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JohnC

'Hand Made' Maps

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JohnC

This thread opened in resonse to Howard's comment on the Hill 70 post, follows:

 

'It is an interesting exercise to try to make one’s own. One day I sat down at home in a comfortable, warm environment with modern pens and singularly failed to get as good a quality as some Great War hand drawn maps, remembering they may have been drawn in a dugout by candle light, bow-pen with Indian ink, rats running round and those beastly Germans shelling all the time. That is when the dry subject of mapping means a lot to me. I am frequently awed by their achievement.'

 
I agree 100%. They are so evocative of the moment of their making. But worth considering that the young men who drew them were just a few years or even months from the classroom or factory drawing office. They had manual skills that would shame many of the computer generation. Those countless hours of handwriting practice or perfecting the 3rd-angle projection would have carried through to a natural ability with pen, ink and hand-eye coordination. I sometimes wonder whether the immersion in drafting a map would have been a form of relief, a temporary semblance of normal activity in terrible circumstances. Some of these little maps are statements of pride or skill beyond the needs of the service. I attach a few examples below, one each from Germany, France and Britain.
The first is a German map of the Hebuterne-Bucquoy area immediately before the allied offensive of July 1916. It's beautifully drafted in ink on tracing paper, with careful calligraphy. At bottom right is a box with the draughtsman's name, exactly as I was taught to to in TD classes. It was prepared by one Otto Heinrich Brucker, born 24/11/1894, a construction technician at his time of enlistment. He survived the war. Thank you to Jan (AOK4) for researching him for me.
The second is a little sketch of part of the French sector of the Somme near Bouchavesnes from November 1916. The map is just a rough sketch showing the unit's command post and gun positions, but there is some lovely handwriting, a little bit of beauty amidst the horror.
Finally a British map, Plugstreet area, I think from 1917 but not sure. This one is mimeographed, ie field produced from a hand drawn original. The compass and calligraphy are artful, I like to imagine that the draughtsman was showing his best craft as a token of respect to the men in the line who would be guided by his work.
It would be interesting to see more examples on this thread, they are so rarely seen in the published collections of regular trench maps.
John 

 

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Howard

I shall have a dig into the collection. There are quite a few but it will have to be tomorrow now.

 

Howard

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Howard

Here is a good example, sample below.

 

Secret, in Indian ink on linen. As printed 1:10,000 maps were available its purpose is not clear and it is not dated. At the top left corner is a signature that by some miracle someone may be able to recognise along with some faint lettering.

 

As the linen is not translucent I am not sure how it would have been drawn. Like a lot of things in the Great War, a puzzle.

 

Howard

Hand1.jpg

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Howard

Here is one to compare with the first map in post 1. Sample below.

It is headed 4th Division Defences and dated 08/10/1915. It is hand drawn on linen by S Mildred, the CRE 4 Division during the Battle of the Somme.

It is of amazing quality, he was clearly a skilled draughtsman.

The kind of linen used was still just in use in the 1960s, it has a certain shininess on both sides. It must be treated in some way, it does not look like it would “take” the ink but it clearly does very well.

Howard

Hand2.jpg

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Fattyowls

Absolutely magnificent examples; thanks for posting them gentlemen. These are all areas I've visited and are of real interest. I am particularly intrigued by the Whitesheet linen sheet and the perfunctory treatment of the German positions. I could be wrong but the positions and size of Petit Bois and Madelstaede Farm look wrong to me. It might be my imagination however.

 

Pete.

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Howard

One aspect of these hand drawn maps intrigues me, how to draw parallel lines for a road or trench and make them look parallel. On a few hand drawn maps they are as wobbly as my feeble efforts but on many they just look so good. For Indian ink I think they used a bow pen and whilst I have seen a photo of a double bow pen, they do not seem very common. I just looked on eBay and did not find one. Various websites show that stylographic (tubular nib) pens were patented in 1875 so did they use those? If so, the parallel line problem remains. How did they do it?

 

Howard

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JohnC

Beautiful maps Howard, thank you for sharing. Regarding the first one, Wycheate, if it's from before early 1918 then it would predate the time at which maps showing the Allied lines became general issue. Those that did were classified as secret and forbidden to take into the forward area. Therefore useless for day to day navigation around the lines. I wonder if this map was an unofficial project, simply as an aid to getting around? This would also explain the lack of detail on the German positions.

Regarding parallel lines, when looking at the second map they are not perfectly parallel, but confidently drawn with a steady hand. I think we are just seeing the work of a very skilled draughtsman, not a mechanical aid.

J

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David Filsell

Howard,

I understand that, at the time, and perhaps even earlier, there were a special two knib, adjustable, pens  for the purpose although I have never managed to locate one.

Regards 

David

Edited by David Filsell

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barkalotloudly

I have two purchased two hand drawn maps {well I say maps but these are works of art!} the larger is the size of a normal trench map and covers the area around Messines in September 1916 it was drawn for a Canadian brigadier and is magnificent and is very highly detailed and really deserved to be framed 

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Howard

Here is an interesting map, drawn I believe by the Prince of Wales, later Edward 8th. It is marked “where I stood”, quite poignant really. I think he yearned to be at the front but they let him doing things in HQ behind the lines, I am not sure what his duties were as I have not looked into it. There are others in the series. Road boundaries quite parallel! It is on the WFA Mapping The Front Ypres DVD.

 

Howard

HRH.jpg

Edited by Howard

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robbie56

Attached not of same quality but from an original diary entry March 1915. I believe the “map” to have been drawn whilst at location.

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JohnC

Thanks Robbie. Have you been able to relate the numered locations in Sanctuary Wood to any purpose or features?

Another map shown below, German, 17th Reserve Infantry Regiment in the Verdun sector circa early 1918. Interesting for the way it shows the German late-war defensive tactic of the front line as lightly held outposts. 'Nachtposten im Vorfelde' translates as 'night posts in the open area'. An uneviable duty I think. Like many informal maps it concentrates on friendly positions rather than enemy, so intended for general purpose local navigation rather than offensive action. A useful thing to capture in a trench raid.

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Gunner Bailey

I've got a couple of German hand drawn maps on tracing paper. I'll try to post them tomorrow.

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KernelPanic
On 07/09/2019 at 05:54, Howard said:

One aspect of these hand drawn maps intrigues me, how to draw parallel lines for a road or trench and make them look parallel. On a few hand drawn maps they are as wobbly as my feeble efforts but on many they just look so good. For Indian ink I think they used a bow pen and whilst I have seen a photo of a double bow pen, they do not seem very common. I just looked on eBay and did not find one. Various websites show that stylographic (tubular nib) pens were patented in 1875 so did they use those? If so, the parallel line problem remains. How did they do it?

 

Howard

 

In the early 50s my mom worked in a drawing office of what was then the G.P.O., and later became British Telecom. She made the detailed technical maps for routing telephone lines etc. I asked her what medium she used for hand drawn maps back then, and how she drew narrowly spaced (1-2mm) parallel lines.

 

The maps were drawn on a coated linen that was shiny, at least on one side. It sounds a little like what you described a few posts up. For parallel lines, she said although she used a bow pen for single lines, she doesn’t recall using a double bow for parallel lines. Instead she etched a single line into the surface of the coated linen using a needlepoint with a ruler and/or a French curve as a guide. The guide was then moved the required distance away from the first line and the surface was scratched again to make the second line. 

 

Indian ink was then applied to the surface along the length of the double line (not sure how this was done), which seeped into the etched lines. Finally, the excess superficial ink was removed with a special eraser, and voila! When the maps were completed, the coated linen was washed to remove the coating, and left to dry. This left a very flexible and durable map.

 

It probably wasn’t all quite as easy as that (it sounds quite skillful), and I'm not saying this was how maps were hand drawn during WW1, but that was the way my mom told me she hand drew maps in the fifties using what maybe were similar materials.

Edited by KernelPanic

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Howard

Thanks for that, it sounds interesting. When I was a boy my father used that shiny coated linen, I used to have fun washing the coating off to get raw linen (cannot remember why I did that!). I seem to remember it had a bluish tinge. He drew building plans so had no close parallel lines but he did have a French curve. Perhaps that is the secret.

 

I have tried a bow pen, difficult things to master, they can be very messy. They are also difficult to start a new line section from a previous one without showing. It is also hard to draw a tight radius. Skills I supose that they learned.

 

Howard

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Fattyowls

Absolutely fascinating additions all, many thanks.

 

On 11/09/2019 at 19:16, JohnC said:

Thanks Robbie. Have you been able to relate the numered locations in Sanctuary Wood to any purpose or features?

Another map shown below, German, 17th Reserve Infantry Regiment in the Verdun sector circa early 1918. Interesting for the way it shows the German late-war defensive tactic of the front line as lightly held outposts. 'Nachtposten im Vorfelde' translates as 'night posts in the open area'. An uneviable duty I think. Like many informal maps it concentrates on friendly positions rather than enemy, so intended for general purpose local navigation rather than offensive action. A useful thing to capture in a trench raid.

 

John , your question to Robbie occurred to me too; I wondered if it had some navigational purpose, but that doesn't seem correct somehow. The Malancourt map is brilliant and like you I have often wondered about outpost duty when looking at the front lines of both sides. I wonder if Christina @Christina Holstein has seen your post, it's a favourite area of hers.

 

Pete.

 

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Gunner Bailey

Here are my two maps.

 

They are on Foolscap size tracing paper. I've never researched them. I bought the with a load of miscellaneous paper from a closed private military library.

 

If anyone can provide any quick info I'd appreciate it.

 

Photos here.

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JohnC

Hello Gunner. Thanks for the post. Linselles is a community in France, a few miles NE of Armentieres. I think it says 45 Reserve Division, who were in this region from the start of war until September 1916. The numbers look like the areas of plots in hectares, and the word kartoffel translates as potato. So, you might have a sketch map (skizzen) of 45 RD's behind-the-lines potato growing fields! Perhaps a German speaker could have a better go at unpicking the handwriting?

John

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Gunner Bailey
10 hours ago, JohnC said:

Hello Gunner. Thanks for the post. Linselles is a community in France, a few miles NE of Armentieres. I think it says 45 Reserve Division, who were in this region from the start of war until September 1916. The numbers look like the areas of plots in hectares, and the word kartoffel translates as potato. So, you might have a sketch map (skizzen) of 45 RD's behind-the-lines potato growing fields! Perhaps a German speaker could have a better go at unpicking the handwriting?

John

 

Thanks John

 

That's more than I knew yesterday!

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JohnC

Right, I've got my eye into the writing a bit more and the words at the top of the first map read as follows, or thereabouts:

'Sketches of one of the agricultural districts of the 45th Reserve Division lying in the community of Linselles of potatoes to be planted.'

A fascinating insight to the logistics which went into supporting armies in the field, and a testimony to one of the side-effects of static warfare. I knew that the allies farmed land immediately behind the lines, even having vegetable gardens around hutment camps, but have never seen evidence of the German equivalent.

John

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Gunner Bailey

Thanks John

 

I suppose there is some good logic to it.

 

Reserve divisions could do agricultural work, which might be good exercise and even therapeutic. As many soldiers came from agricultural backgrounds they could be quite happy doing this work. End result - fit and happy soldiers and a degree of self sufficiency and contributing to the supply lines.

Edited by Gunner Bailey

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Howard

This is a 1:2,500 map of light railways. I often wondered about why the crop type was listed. Farmer's compensation?

 

Howard

Crops.jpg

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Gunner Bailey
6 hours ago, Howard said:

This is a 1:2,500 map of light railways. I often wondered about why the crop type was listed. Farmer's compensation?

 

Howard

 

 

I think that would be the case for the British but I doubt if the Germans were so thoughtful.

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