Royal Naval School of Photography: Aerial Reconnaissance (Scotland)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Vertical and oblique aerial images of locations in Scotland taken during Fleet Air Arm pilot training at the Royal Naval School of Photography. The areas covered are mainly harbours and bridges in the Highlands and Banffshire, along with several islands and harbours along the western seaboard and Northern Isles. No original sortie plots held.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal Navy has always required a means of gathering intelligence of enemy warship movements and was prominent in the use of tethered balloons and dirigibles in the early 20th century. The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was an early user of aeroplanes and in the 1960s and early 1970s the Royal Naval School of Photography was based at RNAS Lossiemouth, Moray. It was from here that Fleet Air Arm pilots were trained in aerial reconnaissance until fixed-wing aircraft were withdrawn from RN service in 1977.

The photographs were taken between 1966 and 1970 by pilots of the Royal Naval School of Photography flying Hawker Hunter GA-11 and PR-11 aircraft. These aircraft equipped the school until it was closed in the early 1970s. As part of their training, pupils flew the Hunter on low-level photographic sorties around northern and western Scotland, although occasional sorties were flown to more distant locations in Wales and Norfolk. The photography was mostly low-level oblique imagery, although some small-scale vertical imagery was also collected in order to construct mosaics.

The images were taken using a Vinten F95 type camera, which was a very successful low-level aerial reconnaissance camera also used by the Royal Air Force. To compensate for apparent image motion when photographing features at low level, the camera system had an automatic image motion compensation function, which moved the film across the lens during exposure at a speed dependent on the speed and altitude of the aircraft. The camera could be fitted with lenses of 1.5- or 3-inches focal length and the magazine could give 1200 exposures.

Conditions Governing Access

Closed. Imagery can only currently be located with knowledge of exact sortie references - no searches for a geographical location currently possible.

Other Finding Aids

No finding aids exist.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

70mm aerial film.

Conditions Governing Use

Standard licence terms for use apply.

Custodial History

Understood to have been held by Highlands and Islands Enterprise who gifted them to Scottish Screen, as part of a larger collection of unrelated material. In 2002, when it was discovered that the films were not movie film, but still aerial imagery, they were gifted to RCAHMS.

Corporate Names

Geographical Names