RAF Reconnaissance in the Second World War

Yes.


also

Monochrome IR film - also known as CD (for Camouflage Detection) 35 mm and 120 roll film is still around; but I last used it at School about 35 years ago. Because it is responding to a different wavelength, you have to adjust the lens according, as the IR is bent differently in the lens. Decent fixed focus lenses in the 1970s and 1980s would have a small red line on the focussing ring which the point of focus should be moved to if using IR film. I remember the superlative Pentax 'Takumar', Nikon 'Nikkor' and Leica 'Elmar' lenses all had them - as does my 1939 Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta - used widely as a military camera. However, none of my later Nikkor AF lenses from the 1990s (for film cameras) have a marking, nor do my post-war Zeiss Ikon Contaflex SLRs, which were very expensive cameras at the time. If I recall correctly, 35mm cameras were carried on the Nimrod MR2, using B/W film, for rigging Soviet ships and I have a feeling that IR film was also used a few years back. (Olympus OM2 cameras spring to mind - perhaps someone can confirm what were used?). I certainly recall seeing IR photos from film earlier in my career, and not from IRDS systems.

If I was using IR film today, I would push the film speed and stop down the lens to get around this issue - none of my present 35 mm cameras have such markings on their lenses. I might try to track some film down.

You can get a good approximation of IR film with a deep red filter and B/W film; not exactly IR, but it cuts out the shorter wavelengths and atmospheric scatter and reveals quite a lot of detail on landscapes and darkens clouds, making for very dramatic photos.

ETA: On this Mamiya Sekkor lens on my Mamiya 645 (c 1980), the red IR focus setting can be seen at F4, to the right of the focusing mark on the depth of field scale. Note to self. This lens is externally very dusty and needs cleaning!

AETA: On A well-known auction site, monochrome 35 mm IR film is between £6-11 for a roll.

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you can see on the pink Spitfire above a different shape to the engine cowling; it has an enlarged oil tank and possibly a bigger coolant tank to cope with long range missions. When these PR specials were built, they had no guns,no gunsight, and all unwanted parts stripped out to save weight and the camera mounts and ports built in. They had to figure out how to keep the cameras working and the windows clear at all altitudes. Traditional fighters leaked oil,coolant and hydraulic fluid so the PR aircraft had to be kept clean so that the windows for the cameras weren't obscured. The controls for the cameras were fitted into the already small cockpit and the pilot trained in how to use them. The skin panels and hatches were made with extra care and attention to avoid unwanted bumps and drag that would be tolerated on an ordinary fighter. These aircraft weren't bashed about like a standard line aircraft and everyone understood that extra effort had to made for these aircraft.
 
I thought the pink was for high altitude blending in with clouds
Primarily low level to blend with low ceiling at dawn and dusk when the sun gave the clouds a pinkish hue - they were often used to monitor the French ports and Atlantic Wall defenses. It would also work at any altitude if there was solid cloud cover. It was designed for a niche job, which is why most PRU Spits were blue.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
Primarily low level to blend with low ceiling at dawn and dusk when the sun gave the clouds a pinkish hue
... and cast long shadows, making detail on the ground clearer in the photos.

Why Apollo 11 landed near the terminator in the centre of the observed moon near first quarter.

 
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.
My father was an FAA pilot in the ‘50s. Colour blind to a degree but was always passed fit to fly by the medics and obviously good enough eyesight to fly one of HM’s Sea Furies on a rolling and pitching deck at night. Tried to convert to civilian flying after the Navy, but failed the medical as colour blind.
 
you can see on the pink Spitfire above a different shape to the engine cowling; it has an enlarged oil tank and possibly a bigger coolant tank to cope with long range missions. When these PR specials were built, they had no guns,no gunsight, and all unwanted parts stripped out to save weight and the camera mounts and ports built in. They had to figure out how to keep the cameras working and the windows clear at all altitudes. Traditional fighters leaked oil,coolant and hydraulic fluid so the PR aircraft had to be kept clean so that the windows for the cameras weren't obscured. The controls for the cameras were fitted into the already small cockpit and the pilot trained in how to use them. The skin panels and hatches were made with extra care and attention to avoid unwanted bumps and drag that would be tolerated on an ordinary fighter. These aircraft weren't bashed about like a standard line aircraft and everyone understood that extra effort had to made for these aircraft.
The pink Spitfire in the photo on page 1, is a MkXl. IIRC that’s the PR version of the MkIX.
The last was the PRXIX, powered by the RR Griffon engine. It was the fastest Mk produced and the Germans had problems catching it.
It could do 445 mph and had a max ceiling of 42,600 feet.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
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'.

A quite extraordinary gentleman called Wing Commander Frank Brock developed a series of colour filters during WW1 for detection of camouflaged positions.

He invented numerous useful things, served in Army, RN and RAF before dying on the Zeebruge Raid.
 
Take a look at the Over the Battlefield series if you want to see how tactical recon worked.

Amazon product
 

W21A

LE
Book Reviewer
SONG OF THE GREMLINS
As sung by the RAF Photographic Reconnaissance Unit during the Second World War.

When you're seven miles up in the heavens,
And that's a heck of a lonely spot,
And it's fifty degrees below zero,
Which isn't exactly hot,
When you're frozen blue like your Spitfire,
And you're scared a Mosquito pink,
When you're thousands of miles from nowhere,
And there's nothing below but the drink -

It's then you will see the gremlins,
Green and gamboge and gold,
Male and female and neuter,
Gremlins both young and old.

White ones'll wiggle your wingtips,
Male ones'll muddle your maps,
Green ones'll guzzle your glycol,
Females will flutter your flaps,
Pink ones will perch on your perspex,
And dance pirouettes on your prop,
There's one spherical middle-aged gremlin
Who spins on your stick like a top.

They'll freeze up your camera shutters,
They'll bite through your aileron wires,
They'll cause your whole tail to flutter,
They'll insert toasting forks in your tyres.

This is the song of the gremlins
As sung by the P R U,
Pretty Ruddy Unlikely to many,
But fact nonetheless to the few.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
The reconnaissance planes would climb to the height when contrails started to appear, then drop slightly.

This had a 2 fold effect, their own presence was not obviously visible and anything higher than them waiting to pounce was visible.
 
A quite extraordinary gentleman called Wing Commander Frank Brock developed a series of colour filters during WW1 for detection of camouflaged positions.

He invented numerous useful things, served in Army, RN and RAF before dying on the Zeebruge Raid.
Brock was a member of the eponymous firework manufacturing family. One of his inventions was an anti-Zeppelin incendiary bullet.
 

Yokel

LE
Given the massive demand for photo reconnaissance and the limited number of dedicated and specially modified aircraft, would some reconnaissance be done by fighter and army cooperation squadrons?

My late Uncle told me that bombers were equipped with cameras to record where they had dropped their bombs, so was something like that used?
 

Mattb

LE
Tony Hill an RAF photo recc pilot to the classic pictures of the Bruneval radar site for planning the raid by the Para’s.

Is that the J D Frost of Arnhem fame?
 
Given the massive demand for photo reconnaissance and the limited number of dedicated and specially modified aircraft, would some reconnaissance be done by fighter and army cooperation squadrons?

My late Uncle told me that bombers were equipped with cameras to record where they had dropped their bombs, so was something like that used?

The bomb bay camera was principally used to determine if a sortie qualified for the 30 trips in a tour total.
 

Chef

LE
Is that the J D Frost of Arnhem fame?
Certainly is. The pilot ic the drop in was Group Captain Pickard who was in the film 'Target for tonight' and died during the Amiens prison raid.
 
Given the massive demand for photo reconnaissance and the limited number of dedicated and specially modified aircraft, would some reconnaissance be done by fighter and army cooperation squadrons?

My late Uncle told me that bombers were equipped with cameras to record where they had dropped their bombs, so was something like that used?
The Allies put a lot of effort into recon, with plenty of dedicated aircraft. Here's a list of just the USAF units:

List of United States Army Air Forces reconnaissance units - Wikipedia
 
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.
The Old Man failed the colour-blind test (red/green) when he initially tried to join the police. Then joined the RAF and became a fighter pilot.
 

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