Adolf’s British Holiday Snaps — Luftwaffe Aerial Reconnaissance Photographs of England, Scotland and Wales by Nigel J Clarke www.fonthillmedia.com £16.99 paperback, 224 pages, B & W illustration throughout
Silly title for a seriously interesting book
Reprinted in 2015 and first published by Fonthill in 2012, This is the third, expanded edition of Nigel Clarke’s Adolf’s British Holiday Snaps book (he admits in his introduction that the title was chosen for its commercial impact, being far more memorable that the kind of label a historian might have chosen). The ‘snaps’ of the title were taken with hostile intent, the Luftwaffe completing the first full aerial survey of Britain and the Continent prior to and during the Second World War. Its reconnaissance archive — sixteen tons of material — was eventually captured at the end of the war and became valuable British and US Government property.
Happily for Nigel Clark, various allied soldiers had helped themselves to any copies of the aerial photos they found lying around — and he has spent many years collecting these trophies, which form the bulk of the illustrations in the book. They make absolutely fascinating viewing, especially where they cover one’s own manor.
Digital copies of the pictures can be purchased from www.hitlersukpictures.co.uk (I have the 2 September 1940 ‘London Kingston’ shot on display in our hallway at home, with an arrow marked ‘you are here’). Both book and prints are highly recommended. PW
The Battle in truly fascinating detail
I must confess that we were already suffering a measure of Battle of Britain commemoration fatigue when this title, published in September, arrived at editorial office. For this reason it was laid aside while we concentrated on other things — which is a shame, because it is rather a good book that offers fresh insight on a subject we all perhaps think we know too well. Granted; there will be little novelty in the descriptions of aeroplanes and fighter tactics (although the fact that throughout 1940 the RAF stuck to vulnerable three-aircraft ‘vics’ seems to have been lost on the pilots flying commemorative formations in 2015!) However, it is in telling the story of the fighter control, and associated defence systems that this ‘manual’ excels (and, for once, calling it a manual has a degree of justification). You might have known that those coloured triangles on sector-room clocks were used to code plots, so the controllers knew how up to date was their information, and you might have known that ground-based observers played a part in tracking raids — but did you realise that the whole system was only made to work properly at the eleventh hour when graduates replaced the NCOS and junior ranks interpreting the often contradictory mix of (primitive) radar and subjective observer data? Or that the RAF’S obselete aircraft radios were a nightmare to keep tuned in flight? Fascinating is the word! PW