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Many stories abound of the daring exploits of the RAF’s young fighter pilots defying the might of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, and of the dogged courage of the men of Bomber Command flying night after night over Germany in the face of flak and Focke-Wulfs, yet little has been written about the pilots who provided the key evidence that guided the RAF planners – the aerial photographers.
Ken Johnson joined No.1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit as an eighteen-year-old and soon found himself at the controls of a Spitfire high above enemy territory. The PRU aircraft were stripped of all non-essential equipment to increase their performance, because speed and height was their only protection as the aircraft’s guns were among those items that were removed.
In this light-hearted reminiscence, Ken Johnson relives his training and transfer to an operational unit, but not the one he had expected. He had asked if he could fly Spitfires. He was granted that request, only to find himself joining a rare band of flyers who took to the skies alone, and who flew in broad daylight to photograph enemy installations with no radios and no armament. Unlike the fighter pilots who sought out enemy aircraft, the pilots of the PRU endeavoured to avoid all contact; returning safely with their vital photographs was their sole objective.
As well as flying in northern Europe, Ken Johnson was sent to North Africa, where his squadron became part of the United States Army Air Force North West African Photographic Wing (NAPRW). In this role, he flew across southern Europe, photographing targets in France and Italy.
The Spy in the Sky fills a much-needed gap in the history of the RAF and, uniquely, the USAAF during the latter stages of the Second World War.
Leatherhead in the Great War
By: Lorraine Spindler
Allied Railways of the Western Front - Narrow Gauge in the Somme Sector
By: Martin J. B. Farebrother, Joan S. Farebrother
The Invasion of Virginia 1781
By: Michael Cecere
By: Brady Crytzer
Horizons - The History of the Air Cadets
By: HR 'Ray' Kidd OBE
Edited by: Denise Parker- Housby
Keswick in the Great War
By: Ruth Mansergh
The Mighty Eighth at War
By: Martin Bowman
British Battleships of World War One
By: Ray Burt
By: Members of The Travellers Club
By: Dilip Sarkar MBE
The Day Rommel Was Stopped
By: Chris Jephson, Major F. R. Jephson MC TD
Eagles over the Sea 1935-1942
By: Lawrence Paterson
Surviving Trainer and Transport Aircraft of the World
By: Don Berliner
With the Guns in the Peninsula
By: Richard Wollocombe
Axis Armoured Fighting Vehicles of the Second World War
By: Michael Green