Luftwaffe WW2 Photo-documents of UK Towns and Cities

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WW2 Luftwaffe bomber pilot's aerial view of Portsmouth Harbour to be used on bombing raids
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WW2 Luftwaffe bomber pilot's aerial view of Portsmouth Harbour to be used on bombing raids

WW2 bombing of Britain's towns and cities

During WW2, German bomber crews going on air-raids over Britain's southern, south-western and eastern counties, particularly hit-and-run attacks by lone raiders or small groups of aircraft, were issued with a slender document, on a paper size equivalent to modern A4, containing a printed map and  one or more printed aerial photographs of their intended target to take with them on each individual raid.

The photographs were accompanied with brief notes as shown in the example above of Portsmouth Harbour pointing out various strategic features.

These documents were designed to help the pilot and bomb-aimer identify their general target area.

This guide lists the 140 or so towns and cities and surrounding areas for which these original aircrew bombing photo-documents are known to have survived and can still be found.

Sources of photographs used

The photographs in these wartime Luftwaffe documents were compiled from a number of different sources, some pre-war taken secretly, in preparation for the war, by German military intelligence from German civilian and commercial aircraft, others during the war itself by Luftwaffe photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

For a few of the towns, the Luftwaffe augmented their own reconnaissance material by reprinting any British 1930s commercial aerial photographs they had managed to obtain, annotating them appropriately with strategically important features for Luftwaffe aircrew coming over the target.

They then reprinted all these photographs with their accompanying maps and text in area "sets" as target identification documents to be used by their pilots, navigators and bomb-aimers to plan their approach over the intended target during the actual raid.

Size of each document; number of photographs

The size of document and number of photographs for each of the 140 areas varied greatly depending on the town or area in question.  For example,  the document for Bedford is a double-sided single sheet of 2 pages containing a small-scale map and a single full-page printed aerial photograph whilst the document for Portsmouth, a city of greater strategic importance, has 4 sheets (8 pages), with a map and 15 separate printed photographs.
Issued by the Commander of the Luftwaffe : For Official Use!
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Issued by the Commander of the Luftwaffe : For Official Use!

Issued to Luftwaffe aircrew to use in action over British towns

These documents with their half-tone photograph(s) and small-scale map were issued by the WW2 German Luftwaffe to their bomber aircrew in batches, stapled into folders (or "volumes") of many different target areas for convenience of delivery to Luftwaffe airfields and each Jagdgeschwader  (Wing, or group of Squadrons).

The individual target area documents (normally for single towns or cities) were issued to aircrew with the printed instruction on the batch folders of "Zum Verbrauch! Mitnahme von Ausschnitten des Bildteiles zum Feindflug gestattet" ("To be used! ... take the photograph sections with you on raids").
"To be used! ... take the photograph sections with you on raids"
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"To be used! ... take the photograph sections with you on raids"

Perforated sections

Each sheet of the set for each target area was perforated so it could be neatly extracted from the delivery batch folders or "volumes" by individual pilots and bomb aimers to be taken on bombing raids over their specific target area.

In short, each large stapled folder, containing many different perforated target area sets, was designed to be broken up as required into its individual sets.  Any original area pages or sets you see offered for sale should have the remains of these perforations along one edge similar to the illustration below (photographed against a black background to show the perforation holes).
Perforations on the edge of each page to enable easy removal from folders as required for individual air-raids
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Perforations on the edge of each page to enable easy removal from folders as required for individual air-raids

Incredibly rare local history items

Original WW2 examples of these Luftwaffe target town or area photo-documents are now very rarely found and individual sets seldom appear on the market.

However, as they were issued as disposable items to bomber aircrew to be used in action in the air during the raids themselves, it is hardly surprising that so few have survived.

Note that the photographs in these documents, mostly taken from over 15,000 feet,  covering large areas around each town and printed as fine half-tones, were produced  as target area navigation and identification cockpit aids for bombers coming over their target;  they are not high definition images designed to be enlarged to show small ground features in high detail.

These photo-documents have immense historical significance as some of the few surviving remnants of the World War Two German bombing campaign and also as scarce and extremely collectable items of local history for the towns and cities concerned.

UK town and city areas for which sets are known to exist

Abingdon: See Cirencester
Aldeburgh: See Felixstowe
Aldershot [and Farnborough]: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Andover: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Ascot: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Ashford [Kent]: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Aylesbury: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Badbury Rings [near Wimborne]: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Banbury: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Barnstaple and Ilfracombe [Hartland Point]: 10 pages of Luftwaffe map and photos.
Basingstoke: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Bath: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Beachy Head [and Eastbourne]: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Bedford: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Beverley: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Bexhill: See Hastings
Bodmin: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Boston [and Grantham]: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Bournemouth [and Christchurch and Poole Harbour]: 8 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Bridgwater: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Bridlington: See Flamborough Head
Bridport: See Seaton
Brighton [and Shoreham-by-Sea, and Portslade]: Luftwaffe map and multiple b/w aerial reconnaissance photographs.
Bristol: 12 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Broadstairs, Margate and Ramsgate [listed under North Foreland]: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Bude: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Bury St. Edmund's: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Cambridge: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Canterbury: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Canvey Island: See Thames Haven
Chatham - Rochester: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Cheddar: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Chelmsford: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Chippenham: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Cirencester [and Abingdon]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Clacton [and Brightlingsea]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Clacton:  See also Walton
Colchester: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Corby: See Kettering
Crawley, Gatwick, Horley [Three Bridges]: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Cromer: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Croydon, South London [Carshalton]: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Dagenham:  See Lower Thames
Dartmoor [Tavistock]: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Dartmouth: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Daventry: See Northampton
Deal: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Devonport:  See Plymouth
Dorchester: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Dover: 8 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Dungeness: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Ely: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Exeter: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Exmouth: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Falmouth Harbour: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Farnborough: See Aldershot
Felixstowe and Aldeburgh [Orford Ness]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Filey: See Flamborough Head
Flamborough Head [Bridlington and Filey]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photos.
Folkestone: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Fowey: 7 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Gatwick: See Crawley
Gibralter Point [Skegness]: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Grantham: See Boston
Great Yarmouth [and Sheringham]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Grimsby [listed under Spurn Head]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Guisborough: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Harwich [and Felixstowe]: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Hastings - St. Leonards [and Bexhill]: 7 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Hatfield: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Henley:  See Reading
Hertford: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Honiton: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Horley: See Crawley
Hornsea [East Yorkshire]: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Hull [listed under Kingston-upon-Hull]: 11 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Ilfracombe: See Barnstaple
Immingham Dock: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Ipswich: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Isle of Wight: 14 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Kettering [and Corby]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
King's Lynn: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Land's End: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Launceston: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Lewes: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Lincoln: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Littlehampton: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Lizard Head: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Loftus: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
London, Hafen [Port of London]: 9 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
London, North West: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
London, North: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
London, South West: 8 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
London, Stadtmitte [London City Centre]: 10 pages of Luftwaffe map and photos.
Looe: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Lower Thames from Tilbury to Dagenham: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photos.
Lowestoft: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Lulworth Cove: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Luton: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Lyme Regis:  See Seaton
Lynmouth and Lynton [listed under The Foreland]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Lynton: See Lynmouth
Maidenhead: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Maidstone: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Manningtree: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Minehead: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Newbury: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Newhaven: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Newmarket: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Newport Pagnell: See Wolverton
Newquay: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Northampton [and Daventry]: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Norwich: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Oxford: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Padstow [listed under Trevose Head] 1 sheet, 1 full-page aerial reconnaissance map.
Penzance: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Peterborough: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Plymouth [and Devonport]: Multiple pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Porthleven: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Portland Bill [and Weymouth]: 7 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Portsmouth: 8 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Reading [and Henley]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Reigate: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Rye: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Salcombe:  See Start Point
Salisbury: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Sandwich-Richborough: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Scarborough: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Scilly Isles: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Scunthorpe [Flixborough]: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Seaton [Sidmouth, Lyme Regis and Bridport]: 7 pages of Luftwaffe map and photos.
Selsey Bill: 7 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Sevenoaks: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Sheerness: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Sidmouth:  See Seaton
Skegness: See Gibraltar Point
Slapton Sands:  See Start Point
Slough and Windsor [listed under Windsor]: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photos.
Southampton: 7 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Southend-on-Sea [and Shoeburyness]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
St. Alban's Head [and Swanage]: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
St. Albans: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
St. Ives: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Staines: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Stamford: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Start Point [and Salcombe, Slapton Sands]: 6 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Swanage: See St. Alban's Head
Swindon [and Marlborough]: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Taunton: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Tavistock: See Dartmoor
Teignmouth: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Thames Haven [Canvey Island]: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Thetford: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Tilbury: See Lower Thames
Tonbridge: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Torquay: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Walton [and Clacton]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Warminster [and Westbury]: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Watford: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Wellingborough: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Wells: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Westbury:  See Warminster
Weston-super-Mare: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Weymouth:  See Portland Bill
Whitby: 4 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Whitstable: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Winchester: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Windsor: See Slough
Witney:  See Woodstock
Woking: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Wolverton [and Newport Pagnell]: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.
Woodstock [and Witney]: 5 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Worthing: 3 pages of Luftwaffe map and photographs.
Yeovil: 2 pages of Luftwaffe map and photograph.

Where to find original examples of these sets ...

The WW2MilitaryDocuments dot com  website, Britain's specialist dealer in these wartime Luftwaffe photo-documents, now close to retirement, usually has a good selection here on eBay at http://stores.ebay.co.uk/OriginalWW2Items/Luftwaffe-UK-air-raid-photos

If you see a set here for a town, city or area you're interested in, don't miss the opportunity.  You may never come across another.

... or find modern reprints for display

Because of the rarity of these original WW2 Luftwaffe items, Coloptics Images  have produced reprints of both complete sets and of individual photographs in a special single-sided and laminated format to distinguish them from originals.  You can occasionally see some of those special reprints here on eBay at http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/colopticsimages/m.html? - as far as we know they're available nowhere else except on Coloptics dot com  own website.
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