Aerial photographic intelligence during World War II: contributions by some distinguished British geologists
Published:January 01, 2019
Edward P. F. Rose, 2019. "Aerial photographic intelligence during World War II: contributions by some distinguished British geologists", Military Aspects of Geology: Fortification, Excavation and Terrain Evaluation, E.P.F. Rose, J. Ehlen, U. L. Lawrence
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During the war of 1939–45, intelligence was gleaned from aerial photographs by a newly founded organization that developed into the Allied Central Interpretation Unit. This was based primarily at Danesfield House (known as Royal Air Force Medmenham) some 50 km west of London, in Buckinghamshire. At least six British geoscientists (and at least one American, L. J. Simon) were amongst its pioneering photographic interpreters, all recruited from civilian life: palaeobotanist H. Hamshaw Thomas; geologists L. R. Wager, N. L. Falcon, P. E. Kent and P. Allen; and a geologist who became distinguished as a geographer, D. L. Linton. Of these six, all except Linton were to become Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS): the highest British academic accolade for a scientist. Work at Medmenham, although important for the war effort, required interpreters familiar with aerial photographs rather than geology as such – but geology did assist the search for storage sites for ‘V’ weapons, terrain interpretation for the 1944 Allied landings in Normandy, and in guiding plans to bomb German industrial complexes hidden underground.
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Military Aspects of Geology: Fortification, Excavation and Terrain Evaluation
This book complements the Geological Society’s Special Publication 362: Military Aspects of Hydrogeology. Generated under the auspices of the Society’s History of Geology and Engineering Groups, it contains papers from authors in the UK, USA, Germany and Austria. Substantial papers describe some innovative engineering activities, influenced by geology, undertaken by the armed forces of the opposing nations in World War I. These activities were reactivated and developed in World War II. Examples include trenching from World War I, tunnelling and quarrying from both wars, and the use of geologists to aid German coastal fortification and Allied aerial photographic interpretation in World War II. The extensive introduction and other chapters reveal that ‘military geology’ has a longer history. These chapters relate to pre-twentieth century coastal fortification in the UK and the USA; conflict in the American Civil War; long-term ‘going’ assessments for German forces; tunnel repair after wartime route denial in Hong Kong; and tunnel detection after recent insurgent improvisation in Iraq.