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Dates on trench maps


bogesy
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I'm trying to figure out what the relations generally are between the date printed on a trench map and the date of the map's entry into use. Does anyone know anything about this? With regular series 1:10,000 (GSGS 3062) or 1:20,000 (GSGS 2742) maps, my sense is that, throughout most of the war, there would have been about a 2-3 week lag between the 'trenches corrected to' date and the date on which the map might have actually found itself in the hands of a soldier (I think I heard somewhere that by 1918 the maps were printed closer to the front, thus cutting down on the lag). Is this right? Also, what about smaller maps that are not printed on linen, ones that bear titles like 'Operation Trench Map,' or are on a 1:5,000 scale, or have no GSGS number, or have a GSGS number, but also bear the name of a Printing Company (say '1st Printing Coy, R.E. IV Army Sect. [623]'). Surely, maps of these latter kinds must have been locally produced at the front, and would have gone into use at a time far closer to the printed date? For example, I have a 1:5,000, non-linen backed map of the Schwaben Redoubt dated September 27th, 1916. Aside from the date and scale, the only other thing that appears in the captions is 'Operation Trench Map.' I badly want to believe that the map went into use on the 27th and is associated with the September 28th assaults on Schwaben. Pencil marks on the map seem to bear out this idea, although they are admittedly not decisive. Could such a map, dated September 27th, have been used on September 28th? Are there any general principles anyone knows for the relation between the dates on maps that are not of the 1:10,000 and 1:20,000 regular series and the dates such maps went into use? I would be stunned if no one on this forum could shed the light of understanding on my benighted soul in regard to these questions...

Josh

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You are probably quite right about the linen backed maps having a time lapse...not sure how long it was though. They were, I believe, at first printed in Southampton and sent across by the box load. Earlier in the war when trench warfare had become very static the maps would have needed few changes, the trenches didn't move. But with the advent of aerial photography trenches could be aligned more accurately with more detail such as depth of wire, dug-outs, battery positions, machine-gun posts, organised shell-holes etc. Knowing the position of these tiny details within the trenches could mean the difference between life and death for hundreds. In fact, in the Salient trench systems had all but disappeared; the enemy held its line in small "blobs" often nowhere near a recognisable trench.

These had to be mapped quickly because they could change quickly and, as you so rightly say, maps therefore needed to be printed much closer to the front. Operations maps were simply whizzed off on a roneo or banda machine on standard quarto/foolscap paper, so it's very likely your map will have been used, with a very short time lapse between printing and issuing now possible. HQ's had U maps which were updated regularly, so 'U No101' ...'U No102' etc

The linen backed maps still continued in production and because of their durability they have survived well. Most paper ones probably ended up in latrines or trodden underfoot, especially during the Battle of 100 Days when they became out of date within hours of first use.

For me the paper Operation maps are much more important because they often focus on one action on one day and extra manuscript detail can be found on them. Some of the linen backed maps are pristine, a testament to the fact that they never left the box in which they were packed!

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As a rule of thumb, the regular series maps tended to be 2-3 weeks out of date at publication, but certain "specials" and "locals" could be as accurate as 2 - 3 days out of date (then, to confuse matters, multi-dated maps can be a bit of "half and half"). Some maps - such as "message" maps could be accurate to within 24 hours at the beginning of an operation, but even these began to lag as time drew on. Many were updated by hand but, by the time these had been collated, chances were that they were out of date also.

Dave.

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You are probably quite right about the linen backed maps having a time lapse...not sure how long it was though. They were, I believe, at first printed in Southampton and sent across by the box load. Earlier in the war when trench warfare had become very static the maps would have needed few changes, the trenches didn't move. But with the advent of aerial photography trenches could be aligned more accurately with more detail such as depth of wire, dug-outs, battery positions, machine-gun posts, organised shell-holes etc. Knowing the position of these tiny details within the trenches could mean the difference between life and death for hundreds. In fact, in the Salient trench systems had all but disappeared; the enemy held its line in small "blobs" often nowhere near a recognisable trench.

These had to be mapped quickly because they could change quickly and, as you so rightly say, maps therefore needed to be printed much closer to the front. Operations maps were simply whizzed off on a roneo or banda machine on standard quarto/foolscap paper, so it's very likely your map will have been used, with a very short time lapse between printing and issuing now possible. HQ's had U maps which were updated regularly, so 'U No101' ...'U No102' etc

The linen backed maps still continued in production and because of their durability they have survived well. Most paper ones probably ended up in latrines or trodden underfoot, especially during the Battle of 100 Days when they became out of date within hours of first use.

For me the paper Operation maps are much more important because they often focus on one action on one day and extra manuscript detail can be found on them. Some of the linen backed maps are pristine, a testament to the fact that they never left the box in which they were packed!

Thanks for the information--this is helpful.

I too prefer the Operation maps, for the same reasons as do you, but I think we may be in a minority.

At any rate, after weeks of waiting, I just today received in the mail Chasseaud's book Artillery's Astrologers. It appears to be nothing less than a 550-page, encyclopedic study of trench maps. Having taken a brief look at it, I am confident that, should I ever have time to read the entire thing, any question I ever had about trench maps will be answered.

Thanks again,

Josh

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As a rule of thumb, the regular series maps tended to be 2-3 weeks out of date at publication, but certain "specials" and "locals" could be as accurate as 2 - 3 days out of date (then, to confuse matters, multi-dated maps can be a bit of "half and half"). Some maps - such as "message" maps could be accurate to within 24 hours at the beginning of an operation, but even these began to lag as time drew on. Many were updated by hand but, by the time these had been collated, chances were that they were out of date also.

Dave.

Dear Dave--

This is about what I thought, and it is good to have it confirmed. I just figured out a different map I have, a local edition dated July 30, 1916, was definitely used on July 31, so it seems the lag could be short indeed. Thanks for your help,

--Josh

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