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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Nazi aerial photographs unveiled
German photograph of Buchan Ness
Buchan Ness would have been an ideal invasion landing site
German reconnaissance photographs of the east coast of the UK taken shortly before World War II have been put on display for the first time.

The aerial views of cities, towns and beaches from Kent to Wick were stolen from a Luftwaffe base by a British commando towards the end of the war.

He kept them hidden before passing them to retired policeman Archie Hill, who has decided to sell prints.

It is thought the images were used to co-ordinate German bombing missions.

The high quality spy pictures, taken from aircraft flying at about 15,000ft, could also have helped planning for Operation Sea Lion - the intended Nazi invasion of Britain which was eventually abandoned as Hitler turned his attention to tackling Russia on the Eastern Front instead.

The Luftwaffe used to fly civil flights and obviously they were taking photographs so the plans were even afoot then I think
Archie Hill

Mr Hill, a former police inspector, said he was given the pictures by an elderly neighbour who had been a commando during the war and found the book of aerial photos after a raid on a Luftwaffe intelligence base in France.

Mr Hill said: "He thought he would put it under his jacket and took it off with him back home.

"He was a worried man for very many years and eventually asked me in confidence to look after it because he had always been terrified someone would knock on his door

"I promised him over the years that I wouldn't disclose who he was, but he was quite an important man in his own right."

Mr Hill said he believed many of the pictures were taken by commercial German aircraft, including Zeppelin airships, in the years leading up to the war.

'Poorly defended'

He added: "The Luftwaffe used to fly civil flights and obviously they were taking photographs so the plans were even afoot then I think.

"A lot of these photographs were destroyed by the Russians when they took over Berlin and places like that. One or two escaped to Washington to the archives but I think this is quite a great look at the east coast of the UK way back in the 1930s and early 1940s."

Many of the photographs show beaches around Aberdeen, which was one of the most regularly bombed cities in Scotland.

Local historian David Atherton said he believed the Germans had intended to use Aberdeenshire as a landing point in any invasion.

He said: "Because of the gentle slope of a lot of the beaches it would have been a good place to come ashore.

"During the early part of the war the beaches around Aberdeenshire were very poorly defended.

"It wasn't until much later in the war that they built the tank traps and concrete pill boxes that are fairly familiar now."

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