View Full Version : Photographic Targets

Peter Kirk
18-10-2010, 17:02
Looking through a file on St Brides bay ranges for FAA use, dated 1951-3 and I came across reference to photographic targets to be laid out at the disused airfields at Talbenny and Dale. They were in the form of a series of concentric circles to be painted on the northern runway intersections. Where the circles ventured on to grass, silversand or similar was to be used.
I don't think they went ahead, although at one point they thought they had!!! (A misunderstanding around the context of the word "cleared".)

The design looked familiar and it can be seen here at Treligga.


The implied date of the photo above is 1944 but I think it is the 1950s. The other feature used for this type of target is a very large 150ft arrow on the approach and possiblr on the other side.

Anyone come across any more of this type?

19-10-2010, 09:37
Paul just posted images of the Malta sound mirror. If you look at that area in Google Earth or similar to the NE there is a peninsula with a 100 yard diameter concentric circle marking visible. I have no time to follow-up!


Peter Kirk
19-10-2010, 23:27
Blimey, I can barely see that. It does look similar and there were FAA units in Malta post war.

I also remembered the one at Trevallen Down (SR97219305).

20-10-2010, 00:39
Slightly better view in Google (http://goo.gl/maps/ExsD)


20-10-2010, 08:24
]I also remembered the one at Trevallen Down (SR97219305)

That's a nice one and the same size as the Maltese 'target' so is probably the same function. The Trevallen Down version could be unique in the British Isles. The use of chalk as a marking agent often killed the local vegetation due to alkilinity resulting in a near permanent feature as with the targets at Ashley Walk Range.

20-10-2010, 15:03
[I]]SR97219305 The Trevallen Down version could be unique in the British Isles.
It is superb Link (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=51.59951032603824&lon=-4.929680228233337&gz=18&oz=8&gt=1). I was a few hundred yards from there last week - walked west instead of east! (Range was closed over weekend)


Peter Kirk
20-10-2010, 19:21
Also missed the arrow at SR 95890 93993 - I think it is a new one to me.

21-10-2010, 07:22
Good spot. WTP is not working for me today so it took a bit of finding. Might be post war?

Peter Kirk
24-10-2010, 17:36
The Castlemartin arrow and circles are probably for RN ant Brawdy circa 1953. The had use of the eastern side of the range.

Peter Kirk
05-05-2012, 19:27
Just by way of an update on the circles targets. The FAA Handbook of Stations from 1955-1960 states that Hal Far had an ORS target at Kaura Point, the one that PTE mentioned in post #2. So that confirms that it was a target.

Apart from Castlemartin there is another still visible on Pradannack airfield at one of the runway intersections. There were many more but their sometimes short life seems to fall between two handbooks! Crail was also meant to have one and the lat/long given puts it on the edge of the airfield to the NE. Seems an odd location but the lat/long may not be accurate as it didn't have "seconds". All I need is aerial photos from the 1950's for the doxzen or so locations!

Peter Kirk
28-10-2012, 23:29
Following on from post #10 has anyone got 1950's aerial photos of Crail, Worthy Down, Banff, Dallachy, Talbenny and Dale. to prove the ORS (photo targets) were actually laid out and also where in on the aerodrome.

I have confirmed photographice evidence of these targets at Trelliga (the original one), Predannack, Castlemartin, St Fergus (Kirkton) and a suspected one at Tarbatness.

Peter Kirk
13-09-2014, 19:54
The FAA Manual of Air Weapons Training AP (N) 82 from 196? shows the ORS target being used for practice. I have also confirmed their existence at Crail, Dallachy, Banff, Talbenny, Gunver Head and Worthy Down in addition to the ones already mentioned.

Peter Kirk
20-09-2014, 18:19
Serendipity strikes again. Whilst looking up bits on Druridge Bayam across a 1958 Air Ministry Danger Area Chart (http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/maps/uk/zoomify133653.html). This showed large blue circles for the known ORS targets ans there was one blue circle which is new to me. After NCAP prevented me from zooming in I changed to Britain from Above and found the required concentric circles in a 1953 oblique of an area east of North Berwick.


The photo in the link above shows the circle next to what looks like the remains of a radar station. Another comment poster thinks it may be linked with the Admiralty site at Gin Head but I am not certain this is the case. Can anyone shed any more light on this site and its history so I can date the ORS target? I will also be ordering some aerial photo coverage both pre and post this photo but this may not be narrow enough. I think there were signs in 1970 but the relevant NCAP aerial photo seems to still be restricted (Copyright issues).

Peter Kirk
16-10-2015, 10:39
The ORS target used by the Fleet Air Arm on Malta (Kaura Point) seems to have attracted a load of twaddle from academics or pseudo academics who think it is an ancient symbol to some sort of god citing its location and the size being similar to those found in South America etc. On one forum someone, not me, suggested it was a bombing target, but that was poo pooed as implausible! I know archaeology is not an exact science and is often changed but a look at aerial photos of Malta in wartime would show they weren't there then! This was a few years ago so they may have seen the correct answer on AiX :)

Yesterday I actually found the correct name for ORS which I had assumed, since they were involved in its design, was Operational Research Section but it was in fact a more appropriate Optical Recording System. After all the papers I came before across none had used its full name and it was in a file on RAF/RNAS Banff!

16-10-2015, 13:36
Optical Recording System. Really?

The use of the word 'System' was, I thought a modern contrivance. My earliest contact with this was in 1967 when in RAF service. An improved paint finish for aircraft rocket launchers was introduced being an epoxy based paint requiring per-mixing with a catalyst. The catalogue described it as a paint system.

As to the Maltese ORS being mooted as an ancient symbol, using the same criteria I believe that the 'mystery crop circles' reported in the UK are, in fact, Optical Recording Systems:p

Peter Kirk
16-10-2015, 14:54
It should more accurately be called a "method" I suppose. "system" and "computer" feature quite a lot in wartime manuals and ORS targets seemed to have first appeared in 1946, possibly late 1945. Since the only equipment was a camera (on the aircraft) the circles (on the ground) a bloke in a hut with a dive angle or "peep sight" (eventually in the middle of the target) and a tilting projector (back at base) it wasn't exactly high tech.

Oddly enough this system was pre-dated (see "Druids Circle") by an A&AEE measured single circle and taken on by the RAF and I have noted them at Dawlish Warren, Tentsmuir and Leysdown and probably more. The method was the same and based on how oval the circle looked to derive the dive angle and its width to derive the height. I suppose this plus all the tables of ovals and width based on lens focal length could be described as a system?

The peep sight referred to was in fact a quadrant sight on its side to measure vertically rather than horizontally and was mounted on a tripod.