After reading Target Tirpitz, Dam Busters, and other books on the history of World War II, (WW2), and realising how much was missing from my knowledge, my interest has been ignited to find other information, other gaps that need filling in.
One area mentioned was the intelligence which was gathered about targets prior to missions, and then post mission, the information which was made available as to the success or failure of the missions.
I came across Taylor Downing’s book, Spies in the Sky, which like many books being publish at this time, gathers together facts, figures, information, stories, history about what I was looking for, “the secret battle for aerial intelligence during World War II“.
This well written book tells in a near chronological sequence how and why the need for intelligence started in the 19th century, through the First World War, primarily the Second World War, even through to today, from the air.
It tells how Sidney Cotton, perhaps a maverick, an unconventional thinking person, used his knowledge and love of flying, to create methods of gathering aerial photographs of places of interest for military needs. It follows the story of how, despite opposition by some in power, the initial drive by Cotton was developed to a point where there were thousands of people gathering information, analysing and interpreting it to be made available just from aerial photographs, to the leaders, generals, admirals and air marshals, the planners, for battles that would follow.
The book tells the stories of pilots flying often alone for long hours, deep behind enemy lines, in unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, risked their lives, many never to return or unheard of again, just to photograph the land below them as they flew above, throughout the world.
Based in a country house, Danesfield House, Medmenham, in the Thames Valley near London, men and woman, civilians in uniform, academic people, gathered to process and analyse the millions of photographs taken by the reconnaissance pilots. Everyone, like those, the code breakers at Bletchley Park operated in total secret, unaware what others in other sections were doing, and their secrets were hidden from the public for many years.
This book tells the story of aerial intelligence during World War II, a good read.
But even more questions have been planted in my mind now.