WWII

WWII In Colour: Rare Photographs Bring Aerial Battles To Life

The collection includes original images of aircraft and also the crew who flew them.

(Pictures: IWM).

A collection of rare colour photographs is bringing to life the key role that aerial battles played in the Second World War.

They have been released in a new book by the Imperial War Museum called 'War in the Air: The Second World War in Colour'.

It includes original images of aircraft and the aircrew who flew them - from night bombing raids over Germany to protecting Britain, as well as desert warfare, training and squadron celebrations.

RAF pilots in training colour (Picture: IWM).
RAF pilots in training with the Embry-Riddle Company at Carlstrom Field near Arcadia in Florida, 1941 (Picture: IWM).

During the Second World War, Allied air power played a key role in defeating enemy forces and protecting home territory.

War in the Air groups images in six chapters – 'Fighter Boys', 'Bomber Command', 'Mediterranean Air War', 'Maritime Strike', 'USAAF over the Reich' and 'Training and Transport' – which together illustrate the variety of British, Commonwealth and US Air Force operations in Europe and the Mediterranean.

Detailed image captions provide snapshot histories of individual aircraft and pilots, while the publication also highlights a wider overview of the key moments in the war.

Captain Edwin 'Bill' Fisher of the 377th Fighter Squadron (Picture: IWM).
Captain Edwin 'Bill' Fisher of the 377th Fighter Squadron (Picture: IWM).

Various theatres of war, including British airspace and Mediterranean territory, provide dramatic backdrops which demonstrate the breadth of the war’s domain, from the coasts of Malta to Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, now one of IWM’s historic sites.

Ian Carter, author of War in the Air and Senior Curator at IWM, says, "Colour photography was a rarity during the Second World War; film was scarcely available and images were expensive to print.

"The subjects covered in this book are presented in a vivid clarity not typically associated with imagery of the War.

"Each photograph has been carefully optimised by IWM’s team of expert restorers to bring back colour accuracy and detail which over the years have faded from both paper and memory."