The Untold Story of Photographic Intelligence & the Search for Hitler's V Weapons
Date of publication: May 2013
The story of the aerial reconnaissance operation at Medmenham in Buckinghamshire, also known as MI4, is one of the great lost stories of World War Two. As the great RV Jones, Chief Scientist, British Government 1945 said, 'We might possibly have won the war without Enigma but we couldn't have won it without the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit'. During the War nearly 300 million photographs, the majority stereoscopic, were taken by allied reconnaissance aircraft.
At Medmenham's peak in 1944, nearly two thousand people were employed to interpret photographs and send out intelligence to front-line commanders in all the European theatres of war. Such was their skill and professionalism that it was said that an aircraft could land, the photographs be developed, plotted, interpreted and a brief be on the front-line commander's desk within two hours. Their finest hour came in 1943 when a small team headed by the redoubtable Miss Constance Babington Smith found a strange and unknown line of buildings being constructed inland from the Atlantic coast.
She and her team under the code names Operation CROSSBOW and BODYLINE found the first V-1 on imagery, thus revealing the true extent of development of this 'Vengeance' (Strictly translated 'Reprisal') Weapon. Through their skill and dedication and the heroism of the allied pilots 92 of the 96 sites were found and destroyed in 1943, delaying the deployment of these weapons until after D-Day certainly saving many tens of thousands of lives, allowing the invasion of Europe to actually take place and as a consequence contributing significantly to the winning of the war. This is a wonderful human story of derring-do told for the first time.