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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 00:04 GMT
WWII archive photos go online
See the picture that led to the British finding and sinking the Bismarck

More than five million aerial photographs of World War II are to be made publicly available on the internet.

The pictures will go online on Monday. Taken by the RAF, they were used by Allied commanders to help devise their strategy during the six-year conflict.

The pictures cover events such as D-Day, the Holocaust, and the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck.

The website has been created by the Aerial Reconnaissance Archives (TARA) at Keele University. Project leader Allan Williams said: "These images allow us to see the real war at first hand - as if we are RAF pilots."

"I was really moved by the photographs of the Nazi concentration camps and the D-Day landings. It's like a live action replay."

See history as it happened, from D-Day to Auschwitz

Some of the pictures have a 3-D quality. They were taken by high resolution cameras, and when viewed with a stereoscope the contours of terrain become more visible.

It was a technique that helped create realistic 3-D models of the Normandy beaches ahead of the D-Day landings in June 1944.

Plans are in the pipeline to follow up this archive with aerial pictures taken by the German air force during the war. The images were seized by the Allies and used to gather intelligence during the Cold War.

It is also hoped that pictures from other British campaigns such as Suez, Korea, the Falklands and the Gulf wars will also become available online.

Detailing the huge process of getting the images on to the web Mr Williams said: "The archival team has been scanning and cataloguing the maps and references used to search the archive, ready for the website's launch on 19 January.

"We have manually keyed in 800,000 map references, relating to 33,000 reconnaissance flights."



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