It has been shown in previous investigations that when all combinations of both positive and negative direction of rotation and flow direction are allowed in operating a multistage axial flow compressor, the operating point may be in any of the four quadrants of the pressure rise versus flow characteristic. The present paper is the first discussion of the flow field of all possible modes of operation of an axial flow compressor. During the present study interstage time dependent hot film velocity measurements and five hole pneumatic probe measurements were combined with steady and time dependent CFD solutions to investigate the flow fields in the three-stage axial compressor. Results are presented in terms of mean-line velocity triangles, mean stream surface plots, midspan radial velocity contours right through the compressor, rotor-downstream radial distributions of axial and tangential velocity, stator-downstream axial velocity contours and midspan entropy contours through the compressor. Main flow features are pointed out and discussed. The study was instigated in an effort to understand possible accident scenarios in a three-shaft closed cycle nuclear powered helium gas turbine.