AN incredible set of historical aerial photos of Old Trafford from World War Two have been opened to the British public for the first time.
The photos were taken by the US Air Force between 1943 and 1944 and show the extent to which German bombing had devastated UK cities.
One of the cities shown in the photographs is Manchester, and the photos give an insight into the damage done to Manchester United's Old Trafford by German bombing during the war.
As a major industrial centre, Stretford was a frequent target for German bombs, and a photo dated May 30 1944 shows the devastating damage done to the former main stand of the stadium.
The stadium was hit during bombing raids in March 1941 by bombs aimed for nearby factories and was not used again until 1949.
Not only was the south stand almost completely destroyed, but the bombing also wrecked the pitch and foundations of the stadium – leaving United unable to play at their home for eight years.
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In the intervening postwar period (1945-1949) United shared grounds with rival's Manchester City at the club's former home of Maine Road until Old Trafford could be safely rebuilt.
The photos also give a unique insight into what the surrounding area of Old Trafford once looked like, with the old White City stadium used for Greyhound racing and speedway also pictured.
The photos also show Old Trafford cricket ground – which was used as a transit camp for troops returning from Dunkirk in 1940.
The stand of Old Trafford football stadium which sustained the damage was formerly the club's main stand, before becoming the south stand and is now the Sir Bobby Charlton stand of the stadium.
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United's main stand now is of course The Sir Alex Ferguson stand of the ground, which was rebuilt from being a single tiered stand during redevelopment of the stadium in 1996.
Speaking about the release of the previously unseen photos, Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: "Our USAAF Collection records changes taking place in England as a result of the Second World War, as well as capturing fascinating incidental detail, like American troops playing baseball.
"Our collection of USAAF wartime photographs were taken in England by the pilots and aircraft of squadrons that provided intelligence for the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.
"This came at a cost, with many pilots killed in the line of duty. We are making these images available to the public for the first time online, giving people access to this remarkable collection of historic photographs.
"They help to highlight the vital role aerial reconnaissance played in the Second World War."
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