A meticulous selection from the 100,000 photo reconnaissance negatives held by the Imperial War Museum, showing how the Western Front was perceived
The photographs included and analyzed here were taken by the Royal Flying Corps to provide reconnaissance for the British Army on the Western Front and are drawn from the huge archive held by The Imperial War Museum. Few people have had the courage to delve into the "Box Collection." Nicholas Watkis is one. The images have been chosen to reveal significant actions and have been carefully annotated to show the terrain and defenses, pinpointing strongpoints, machine guns, mortars, and gun batteries. The seven battles are Neuve Chapelle, Loos, La Boiselle, Flers, Vimy Ridge, Cambrai, and Amiens. Not only does the real work of the RFC become clear—shooting down enemy aircraft was entirely ancillary to photo recon—the reader also, quite literally, sees just what the Western Front looked like, and understands how that appearance affected the plans of British High Command.
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Nicholas Watkis is a photographic interpreter with more than 20 years experience in the Intelligence Corps and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Jane Carmichael was the first director of collections for the Imperial War Museum in London from 1995 to 2003, and is now director of collections for National Museums of Scotland. Group Director Thornber is the director of DGIFC (Defence Geospatial Intelligence Fusion Centre).
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