Written by David Cockburn-Price, Managing Director at Virtalis
I watched a fascinating programme on BBC4 television last week. It told the little known story of Operation Crossbow. Amazingly, experts now believe that Operation Crossbow contributed just as much to the Allies winning the war as intelligence efforts in Bletchley Park.
Of course, we all think we know about how Spitfires filmed behind enemy lines and gathered pictures of bombing targets. The true story, though, is far more interesting.
A team of highly skilled analysts at RAF Medmenham ensured, right from the beginning of the war, that all the images were captured with an overlap, so that back at Base, they could be viewed with a stereoscopic viewer. Apparently this technology was all the rage in Victorian drawing rooms, though naturally, they didn’t use it on aerial photographs!
You can see seven clips showing how the technology was used here
The Allies used their 3D photos to thwart the Nazis’ weapons of mass destruction before they could obliterate Britain. Hitler was pumping a fortune into his new-fangled V weapons in the hope they could win him the war. But thanks to the 3D, every contour of the enemy landscape was brought to life. The devil was truly in the detail and, together with personal testimonies, the film uses modern computer graphics on the original wartime photographs to show just how the photo interpreters were able to uncover Hitler’s nastiest secrets, including the production of the V1 and V2 rockets. Without 3D, the Allies could never have discovered just how tall the V series rockets were. However, with 3D, their significance was realised and the Allies were able to halt production. Had production not been disrupted, modern historians believe this devastating weapon would have enabled the Nazis to win the war.
Another element that struck me at the end of the programme was why, if the detail 3D brings was prized over seventy years ago, we have been so slow to seize on the benefits it can bring to business? Virtalis has been banging that particular drum for quarter of a century, but for much of that time, it felt we were being ignored, but we can’t feel too smug, as we clearly weren’t the first to use 3D.