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Following the advice of UK and Scottish Governments, NCAP has returned to limited operations. Orders for not-yet-digitised aerial imagery are subject to revised delivery timescales.

Operation GOODWOOD

Sortie 16/RAF/0727 was intended to provide imagery for analysis of the accuracy and effect of the aerial bombardment which opened Operation GOODWOOD, the British armoured breakout from the Normandy beachheads during the Second World War. On 18th July 1944, three armoured divisions were to advance down a corridor to the east of Caen and break into the German defensive lines.


By chance, this sortie also captured the battle in progress.


Assault on Bourguebus Ridge


This image depicts the assault on the Bourguebus Ridge by M4 Sherman tanks of 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, during Operation GOODWOOD. As the tanks approached the road between Bras and Hubert-Folie, they were engaged by concealed German anti-tank guns to the west.


In this image, the lead Sherman can be seen at left of centre; it has been hit and is belching a plume of white smoke. The remaining tanks are reversing back down the slope, leaving zigzag tracks in the fields as they try to make themselves difficult targets. Some have advanced again into depressions in the field, to adopt low-profile hull-down position. As they withdraw, another Sherman is hit and abandoned by its crew.



Counter-attack by King Tiger tanks


During the Normandy campaign, German armoured forces deployed their newest and heaviest battle tank, the Tiger MkII or ‘King Tiger’, for the first time. On 18 July 1944, eight of these tanks were ordered to pierce the narrow corridor of advancing British vehicles, queueing to cross a railway line at a position just 500 metres to the north.


In this image, these eight tanks can be seen crossing a large wheat field at upper left; the British advance is saved when one King Tiger slides into a wide bomb crater, unseen in the tall crop, and is immobilised, while another two are hit in quick succession by a Sherman Firefly tank.


This imagery is of great importance in recording this action, as documentary records contain a number of errors. The German battalion history admits that the number of King Tigers involved was unknown, incorrectly locates the furthest point of their advance and wrongly states that they were accompanied by lighter, smaller Panzer IV tanks. In British accounts, this advance is scarcely mentioned, despite the potentially catastrophic consequences of eight of the heaviest tanks in the world occupying ground in the rear of two British armoured divisions.



This imagery analysis was undertaken for NCAP by the late Mr Ian Daglish, a military historian. Imagery from NCAP features extensively in his book Over the Battlefield: Operation GOODWOOD, published in 2005. The book was produced following lengthy examination of aerial imagery in conjunction with contemporary accounts and official records.