Lunchtime Lecture (Midlands): Arnhem: The Air Reconnaissance Story
17 September 2024
On Tuesday 17th September 2024 at 12pm, Dr Sebastian Ritchie will explore the history of air reconnaissance during Operation Market Garden. This talk will be hosted in-person at the RAF Museum’s Midlands site and virtually via Crowdcast.
Operation Market Garden, the Allied airborne assault on The Netherlands, was launched on 17 September 1944 in an attempt to capture Arnhem and cross the River Rhine – the last natural barrier protecting Hitler’s Germany. The operation ultimately failed, not least because the Allies underestimated the scale and speed of the German response. A key part of that response came from 2 SS Panzer Corps – 9 and 10 SS Panzer Division – which had been sent to the Arnhem area to rest and refit.
The key role of 2 SS Panzer Corps at Arnhem has inevitably led historians to ask the question – did Allied intelligence know they were there? Eventually, it became clear that some intelligence had reached allied commanders suggesting that German armour was in the area. This included signals intelligence – so-called ULTRA – and reports from the Dutch resistance. But the most famous part of the Market Garden intelligence story is concerned with air reconnaissance and claims that German armour was photographed near Arnhem shortly before the operation was launched.
This presentation draws on surviving air imagery and other official records to reconstruct the Arnhem air reconnaissance story and separate fact from fiction. What did air reconnaissance actually tell the Allies before Market Garden was launched? What is the truth behind the famed ‘tanks at Arnhem’ episode, and what was the significance of Allied air reconnaissance imagery in the context of operational planning and execution? The answers to these questions help to shed new light on this famous story and on the relationship between military operations and intelligence.
This hybrid lecture will be hosted in-person at the RAF Museum’s Midlands site in the Lecture Theatre. Attendance in-person is free but registration is required via Digitickets.
To attend virtually, register via Crowdcast.
About Dr Sebastian Ritchie
Sebastian Ritchie is an official historian at the Air Historical Branch (RAF) of the Ministry of Defence. He obtained his PhD from King’s College, London, in 1994 and lectured at the University of Manchester before joining the Air Historical Branch. He is the author of a number of official histories covering RAF operations in Iraq, the Former Yugoslavia, Libya and Afghanistan, and has also lectured and published widely on aspects of air power and air operations, as well as airborne operations, in the Second World War and post-war periods. His published books include Industry and Air Power (1997), Arnhem: Myth and Reality (2011), and The RAF, Small Wars and Insurgencies (two volumes, 2011), The RAF and Airfield Air Defence since 1933 (2023), and multiple studies of RAF operations in the post-Cold War era.