You are here

How to use Second World War finding aids

All of our catalogued finding aids to 5.5 million Second World War aerial photographs are available on our website.


These finding aids show the geographic coverage of photographic reconnaissance missions in our collections. They allow you to locate and identify aerial photographs of your areas of interest.


Once you have identified photographs of interest, you can order copies to be made. This feature explains how.


1. Zoom to your Area of Interest


Browse by Map to your general area of interest and click on 'See finding aids in this area'.

Zoom to your Area of Interest

2. Search Results


You are presented with a list of all the missions, or sorties, linked to the grid square of 10-minutes of latitude and longitude in which your area of interest is located.


You can order this list chronologically by clicking on 'Date'.


To examine the finding aids in detail, you will need a website subscription.

Search Results

3. Examine a Finding Aid


Right-click on a mission of interest and select 'Open link in new tab'.


A new tab will open, showing our record for the selected mission. Since missions often covered more than one location, there may be more than one page. A thumbnail for each page is shown. The map on the right-hand side of the page shows the grid squares covered during the mission.


Click on a thumbnail, then click 'Zoom Image'.


Examine a Finding Aid

4. Identify a Photograph


Zoom and pan the finding aid until you find your area of interest. The locations and coverage of photographs are shown by boxes or strips drawn on the map. See if these fall over your area of interest. Your area of interest may appear on more than one page, so remember to check all of the thumbnails for each mission.


The photograph frame number is shown in the box. Sometimes frames are only shown at intervals along a strip. In this example, the centre of Utrecht is covered by frame 4046 from mission US7/1983.

Identify a Photograph

5. Mission Data


Information about the mission is recorded in a data box on the finding aid.


This gives the title and date of the mission, and sometimes shows the time of the first photo run. Occasionally, the name and rank of the pilot or navigator of the aircraft is recorded.


The frame numbers of the photographs taken during the mission are shown, along with the focal length of the camera lens, the aircraft flying height and photograph scale.  Image quality (IQ) is noted, graded from A (best) to C (poor).

Mission Data

6. Order a Photograph


Once you have found photographs of your area of interest, you can order copies to be digitised.


Record the frame numbers of the photographs you require in the notepad area. Then click 'Order Images'.


Our online order form will open in a new tab. You can select the resolution of copy you require, provide your contact details and tell us how you wish to use the image before submitting your order.

Order a Photograph

7. Can't identify the right image?


If you are unable to decide which frame covers your area of interest, we offer 72ppi Research Copies. These allow you to check the coverage and quality of a photograph before ordering a high-resolution copy.


The finding aids may not always be 100% accurate, so we recommend that you also order copies of the frames before and after the one you have identified, to make sure you cover the area you want.

Can't identify the right image?

8. No cover of your Area of Interest


If the finding aid shows no photography of your specific area of interest, close the tab and return to the page of search results. Select another mission from the list and repeat steps 3 and 4.


Once you have examined all of the relevant finding aids, you have completed your search.


No cover of your Area of Interest



If you have many missions to check, you may prefer to compile a list of missions and frames of interest. When you have all of the mission and frame numbers you require, you are ready to order copies. See our price-list for options.

Open the Image Order Form and paste your film and frame references into the 'Order' box. Complete the form and click 'Submit Enquiry'. We will reply by email within two working days with a quotation for the supply of the images.