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Remembered Today:

Early Trench Maps


andigger

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From Croonaert's awesome map site I extracted this tidbit,

"Sketch maps of trenches shown on aerial photos had been made since the end of 1914, some of which had been reproduced by the Printing Coy.RE at GHQ. At the end of December 1914 the two Armies of the BEF were given their own Maps Section and "trench diagram" maps had been produced from early 1915. The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, in March 1915 was planned and fought using such 1:5,000 scale "diagram maps". However, being based on sketches, there were many inaccuracies contained in these maps so it was decided  to introduce a new "regular series" of 1:10,000 scale maps (GSGS 3062) covering the British front. This occurred from June 1915 in the 2nd Army area with the "Provisional edition" maps sometimes showing trench outlines

By August 1915, the first true army-wide "trench-maps" were produced - the "A series" maps with trenches from photos taken in late July 1915."

I was wondering if either any of the orignial aerial photos with trenches super-imposed or the trench diagrams survive. It would be really interesting to see these early stages in the development of mapping.

Andy

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From Croonaert's awesome map site I extracted this tidbit,

I was wondering if either any of the orignial aerial photos with trenches super-imposed  or the trench diagrams survive.  It would be really interesting to see these early stages in the development of mapping.

Andy

Andy.

They're not trenches superimposed on photographs. They're basically hand sketches of what can be seen on the aerial photographs, similar in a way (but usually more detailed) to what can sometimes be found in War diaries, reports, etc.

Some still do exist (mainly for the Gallipoli campaign) in various locations, but they're pretty rare.

Dave.

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Does the IWM display any of thier maps... (I didn't see them when I was there). Or is there any other museum or display of trench maps? Andy

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Does the IWM display any of thier maps... (I didn't see them when I was there).  Or is there any other museum or display of trench maps?  Andy

It must be about 10 years since I've even set foot in London, never mind the IWM (and here's to the next 10 years!!!! :P ), so I've no idea at all to be honest. I don't know of any "major" display of trench maps, but many regimental museums have the occasional one on display (usually as a "backdrop" to something else, unfortunately) and I'd say that a lot (most?) of regimental archives have them . How accessable are they at the NA?

I don't know about these pre-June 1915 "trench diagrams" though. The regular trench maps that followed had archived copies made for each edition, but, seeing as they were pretty much "local" on scale, I doubt that the earliest ones were. I'd say that most of those that survive today were "souvenired" during the war and brought home (it was routine to destroy old editions of maps when new editions were published until about 1916, hence the rarity of my personal Holy Grail - the "A series").

Trench map collections also turn up in pretty unusual places too, not only museums, such as in archives of the Town Hall at Accrington (unless, it's been moved to Preston, like a collection that once existed in blackburn).

Dave.

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essdee... can you try to repost it, perhaps a little smaller? If you are having trouble let me know and I can help you resize it.

Thanks, Andy

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Andy I'do this in 2 post

The first is an aerial photo NE of Bullecourt for V Corps HA May 17.

There are two black square/rectangular objects right of centre - trucks?

The white splodges aren't clouds, it's the light bouncing off the ceiling, its the best i could achieve - I don't think the NA would appriciate me turning the lights off.

essdee

post-6041-1116606481.jpg

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Part two

Andy

This is the section of an Artillery board that goes with the above photo. Its the crinkly paper they used to plot/range bombardments onto.

I hope they are of interest

essdee

post-6041-1116606812.jpg

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Does the IWM display any of thier maps... (I didn't see them when I was there).  Or is there any other museum or display of trench maps?  Andy

Did you know the IWM sold off most of their surplas trench maps about five or so years ago? Hundreds (?thousands) of sheets went for as little as a few pounds each. They were mint un-issued, and even unfolded. I would have thought more would have appeared on the market, but they seem to have gone to ground.

Unfortunately I managed to miss them by a matter of week. Such is life.

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If these are the same area are they at two different directions? Assuming the picture is North/South the map appears to be oriented East/West.

Andy

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The Artillery Board is north/south as per a trench map and to the same scale,

It's the photo thats east..ish/west...ish. You may just make out at the top centre an arrow denoting north.

essdee

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I was an exploration geologist for 11 years and the subject of overlying different maps was a speciality of mine.. it is no easy task. Distances on aerial photos vary accross the image as the angle is rarely taken at 90 degrees, the lens will also distort the image at the edge. Analogue maps tend to shrink with age. So warping is required, this requires geo-referencing known points. Image enhancement is also needed as basically you are combining 2 raster images therefore what is white on a sketch or topo map will need removing. Thinking about it the best way would be to vectorize the topo map with the trench systems and use this. Why don't we give it a try? We need a topo map with the trench systems and the aerial photo of the same area (the more detail) the better and i will give it a go.

Another interesting thing about early recon photos is that they were taken at angles and at times when the sun would cast shadow to give as much contrast as poss, often showing up camoed bunkers and guns.

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Why don't we give it a try? We need a topo map with the trench systems and the aerial photo of the same area (the more detail) the better and i will give it a go.

Jim - This would be fascinating! Unfortunately all I can offer is enthusiasim and encouragement since I don't have any maps or pictures. I am sure that others on the Forum will have the parts (maps, aerial pics) to put together though.

Andy

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Andy I'do this in 2 post

The first is an aerial photo NE of Bullecourt for V Corps HA May 17.

There are two black square/rectangular objects right of centre - trucks?

The white splodges aren't clouds, it's the light bouncing off the ceiling, its the best i could achieve - I don't think the NA would appriciate me turning the lights off.

essdee

If you're interested in the names, this aerial photo shows part of the Hindenburg Line with (at the top of the photo) "Tunnel Trench" and "Burg Support" underneath. The connecting comms trenches were called "Hump Lane" and "Sow Lane"(to the British). The road shown leads from Bullecourt to a crossroads NE of Croisilles.

Dave.

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Dave

Thanks for the trench names I can add that to my file.

On the subject of trench names, do you know of the whereabouts of "Hardens" trench. My info says it was a communication trench north of Essex Farm and close to Bard Cottage.

It was dug by parties of the 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers whilst in reserve during July 17.

essdee

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On the subject of trench names, do you know of the whereabouts of "Hardens" trench. My info says it was a communication trench north of Essex Farm and close to Bard Cottage.

Unfortunately, I don't. all the maps I have of this area don't show any trenches in this immediate vicinity until the 1918 editions, then they are unnamed! (2 or 3 comms trenches in the vicinity of Bard Cottage).

Peter Chasseaud has written a book (publication imminant) which is basically a "gazetteer" of British trench names on the Western Front and their map references, etc.. I don't know how complete it will be, nor if there is mention of the trenches that changed their names as the war progressed, but it could be a pretty useful addition to the old library!

Dave.

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Andy

Thanks for taking the time to look for Hardens trench.

Chasseauds Topography of Armagedon was a good read so I expect this will be as well.

Is it my imagination but do Kew hold the so called "secret editions" i.e. maps that have the full trench names, positions etc. marked on them, or did I just dream that up?

essdee

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Is it my imagination but do Kew hold the so called "secret editions" i.e. maps that have the full trench names, positions etc. marked on them, or did I just dream that up?

No it's not your imagination. I'd assume that the NA and the IWM have them (though I don't know) .The "secret" editions of the maps don't have absolutely everything on them anyway and don't usually show any more detail than that can be found on a 1918 "standard" map (which are always the best when looking for particular trenches, as they show most of the detail from the whole war up to that point!). There's nothing mythical about the "secret" editions. They're just a little rarer as there were less produced (basically, pre-1918, they just show the British lines in more detail than the norm.)

Dave.

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When recently trawling through Abebooks for material about Neuve Chapelle I noticed a book titled The Western Front From the Air. The book is by Nicholas C. Watkis (2000) with a foreward by Jane Carmichael from the Imperial War Museum. Here is part of the book's description:

In this unique contemporary birdseye view of the Western Front battlefields, aerial photographs are used to illustrate seven major battlefields of the First World War immediately before, during and after the action. These photographs were taken by the Royal Flying Corps to provide reconnaissance for the British Army on the Western Front, and have been selected from the Imperial War Museum's "Box Collection".

This unique archive of almost 100,000 photographic negatives comprises some 90 per cent of the official photo-reconnaissance coverage of the Western Front and it has remained largely unseen since 1918. Neuve Chapelle, Loos, La Boisselle, Flers, Vimy Ridge, Cambrai and Amiens are each described in a short narrative, highlighting significant actions and setting each battle within the context of the land war.

The origins of air photography and the development of photographic interpretation in the First World War are also outlined. Each battle is illustrated with a selection of aerial photgraphs from the Box Collection to show the terrain and the defences, which are identified on the accompanying trench map.

This imagery is interpreted and annotated using the original prints to show the battlefield conditions on the day, pinpointing strong points, machine guns, and gun batteries. New intelligence interpretations have been provided by the author where appropriate.

Sounds impressive.

Dave, I'm wondering whether you or any other members have seen this book and could give an opinion about it?

On another note, I am currently reading a book called Tanks and Trenches (edited by David Fletcher) which has many aerial photographs, most of which are taken at oblique angles. There is one image, however, spead over two pages, which I opened at random and at first glance thought was a photo of rain drops on metal. Turning back one page, the image is reproduced in a smaller version and with a caption that reads" A direct vertical view of cratered, flooded ground east of Ypres. A crossroads can still be identified but there are few other signs to indicate that the area is part of this planet, let alone a part once occupied and farmed."

A true indication of the horrors of war.

Chris

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  • 1 year later...
Did you know the IWM sold off most of their surplas trench maps about five or so years ago? Hundreds (?thousands) of sheets went for as little as a few pounds each. They were mint un-issued, and even unfolded. I would have thought more would have appeared on the market, but they seem to have gone to ground.

Unfortunately I managed to miss them by a matter of week. Such is life.

Paul

I bought them, they cost me a lot of money, only some were 'mint. They have been used for a grand project, and all will become clear over the next few months.

Hopefully you may come to be pleased that I got them, as you will directly benefit from them as well. You will allmost certainly be going out and buying a GPS to connect them up to.

Guy Smith

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