Second World War Canadian Army Air Photos


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Biographical and Administrative History

The First Canadian Army Air Photo collection came to Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS) in 1985. It was originally used by the Air Photo Interpretation Section of the First Canadian Army during the campaign in Normandy and  Northwest Europe in 1944-45. After the war, the photographs were sent to the air photo interpretation school at Rivers, Manitoba. When the base closed in 1971, the collection, along with some additions, were sent to the Canadian War Museum. Terry Copp, then Director of LCMSDS, began to utilize the photographs for historical research and to illustrate the Maple Leaf Route series which he co-authored with Robert Vogel. Unable to find adequate storage space for the photos, the War Museum and Copp came to an arrangement that would see the photos transferred to the Wilfrid Laurier University campus for researchers to access under appropriate circumstances. The collection encompasses over 130,000 photographs in its entirety.

Beginning in 2011 LCMSDS with the support of a number of private donors began a systematic process of cataloging and digitizing the photographs. A team of dedicated student employees and volunteers at LCMSDS have worked tirelessly to not only scan all of the photos but also create a preliminary inventory and a basic finding aid. This preservation phase of the project was completed in August of 2013.

Date(s) of Creation

1942-1945 , 1959 , predominant 1944-1945.

Physical Description

ca. 47.22 m of photographs : b&w ; 20 x 24 cm or smaller.

Scope and Content

Totaling some 130,000 photographs, the collection offers extensive coverage of First Canadian Army’s area of operation throughout Normandy, the coast north of the Seine in France and Belgium, much of the Netherlands, and the northern sector of the German Rhineland, where Canadians fought in February-March 1945. Also included are a variety of photographs of the Italian Campaign, primarily in the Liri Valley but also Sicily. A couple of boxes in the collection contain photographs of Toronto’s waterfront in 1959, likely a training run for flight crews learning how to take aerial photographs. The photographs presented online are medium-resolution and are free for public use. High resolution versions may be obtained for a small fee. Please send any inquiries to, with ‘Aerial Photographs’ in the subject line.


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