, where his 'skills' were used to identify disturbances and camouflage which 'normal' eyesight couldn't.
An amazing 'talent'.
 
Mustangs were often used by PRUs due to their speed and range. In Burma they also made good use of Mitchells.

An old chap I knew, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago was a PRU Sqn Ldr and took the famous low-level photo of Grabner's trashed column on Arnhem Bridge.
 

Chef

LE
As an aside...
Mate of mine is colour blind.
He only found out when he was called up for national service.
Straight out of infantry, into recce, where his 'skills' were used to identify disturbances and camouflage which 'normal' eyesight couldn't.
An amazing 'talent'.
I heard a similar story about a wartime pilot who was a dab hand at ground attack as due to colour blindness the cam nets stood out like a sore thumb for him. No I don't know how he got flying in the first place but as at least one pilot simply memorised the eye chart to pass the medical i suppose anything's possible.
 

Vortex-G

Swinger
Initially part of Fighter Command, Photo Recce became the responsibility of Coastal Command in 1940. Detailed imagery interpretation was carried out at the Central Interpretation Unit at RAF Medmenham which became the Allied Central Interpretation Unit when the USAAF joined the fun.
 
The “Spitfire” book by John Nichol has some good sections on the use of the Spitfire for PR work, including the contribution of US pilots in the RAF.
One story has a PR pilot being chased by an ME 262 which is a cracking dit.
 

Vortex-G

Swinger
I‘ll mention the Maryland that spotted the Italian fleet leaving harbour

Adrian Warburton I believe, highly decorated photo recce pilot.
 
The USAAF, also used a lot Lockheed F4/F5 reconnaissance aircraft, ie P38.
Un Armed like Spitfires, the whole nose stripped out of weapons and re filled with cameras.
It was in Lockheed F5s that Adrian Warburton and the famous French Author and pre war commercial pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry lost their lives in.
 
Mustangs were often used by PRUs due to their speed and range. In Burma they also made good use of Mitchells.

An old chap I knew, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago was a PRU Sqn Ldr and took the famous low-level photo of Grabner's trashed column on Arnhem Bridge.
Odd how these things coincide. I would have been very interested in what he had to say about what was being done (or not done) by way of Air Recce towards the close of Market Garden.

Edited to qualify as English.
 

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