Zuckerman Archive: RAF Bombing Survey Unit

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1187 SZ/BSU
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English, and Italian.
  • Physical Description
      13 boxes; six sub-series; 5 linear feet

Scope and Content

This series documents Solly Zuckerman's investigations into the effects of allied air operations in North Africa, his involvement in the planning of air support for operations to capture the islands of Pantelleria and Sicily, and the establishment and work of the Bombing Survey Unit (BSU).

At the end of January 1943 Zuckerman and J.D. Bernal arrived in Tripoli, charged by the British Air Staff with the task of studying the effects of allied bombing on the town and port and evaluating the bombing of road convoys. Within a month Bernal had been recalled to England and Zuckerman completed the work on Tripoli alone, submitting his report in March 1943 on his return to England. In April he was back in the Middle East at the behest of Air Chief Marshal Tedder to make further studies, following the allied advance. This time he had a colleague from the Ministry of Home Security's Oxford Extra Mural Unit, Ben Burns, to assist him (this unit is the subject of Series SZ/OEMU).

In May 1943 operations against the island fortress of Pantelleria commenced, with heavy air bombardment the principal weapon. Zuckerman was called in to assist in planning the air offensive as well as to analyse it. In June and July 1943 he was similarly engaged in planning air operations against Sicily. By this time he had been joined by Major A.P.D. (Sandy) Thomson, RAMC.

After the allied capture of Sicily, Zuckerman succeeded in having his proposal for the establishment of a new operational research unit accepted. This was to become the Bombing Survey Unit (BSU), directed by him and formally established on 26 October 1943. By that time the survey of the effects of bombing on Sicily and Southern Italy by a team recruited by Zuckerman during a flying visit to England in August 1943 was already well under way. At the end of 1943 Zuckerman was recalled to England to join the planning staff of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force (AEAF), and direction of the BSU was handed over to E.C. Williams.


  • SZ/BSU/1 North Africa, 1943
  • SZ/BSU/2 Pantelleria, 1892-1965
  • SZ/BSU/3 Operation Corkscrew, 1943
  • SZ/BSU/4 Sicily and Italy, 1942-46
  • SZ/BSU/5 Correspondence and memoranda, 1943-1983
  • SZ/BSU/6 Reports, 1942-1982

Access Information

Please refer to the fonds-level description for GB 1187 SZ.



Conditions Governing Use

Please refer to the fonds-level description for GB 1187 SZ.