The R&R of an WWII RAF Aerial Photography Interpreter
Tunisia and Puglia, September 1943 – July 1944
These records of the seemingly charmed world of Pugliese wartime Rest and Recuperation must be considered in context. The Allies were forcing their way up Italy. It was the time of Monte Cassino and Anzio. Flying Officer Brookshaw’s daily work as an interpreter of aerial photographs, of which we get no hint, was crucial to that Advance. Consider the off-duty hours of soldiers and bear in mind the extreme contrast between the Front Line and life often only just behind it. Sunbathing, reading, letter writing (and painting) were the kind of things millions of families at home must have been wishing their combatant men were doing and, sometimes, they were. His image of his wife and baby son (p.1) at the end of a long, fragmented and dark tunnel is a reminder of what these men themselves were often thinking and feeling.
Brookshaw’s route to the interpretation of Aerial Photography was interesting and typical. Trained at the Central School of Arts and Crafts under John Farleigh (1900-1965), he specialised in Graphic Art and Illustration, in particular Poster Design. During the Thirties his illustrations were to be found in the ‘Radio Times’, the ‘Daily Mail’ and the ‘Sunday Express’ and, from 1928, he began a thirty-year series of posters for London Underground. In 1941 he joined the RAF and was trained as an Air Gunner however his training in the Arts decided his next postings. First, he was allotted the task of designing and supervising the camouflage of much bombed Manston Airbase in Kent and then he was then trained as a Central Interpretation Unit (‘CIU’) Air Photography Interpreter. As part of the Italian Campaign in September 1943 he arrived in Tunisia that month to join the North African Photo Reconnaissance Wing (‘NAPRW’) with which he moved to San Severo in Puglia on 9th December 1943. ‘NAPRW’ became ‘MAPRW’ (Mediterranean Allied Photo Reconnaissance Wing early in 1944. It was of paramount importance that aerial photographs could be processed and understood on the spot.
These Collages, Watercolours and Drawings were contained in a single album and are shown in sequence.
For further reading on WWII Aerial Photography Interpretation visit the NCAP website.
NOTE: These are all sold mounted in conservation board, and can be sent to UK addresses free of charge. The works can be framed in a simple oak moulding as shown, with UV glass, and posted for £50 (frame only and collection from the gallery is £30).