B-17 crew

10 Iconic Pictures: From D-Day To VE Day

A snapshot of the last stage of World War Two in Europe from writer Mark Barnes.

B-17 crew

What follows are 10 iconic images from the end of the Second World War.

Writer Mark Barnes has selected them from his book about the battle for Europe at the end of World War Two and explains for Forces News what is happening in each image. 

Leaflet Dropping

Bob Chandler’s superb image shows pilots of 422nd Bombardment Squadron, USAAF; a specialist leaflet dropping unit flying un-armed Boeing B17F Flying Fortresses. 

Their little-known missions were hazardous enough at night, but they flew in daylight on D-Day dropping warning leaflets to the people of Normandy.  

The censor ordered that the map should be painted out on the negative, and the image was actually banned from publication. 

It has the atmosphere of a war movie. 

The CO leading the briefing is Earl Aber Jr of Racine Wisconsin – he made a broadcast of his experiences which is available on streaming sites. 

He was killed by friendly fire in March 1945.

View from the sea near Juno Beach  

A system called the British Newspaper Pool was set up to control output during the North-West Europe campaign. 

Eric Greenwood of The Times was embedded aboard HMS Scylla, Admiral Vian’s flagship, on D-Day trying to record events from around three miles offshore using a telephoto lens. 

No press photographers were allowed ashore on British-controlled beaches on D-Day – all images were taken by AFPU or other official sources. 

This image shows Juno Beach at 1930 hours when the assault was well in hand. 

Eric will have been disappointed with the results but he soon caught up with events and took some really nice stuff.

British casualties in Portsmouth

A view of casualties from Normandy arriving in Portsmouth where their first thought is to light up! 

The men are named as Lt Reeve and Corporal Rodgers. 

For me the presiding thought is wondering how well they recovered from their burns. 


One of those bizarre moments of modern warfare captured when British and American units met up at Chambois on 23rd August 1944. 

Bill Warhurst took several frames and one can almost hear the Americans hamming it up while waving around their captured German pistols and other trophies amid the din of passing British armour and infantry. 

The horses were captured from the Germans and put to good use by the Americans in Normandy. 

Market Garden

I’ve always liked this image of men of 7th Bn King’s Own Scottish Borderers waiting to board their gliders on 17th September 1944 – the first day of Operation Market Garden. 

The image was taken by Bill Tetlow at Down Ampney and is usually heavily cropped. 

Full frame is much better. Cap badges have been censored out. 

These blokes look pretty tough and I often wonder what became of them during the disaster at Arnhem. 

Tetlow flew to Arnhem in a Stirling glider tug and made it back safely. 

Taking a break on the Rhine

Bill Warhurst of The Times enjoys a smoke on the banks of the Rhine during Operation Varsity on 23rd March 1945. 

Bill was a big guy but thoroughly modest and much respected. 

He started out as an assistant to his dad and was the second full-time photographer employed by The Times in 1921. 

He covered the discovery of Tutankhamun and a huge amount of military and royal events for the paper and did a lot of naval and rural scenes. 

He was in Abyssinia with the Italians during their invasion and is said to have been alone in a room with Adolf Hitler during the Sudeten Crisis of 1938.  

He literally died on the job in 1953 aged just 56. 

Bill’s son was also a highly respected photographer for The Times. 


When I first saw these two images almost twenty years ago I recognised they showed the same scene taken during preparations for the assault on Münster in 1945.  

Bill Warhurst took the wide view of US paras from 17th Airborne Div riding on Churchill tanks and M10 Achilles tank destroyers of 6th Guards Tank Brigade. 

Bill Tetlow took the classic close up group shot. 

It was a small moment in my working life, but it encouraged me to think about doing something with the NW Europe campaign pool images and my book is the result. 

These two pictures mean a great deal to me. 

Royal Navy 30 Assault Unit and T-Force

It may not look like much but this is a significant image showing the capture of Rear Admiral Siegfried Engel at Buxtehude on 22nd April 1945.  

The Allies were all attempting to secure important technical people, weapons and machinery and Britain had T-Force assigned to this role. 

The Royal Navy 30 Assault Unit, secretive naval commandos led by Lt Cmdr Dunstan Curtis, DSC; were attached. 

He was a real swashbuckling figure and looks none too pleased to have been snapped by Bill Warhurst. 

Curtis was a good friend of Ian Fleming and is said to be one of the influences for James Bond. 

When I read about his exploits I connected it with this photo. 

I had help from the historian Ben MacIntyre in confirming the details. 

Victory parade in Berlin

Both Bill Warhurst and Bill Tetlow crossed paths with the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars on a number of occasions in the last months of the war. 

They were the armoured recce regiment of 7th Armoured Div and having them pictured in the Berlin victory parade of 21st July 1945 was the icing on the cake. 

I love Churchill’s address to the Desert Rats – “May your glory ever shine! May your laurels never fade!” They haven’t! 

My book was very much intended as a tribute to the British victory. 

It is all too often overlooked in my opinion and I like to think I did my bit to restore the balance.

For more images about the final stage of the war in Europe, read 'The Liberation of Europe 1944-1945: The Photographers who Captured History from D-Day to Berlin' by Mark Barnes.