The Woman With the X-Ray Eyes: Blog post by Elinor Florence regarding Constance Babington Smith – Second World War aerial photography specialist

The combination of images is from the blog post about

The collage of images is from the blog post by Elinor Florence about the wartime work of Flight Officer Constance Babington Smith.

A November 29, 2014 blog post by Elinor Florence is entitled The Woman With the X-Ray Eyes.

I came across the post because I was looking for an online image of Constance Babington Smith whose work is featured in Chapter 6 of Women of Intelligence: Winning the Second World War with Air Photos (2012), a book that I’ve mentioned in a Comment at a previous post:

Women’s roles in Special Operations during the Second World War

The previous post, in turn, was prompted by my interest in narratives related to the role of women in Canadian munitions plants during the Second World War, and the related topic of employment opportunities available for women during the postwar years. The latter topics I have mentioned earlier:

Great day for planting perennials at Small Arms Building in Mississauga

I have read a number of truly remarkable books in recent years and Women of Intelligence (2012) is one such work.

V-1 flying bomb

In her October 29, 2014 blog post, Elinor Florence notes: “[Flight Officer Constance Babington Smith, who headed the Aircraft Section at RAF Medmenham during the Second World War] is well-known in some circles, although most people have never heard of her. But she is credited with finding, on an aerial photograph, the V-1 flying bomb.

“Her discovery set back the Nazi plans to annihilate Britain – followed by North America – with the first jet-propelled weapon of mass destruction in history.”

Allied Central Inspection Unit at RAF Medmenham

In a previous post, about women (and men) who worked with the Special Operations Executive, I’ve referred to the process by which special agents were recruited to join F, the independent French section.

A different F, namely the Third-Phase Communication Section, also existed, at the Allied Central Inspection Unit (ACIU) at RAF Medmenham, as the following passage (p. 80) from Women of Intelligence (2012) notes:

“[Dorothy Garrod, Cambridge professor of archaeology] was working in the Third-Phase Communications Section, ‘F’, collecting information about the internal road, water and railway networks on the continent of Europe. Reports were issued on traffic concentrations and movements, as these were often the first signs of a planned enemy deployment, and if the nature of the troops and their equipment could be deduced, then the purpose of the deployment was established. Railway construction and the different types of rolling stock used for carrying chemicals or guns, for instance, all provided clues to enemy intent. The sec­tion also provided information on the location, layout and vulnerability of marshalling yards, depots, bridges and locks for targeting purposes. Assessments were made of the traffic interruption that fol­lowed Allied bombing attacks and the speed with which the facilities were restored to use.”

[End of excerpt]

As result of developing an interest in stories – and with evidence that serves to corroborate such stories – connected with the Small Arms Building in Mississauga, I have become better acquainted with the key role that aerial photography played in determining the outcome of the Second World War.


A June 2, 2015 CBC The Current article is entitled: “How Winston Churchill came on board Pyke’s ice aircraft carrier.”

A Nov. 20, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “WWII Hero Credits Luck and Chance in Foiling Hitler’s Nuclear Ambitions.”

An Aug. 15, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’: Brunhilde Pomsel worked at the heart of the Nazis’ propaganda machine. As a film about her life is released, she discusses her lack of remorse and the private side of her monstrous boss.”


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