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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

RAF Aviation Map


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I thought I would post some pictures of an RAF aviation map from my collection. I believe this is quite a scarce issue which perhaps not many people will have seen. It was produced in about July 1918 to an RAF design, intended for use by bombers. I only have one sheet, fortunately it covers an interesting sector, other sheets went right into Germany. The sheet measures about 24" by 29" overall and is printed on heavy, cloth backed paper. The strange colours were designed to emphasis the main landscape features as seen from the air at night when viewed under torchlight. It works rather well, although I wouldn't want to try it in an open cockpit holding the torch in my teeth and peering at it through oil-smeared goggles. This one has signs of use, but to judge from the pin holes in each corner I guess it was pinned to an ops room board rather than taken aloft. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has more sheets of this series, or any other specially designed aviation maps from WW1.








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Hi John,

I posted the German equivalent of your map in this thread here:



For convenience sake here is what I wrote and the map from the German airforce unit:

here a rare map (original is about 25 inches wide) from my collection showing the path of a long distance reconnaisance mission from the time they entered the British coast. The plane was from a specialised German squadron, the Feldfliegerabteilung 5 Lichtbild (Lb) on their 27th flight on 21st May 1918, one day after the last raid on London as given by Edward1. It was probably undertaken to assess possible damage. They flew at a hight of 5700 meters and used a wide-angled lens to take the photos. The German National Archive holds the report based on the photographs (Lichtbilder) that were taken by the crew of this plane. This particular unit also flew missions over Calais for example. A Leutnant Erhard Milch, later Generalfeldmarschall Milch was deputy-or acting commander of this unit in 1917. On the map you see their way to London and back to the coast. The little squares marked a-z and aa each stand for a large photograph that in itself was made up of thirteen long panoramic views that were pasted together. This was called Reihenbild-Photographie (Serial-Photography). There were a number of units (at least 5 that I know of) that were technically responsible for this kind of aerial-photography  and developed and assessed them after the Feldfliegerabt. 5 Lb took them. From this flight I have photos of squares a, g and h. Unfortunately they are to large and too brittle to be scanned. But maybe this map/plan helps to understand how the German Airforce followed up on their raids.





Edited by GreyC
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Fascinating to see one of these at last!  I've written quite a bit about the night bombing side of the air war - 58 Squadron being of special interest to me.  I recall a Staff College Report written up by a 58 Squadron airman mentioning these, but saying their promise was short-lived, as observation was terrible enough at night - you simply needed every bit of information you could get!  Compass bearings based on the system of both Allied and German Lighthouses at known locations were a key tool of night navigation.



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I look at the grey map with some puzzlement. As a pilot of more than 20 years experience, I would find it very close to useless. At night, unless you have a good moon, the roads and towns are not as visible as one would like or imagine and if an area was in black-out, the easiest to see features are water and sometimes railway lines as you can catch reflections from the rails. When I was doing my Night Rating, I was tasked to fly down to Brentwood and return. I was shocked that I missed this large and well light town, realising my mistake when I got to the Thames. Night flying without radio navigation aids is very demanding, the land below becomes a very unfamiliar sight and on an overcast night, mostly just black.

There was a set of Air Packets published during the Great War aimed at flying, some available on scrolls to allow following the flight. The advice was to draw a compass bearing on the map in pencil but as the aeroplanes of the time were slow (like mine!), the wind was a significant fraction of the airspeed meaning drift in the wind was significant, easily 5 degrees or more. You can calculate what that drift will be and plot it using a “Whizz Wheel”, a circular calculator designed specifically for pilots, but that is all very well if you know what altitude to fly, the wind changes speed and direction with altitude. The result is that one must check on position constantly using landmarks so any map must show those landmarks as clearly as possible. As the roads are more prominent on these grey maps than the easier to see rivers and lakes, that makes me think that is why they were not used very much.





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Thanks Howard. Perhaps surving examples of these maps are so rare because airmen got fed up with trying to make sense of the darn things and tossed them overboard.


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