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Friday, 19 February 2016

British Aerofilms Photo Used By Luftwaffe In February 1941 Bombing Raid Of Swansea

Between 19 and 21 of February 1941 Swansea docks were the target of a sustained bombing by the Luftwaffe. A large portion of the centre of Swansea was very badly damaged, and the human cost was astonishing. Two hundred and thirty people lost their lives, and over four hundred were injured.

The campaign has been the subject of numerous publications, such as the excellent work “The Three Nights’ Blitz” by J.R. Alban and “Eye of the Eagle” by Nigel A. Robbins (copies both held by the Royal Commission’s library).

Such a focused series of continued bombing raids over enemy territory requires meticulous planning and intelligence gathering. RCAHMW staff noticed that a captured WWII-era Luftwaffe low-level oblique aerial photograph annotated “Geheim” (Secret) and labelled as “Kings Dock u. Prince of Wales Dock” looked a little familiar.

A check through the Aerofilms collection of the area revealed the original photograph was taken in September 1933 (Ref. WPW043061). Aerofilms was the world’s first commercial aerial photography company, and started trading shortly after the First World War.

This find is proof that the German authorities were purchasing aerial photographs of the UK before the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939. An interesting twist that visuals intended to promote Swansea docks for its industrial capacity were later used in an attempt to destroy it.


The Aerofilms Collection is a unique archive of one million aerial photographs dating from 1919 to 2006. The collection was acquired for the nation in 2007 by English Heritage and the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The earliest 95,000 images have been conserved and made available online at and all the Wales images are available on Coflein.

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