Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Type ‘Q’ Sailing Dinghy

This piece on maps related to the Q Type Dinghy was submitted by a volunteer working in the Map Department

Working as a volunteer in the Map Room in the Weston Library may not be your forte but I can assure you having been doing just that for the last 2 years life is full of surprises. This week we received an embroidered map of London done by soldiers working for the Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry set up to help those recovering from action in WW1. Earlier, I was shown documentation about the ‘Q’ Type Sailing Dinghy, an inflatable sailing dinghy used during WW2, which is of particular interest to me as an ex-navigator on maritime Shackletons and Nimrods. One of our primary tasks was Search and Rescue. There were always crews on standby ready to fly and help those in danger at sea whether they be people in ships or yachts in difficulty or aircraft that had ditched. In our aircraft’s bomb bay we carried Lindholme gear which was basically 3 buoyant containers joined by 400 metres of cord, one container had a dinghy in it which would inflate on impact, and the other containers were filled survival rations and equipment. The dinghy had a sea anchor which meant that it would stay roughly where it had been dropped but its position would, of course, be affected by the strength of the local wind and current. The survivors would be rescued by shipping diverted to the scene.


The philosophy behind the ‘Q’ Type Sailing Dinghy, which, as I have mentioned, was in use in WW2, was somewhat different. The dinghy was packed into similar Lindholme gear and dropped to the survivors. However, rather than the survivors ‘sitting tight’ they were expected to sail the dinghy to the nearest land. To do this the instructions, on silk, were comprehensive and included in the dinghy pack. There was a diagram of a fully rigged dinghy with mast, mainsail, foresail, rudder and keel plus a weather cover. There were instructions about how to rig the 4 piece mast, set the sails, general sailing guidance and advice about when to reef the sails. Attached to these instructions, also on silk, were maps of the eastern Atlantic from Northern Norway to the Cape Verde Islands and Iceland. The maps and instructions were all just 12 x 13 inches pinned together in the top left hand corner. The maps were produced by the Sea Rescue Equipment Drawing office and based on the GSGS 4080 plotting series which uses the Mercator projection and landmass heights are shown in metres. There is a compass rose and the lines of magnetic variation are as in 1942. A variable ruler showing statute miles is included alongside the left hand margin.


I do wonder how practical the idea of sailing back to land really was. From experience the Atlantic Ocean is rarely smooth and rigging the dinghy would have been a hazardous occupation. One of the instructions was: ‘don’t stand up in the dinghy as you will make it unstable!’ In any survival situation protection from the elements is the most important thing, especially a cold, windy, wet Atlantic. And navigating back to land, well the dinghy had a compass and knowing roughly your location it should be possible to steer he dinghy roughly in the right direction. Perhaps, psychologically, the possibility of being able to sail back was all important with the chance of being picked up by a ship on the way. Or perhaps, when sitting in the dinghy, it was a case of, ‘Give me a map and I am content’ (Wainwright A. 1938).


Map images from A set of charts showing the coasts of Europe and North Africa, printed on cloth. Published by ‘Sea Rescue Equipment Drawing Office, (F) K1:2 (5)

The following images come from a diagram on the use of the Q type provided by the Royal Air Force Museum. According to Air Historical Branch monograph Air/Sea Rescue issued in 1952 ‘the Q type seems to have been introduced in early 1943 and by the end of that year had been cleared for use in the Whitley, Wellington, Warwick, Lancaster and Halifax – it seems not to have been used in the Lindholme Gear. The lateen rig version replaced a more complex sail plan in 1944’.

dinghy 1







Parallax is a way of determining distances and heights by measuring the angles of a certain point from different locations. Once you have the angles from two points you can then work out the distance by working out the third angle of a triangle and measuring the sides. Amongst other uses parallax is the method in which the distance to stars is measured.

Parallax is also the title of a recent donation to the Map Room, Parallax without tears, the determination of heights from vertical airphotographs

parallax 1

and published in the war years by the Royal Canadian Engineers. Using a giant as an example, the booklet teaches how to measure heights by the use of aerial photograph, the giants eyes

parallax 2

becoming the camera eye with pictures taken from different angles of the object to be measured.

parallax 3

Pictorial representation of transport, or nice pictures of ships, planes and trains

Amongst some recent donations to the Map Room have been some maps featuring planes. One appears on an Air Routes map by British European Airways. As well as the air routes and planes

air - Copy

BEA International Air Routes, 1954. C1 (1020)


extract from BEA map

the map also works as a tourist guide, showing areas of interest and local customs and peoples. The map goes as far south as North Africa and far enough east to include the Middle East, to continue the transport theme camel trains are featured

cara - Copy

extract from BEA map

The second image comes from a road map of Queensland from circa 1950, which evokes images of Tintin and dashing adventures.

quensland - Copy

[Extract from] Vacuum Road Map of Queensland, c1950. I3:20 (61)

More planes feature in this extract from a map of the travels of Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Second World War. The map plots the routes taken by Churchill to the various conferences and meetings between the leaders of the three great allied powers.

church 1


church 2

[Extracts from] Dunkirk to Berlin, June 1940 – July 1945. Journeys undertaken by the Rt. Honble. Winston S. Churchill, O.M., C.H., F.R.S., M.P., Prime Minister of Great Britain in defence of the British Commonwealth and Empire, 1947. B2 (101)

Early maps of railways sometimes included images of steam engines, we give two particularly good examples here

railway 2

Drake’s map of the Grand Junction Railway, 1839. (E)C17:5 (18)


Cheffin’s Map of the English and Scotch Railways (Facs), 1845. (E)C16 (359)

Ships feature heavily in maps of the country and any coastal county published before the coming of the railways, signifying the importance of Britain’s reliance on both trade and naval power.

ships 2

[Extract from] England and Wales…by John Rocque, in four sheets, c1761. Gough Maps England and Wales 34

shiops off isle of wight

[Extract from] Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by E. Bowen, 1767. Gough Maps Hampshire 5

plymouth ships

A geometrical plan…H.M.’s dockyard, nr. Plymouth, 1756. Gough Maps Devon 7

To show that road maps are no a modern invention this extract comes from a 1809 map showing stagecoach routes. There are a large number of stagecoach maps in the Bodleian collection, this is one of the few that actually has the mode of transport featured on the map itself


[Extract from] Bowles Road Director through England and Wales…, 1809. (E)C17 (115)

The final map featured shows a more serious scene. In an extract from a map published circa 1746 and showing events from the Jacobite Rising of 1745 two ships are engaged in battle at

ships 3a

[Extract from] Map showing routes of Prince Charles, c1746. Gough Maps British Isles 23.

close quarters off the South-West coast.


A list of selected accessions to the map collection in June 2015

Map of the ancient glaciers of Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. 1965. Published by the U.S. Geological Survey. F6:13 (191)

Topographic map of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. 1927. U.S. Geological Survey, F6:11 (62)

Map of Queensland showing annual rainfall to end of 1899. c1900. I3:20 (54)

Plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. 1892. Ordnance Survey. D26:20 Jerusalem (45)

Railway administration map of the railway system in the Russian Empire, showing the estimated maximum traffic capacity, based upon the actual traffic during the winter period of 1916-17, 1918. Ordnance Survey. With various insets showing junctions etc. C40 (434).

Mean annual rainfall of Australia…1887. Scottish Geographical magazine. I3 (327)

A diagrammatic map of part of the Tigre Province, Ethiopia, showing positions of rock-hewn churches, 1974. Manuscript map. (MS) E3:20 (22)

Map of the Klondike Goldfields, Yukon District, 1900. Geological Survey of Canada. F4:23 (31)

Brisbane River, Victoria Bridge to Fairway Light, 1902. Harbours and Rivers Department of Queensland. I3:50 Brisbane (15)