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Britain From Above in the First World War

Your chance to make history! Help plot First World War sites in England on aerial photos of places you know

English Heritage is asking the public to help 'tag' a vast on-line archive of aerial photographs known as Britain from Above with sites, ruins and remains that show the impact of the First World War on British soil.

Aerial view of temporary First World War buildings in St James' Park, Westminster, London
Temporary First World War buildings in St James's Park, Westminster, London. During the First World War, the lake was drained so that reflection from the water would not attract enemy aircraft. The civil service almost doubled in size and temporary government buildings were built in the park and lake basin.

Helen Grant, Minister for the First World War Centenary, said: "The First World War left a huge footprint on the UK's towns, villages, cities and countryside. No matter where you live now or where your family were living and working in 1914-18, there are likely to be structures, sites or whole buildings that survive. Now the public can help create a lasting aerial photographic record of the impact of the war on our landscape."

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "There are 95,000 aerial photos on the Britain from Above website so we really need help! We're calling on members of the public to turn detective and use their local knowledge or family history to identify the many unlocated remains of the First World War across the country."

Karen Brookfield from the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "The Aerofilms Collection gives a spectacular picture of the changing nature of Britain during the first half of the 20th century.  The archive tells us much about the places, buildings, and landscapes that were the backdrop of everyday life. We want as many people as possible to share their knowledge and join in with 'tagging' images in the archive to show the dramatic impact the First World War had on our country."

Helen Grant
Helen Grant, Minister for the First World War Centenary, “tags” the online image of the lake at St James’s Park from the Britain from Above archive © Historic England, Credit Jerry Young

Britain from Above is a four-year project, funded through a £1.7m Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, run by English Heritage to conserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online a unique collection of photographs taken by the pioneering Aerofilms company over the course of the 20th century.

Simon Thurley added: "Sites needing to be tagged might be defence structures erected on the coast or secret listening stations that intercepted enemy communications. They might be shipyards, factories and other buildings where armaments and supplies were produced, gardens and parks turned over to allotments, hospitals where wounded soldiers were treated or country houses requisitioned as convalescent homes. 

"Or perhaps you know of a local drill hall where a relative went to sign up or a training camp where they were prepared for the front or was there a prisoner-of-war camp in your area?

"And as it's free to download Britain from Above photographs, everyone who helps can keep a copy of their contribution, their own piece of this great historical jigsaw."

The high resolution Britain from Above photographs, especially those of the 1920s and 1930s, are often the only record left of the First World War's impact on Britain's towns, cities and countryside. Users can zoom right in to the details of the photographs and tag sites with a description. They can also add close-up contemporary photos, historic photos, photographs of relatives who were associated with the site or share the untold stories of these places.

To get started, join the Britain from Above Home Front Legacy Group.

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