During WWII Allied Forces carried out extensive photographic reconnaissance missions in the Mediterranean region, making use of aerial photographs to draw maps, control enemy positions and chart anti-aircraft artillery. These photographs (approximately fifty British tons) were to be destroyed when the Allied Headquarters in Italy was disbanded in 1945.
Fortunately the collection was saved, thanks to the intervention of the then Director of the Allied Monuments and Fine Arts Commission in Italy, the archaeologist John Ward-Perkins. He recognised the potential research value of this material, rescued the entire collection and subsequently divided it among the cultural institutions of the allied countries, namely the British School at Rome, the American Academy in Rome, the École Française de Rome and the British School at Athens, which received the photographs covering Greece. In the early 1950s this collection of aerial photographs was indexed by the then Assistant Director of the BSA, Sir John Boardman. During 2016, thanks to generous funding from the Friends of the British School at Athens, researcher Gian Piero Milani completed a project to create a digital index of this collection. Flight paths have been mapped and linked to an interactive map of Greece.
The aerial photographs of Greece, more than 30,000 images, from flights made during 1943 to 1945 (all positives). The collection covers approximately 60% of the Greek mainland, with extensive coverage of the Ionian islands, limited coverage of Crete and the Cyclades, none of the Dodecanese. The scale of the original photographic prints ranges from 1:7,000 to 1:60,000, the majority having a scale of approximately 1:15,000. Some of these prints preserve the original allied photo interpretation notes written on the obverse.
How to Use:
Click here for the BSA Aerial photograph index page GO TO INDEX (This shows a map of Greece that can be overlaid with flight paths.)
1. To change map view: select button on right. This allows the base map of Greece to be viewed as a map or satellite image. Satellite is the default. Choose outdoors for map view with place names.
2. To view flight paths: Select the scale to be displayed using the drop-down check list on the right. This enables the display of flight paths over the map according to required scale. Start search with lowest scale from top of list. Flights with an unknown scale are listed as 1:0.
3. To identify individual flight paths: click on outline over area of interest, this displays the flight’s BSA catalogue details: the BSA identification (ID) number, the date of the flight, and the approximate scale of the original prints.
Note: Where higher scale flights overlap lower scale flights the ID information of the lower scale flights will be hidden, hence the need to search scale by scale identifying BSA catalogue numbers for flight paths one by one.
4. To study the collection: please contact the Library quoting the BSA ID number/s. The School owns two stereoscopes (2x, 4x) to aid interpretation of the photographic prints.
A number of prints for particular areas have been scanned and stitched to create photo-mosaics of aerial views which will be made accessible through the BSA’s intranet.