Battle of the Somme

July the 1st marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and with it the anniversary of the day of the greatest loss of life in British military history.

Trench maps made in preparation for the battle are shown here, as well as editions of sheets made during the battle itself, which lasted from July to mid-November. A trench map, especially one covering an area of heavy and prolonged fighting, gives a false impression of the land it portrays. Farms and woods shown on the maps would have been the ghosts of buildings and trees long since destroyed by bombardment, and only the heaviest of craters left after detonated mines would be shown, not the shell holes of no mans land.

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Apart from a few ‘secret’ maps which included both English and German trenches the majority of maps show only the German trench systems in detail. These maps show the incredible lengths that armies went to the defend ground and supply those in the front-line. German trenches have numerous support and communication trenches, fall-back positions and artillery areas and were of a higher standard than their English equivalent, many of which were but a short distance away.

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Beaumont, 57D S.E. 1 & 2 (parts of). War Office, 1916. These two trench maps are of the Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval areas, both scenes of intense fighting on and after the 1st of July. Comparing the two maps shows how little progress was made in the fighting. The first map has trenches corrected to 28-4-16, the second corrected to 30-7-16. C1 (3) [1490] and [1491].

As German attacks in 1914 and early 1915 came up against stiff opposition they were able to build strong defences behind their front-line, taking advantage of higher ground and then fall back into these positions. Dug-outs were constructed deep into the ground and trenches were lined to prevent flooding. These defences were able to withstand the withering artillery that the British rained down on the German front-line in the days leading up to July the 1st, and as troops went over the top at the given signal German troops were able to lay down a fire which proved fatal to the advancing troops, many of which were from Pals Battalions, formed from towns and cities, sometimes places of work, and fighting for the first time.  The enormous loss of life on the first day, nearly 20,000 killed and many more wounded, meant that many communities back in England shared in a collective grief.

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Detail of wire etc in no mans land, June 1916. Map showing trench systems in an area north of Ploegsteert Wood, Belguim. C1 (3) [269]

Trench map development mirrors that of the war. At the out-break of hostilities in 1914 British forces fought an enemy constantly on the move and so less-detailed mapping, French 1:80,000 and Belgian 1:100,000 sheets, were used. It was only when fighting became static with the introduction of trench warfare that more detailed, and more accurate mapping was necessary. These maps were designed for artillery, targets are highlighted in red circles while grids are incorporated into the maps so exact locations can be pinpointed both by Signallers and those manning the guns behind the lines.

The Bodleian has a large number of trench maps from the First World War. As well as maps by the British there are a small number of German and French maps as well as a large number of maps covering he Gallipoli campaign in both English and Turkish. Along with officially produced maps by the combatants cartographic departments, newspapers and commercial map publishers produced maps for the home market.

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The front page of the Pall Mall Gazette for the 1st of July. N. 2288 b.4

Maps for the Battle of the Somme, 1st July, 1916

In preparation for showing maps here of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st of July 1916, we post a map from the Bodleian’s extensive trench map collection showing the front-line on the Western Front on the 27th of June 1916, 100 years ago today.

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In a conference between the British and French in December 1915 it was decided to launch joint attacks by French, British and Russian forces against the Central Powers at some stage in 1916. With the attack by German forces on the French forts at Verdun in February 1916 pressure was put on the British to relieve the embattled French troops, and General Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Army in France, reluctantly agreed on a launch date of July the 1st, aware that the majority of his troops were under-prepared and most hadn’t seen action yet.

This map, sheet 4 of North West Europe, is published by the cartographic department at the War Office, the Geographical Section, General Staff, and is a revised reprint of a 1915 map. The scale is 1:250,000, detailed enough to show villages, towns and rivers but not enough to show the details needed for artillery and infantry operations. More detailed mapping at 1:10,000, 1:20,000 and 1:40,000 were produced in their thousands up to the end of the war.

This extract from the map shows the main area of British attacks on the 1st of July, and includes names that were soon to become famous for the fighting that was soon to take place over the often battered and ruined remains  of villages and farms; Beaumnot Hamel, Mametz, Thiepval and Longueval amongst so many others. We will feature maps over the next couple of months that show the progress made by British forces over this area.

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North West Europe, sheet 4. Geographical Section, General Staff No. 2733. War Office 1915, revised 1916. C1 (3) [2567].

Douce portolans

An atlas from the Douce collection is in the map office at the moment, for a show and tell. A non-descript conservation grey box protects a beautiful manuscript portolan atlas inside. Dating from approximately the second half of the sixteenth century this is a set of 8 maps covering the Eastern oceans on vellum.

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This image shows the islands of Indonesia and the Philippines and the coastlines of India and China and is richly decorated both in cartographic detail and local features. The map covering Africa shows the animals to be found on the continent, including the elephant

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Portolan charts date from the mid to late thirteenth century and continued in use until printed navigation charts, including those published in great numbers by the Hydrographer to the Navy and held by the in the map collection at the Bodleian, replaced them. Often stitched onto cloth and rolled up these charts were used by navigators at sea. Rhumb lines radiate out from compass points allowing for readings to be taken and courses plotted.

This atlas is but one of the 19,000 items donated to the Library by the antiquary Francis Douce.

MS Douce 391. Circa 2nd half 16th century.

Stories 1 – The War of the Worlds

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These extracts come from the War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. Set in real locations in and around Woking and London Ordnance Survey and other maps are used to show the locations of parts of the book.

‘No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world. It must be…older than our world; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its course…Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that it is not only more distant from life’s beginning but nearer its end…’

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The journeys of the inner planets around the Sun, taken from The Solar System, A1 (38)

‘That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet…’

‘Then came the night of the first falling star…By very early in the morning poor Ogilvy, who had seen the shooting star, and who was persuaded that a meteorite lay somewhere on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and Woking…’

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The 6″ sheet, Surrey XVI N.W., by the Ordnance Survey, dated 1920. This is the western part of Horsell Common.  The map is sufficiently detailed to show the different types of trees planted. The pine-woods into which the second cylinder fell would be similar to Coxhill Green.

‘A few seconds after midnight a crowd in the Chertsey road, Woking, saw a star fall from heaven into the pine-woods to the north-west. It had a greenish colour and caused a silent brightness like summer lightning. This was the second cylinder’.

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The eastern half of Horsell Common, from Surrey XVII N.W., dated 1920. On this map places in the text; the Chertsey Road leading north out of Woking, the Common itself and the Oriental College can be seen.

‘About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the summer-house …I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately after a gust of firing. Close on the heels of that came a violent, rattling crash quite close to us, that shook the ground; and, starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about the Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the little church beside it slide down into ruin. The pinnacle of the mosque had vanished, and the roofline of the college itself looked as if a hundred-ton gun had worked upon it. One of our chimneys cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came clattering down the tiles…my wife and I stood amazed. Then I realized that the crest of Maybury Hill must be within range of the Martians’ Heat-Ray now the college was cleared out of the way’.

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The Oriental College, with mosque and church with Maybury to the south, from sheet Surrey XVII.5 of the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 County Series, 1914.

These extracts come from the War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. First published in 1898 after appearing in magazine form a year earlier it is generally regarded as one of the first books of alien invasion.

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The title and first pages from the first edition of the book, published in 1898 by William Heinmann, Walpole e.746.

War of the Worlds was first published in serial form in Pearson’s magazine in 1897

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Pearson’s Magazine, 1897. Per 2705 d.69

 

The open road

A mixture of post-war affluence and cheap oil meant that by the mid-1950s the majority of American families owned their own car. Oil companies such as Esso, Shell and Associated Oil produced free highway maps with covers that portrayed an idyllic way of life made possible by the motor car, selling the dream of the open road to those mobile enough to seek it out. These images come from maps produced between 1950 and 1965.

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Fortifications

Renaissance fortifications map well. Clear lines, often in a symmetrical pattern, stand-out amongst any other topographic detail on display. Such beauty of design has come down to us at a cost of necessity though. Plans were born out of the need to counter the threat from a new type of warfare as cannon balls wrecked havoc on the old castle walls.

The radical design change from castle to fort came about in fifteenth century Italy, when French troops involved in the Great Italian Wars used cannon against castles. When older fortifications crumbled against the onslaught Italian engineers, including Michelangelo in Florence, designed new fortifications which soon became the standard across Europe. The sharp angles and triangular bastions of the new design deflected incoming artillery, and gave the new structures their name, Star Forts. With their angled walls and triangular bastions star forts also had the additional benefit of funnelling attacking troops into narrow spaces where enfilading fire rained down on them from within the fort. With these angled walls there was now no longer any place in which defending troops couldn’t direct fire.

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Freiburg, in South West Germany, a classic example of a star fort incorporating water from the Dreisam river in its defences. Image from ‘Graphische Beilagen zum…des werkes feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen. C1 a.7

With the new design of the star fort architects and engineers no longer needed to make the best of the landscape. Previously hills were used to build castles on, the steep slopes were hard to attack and with the only weapon available before the cannon  being the arrow shot from a bow the high walls and steep sides made defence easy. Now forts could be placed anywhere, making good use of the commerce and transport that rivers brought. Cities soon grew in and alongside the forts.

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Image of a canon called a Bombenmorser and bomb from Graphische Beilagen zum

One of the main elements to the new design was the use of low walls, giving less of an area for cannon balls to strike. Earthen banks were thrown up in front of the walls to deaden the impact of artillery but this would have, in theory, made it easier for troops to break into the fort. To counteract this ditches were dug in front of the banks, creating a steep slope and thus slowing down any advance. In the picture below, of Graz in Austria shows the ditches and banks used in the construction of a fort (image from Graphische Beilagen…). 

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Another example of a star fort is that of Neuhausel, originally in the Hungarian Empire but now in Slovakia and named Nove Zamky. The fort was originally built to defend the city against the troops of the Ottoman Empire. This picture, again from the Graphische Beilagen…, shows the fort under bombardment

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This radical new approach to the construction of defences was supported by a growth in literature about the design of the fortifications. Focusing on the geometry of the design, the engineering of the construction and the military benefits of attack and defence the publications were one of the many sciences which blossomed at the time of the Renaissance. The next two images come from Les Travaux de Mars ou l’art de Guerre’, by Allain Manesson Mallet, published in France in 1696. The first shows the different designs now available to the military engineer, and interestingly compares modern to ancient fortifications. The second is a lesson in geometry, with a timely reminder underneath of what all this abstract paper work leads to.

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This image come from Introduction a’ la Fortification, by Nicolas de Fer in Paris in 1690, again showing designs of fortifications.

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To finish, this beautiful map of Portsmouth, a long established naval port, from circa 1716,

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The ichnography of Portsmouth, c.1716. Gough Maps Hampshire 10

Ichnography is another term for a ground plan. The map is a very good example of a coastal plan of the time, featuring a compass rose and naval scene, and to add to this blog, particularly fine defensive walls.

 

Aerodromes

While replacing some Ordnance Survey sheets in drawers in the storage area of the Weston Library recently map staff were intrigued by a feature on the map at the top of the pile. The map,  Anglesey XVIII.1 from the third edition 1:2,500 series dated 1920, is of part of rural Anglesey, which made the appearance of an Aerodrome in the middle of a field stand out.

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Reading about war-time Anglesey soon gave an answer to the mystery. Llangefni Royal Naval Airship Station was built in 1915 in response to the heavy losses caused by U-boats attacking shipping in the Irish Sea. As well as the airship shed shown on the map other buildings included accommodation for crew, workshops and gas holders. These buildings were presumably taken down at the end of the war. 100 years after the opening of the aerodrome the site is still in use by the RAF.

Llangefni originally had 4 Sea Scout airships, the type designated for patrolling coastal waters, going as far across as Dublin and as far north as Morecombe Bay. Despite getting more advanced airships during 1917 the sinking of shipping by U-boats continued into 1918, with attendant loss of life and cargo. It was only during the summer of 1918 that the U-boat threat eased, as more airships and aeroplanes were added to the existing deployment at Llangefni and other aerodromes came into use.

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Extract from ‘The Submarine Blockade, supplement to the National Review, April, 1917′, showing the area of U-boat range.                                                                                                                              C1 (996)

The 25 inch to a mile (1:2,500) mapping carried out by the Ordnance Survey towards the end of the 1800s is one of the treasures of the map collection at the Bodleian. A detailed coverage of the countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in a number of editions going up to the time of the Second World War the maps are crucial documents to a changing landscape at a time of great growth of towns and cities. The example shown here is from the 3rd edition. In this case there were no more maps produced for the area at this scale until the 1970s, a common occurrence for rural areas.

Anglesey XVIII.1, 3rd ed 1:2,500. Ordnance Survey, 1920.

A battle plan from the Second Opium War

Sketch illustrating the action fought on the 18th of September 1860… is an example of a type of map called a Battle Plan. Created by historians to illustrate books on campaigns these types of map have also been used for educational purposes or for items for sale to the general public. The Bodleian holds in its collection a large number of such plans; the Napoleonic wars, the American Civil War and numerous colonial conflicts in Africa are just a few examples available to consult. This plan is of the  battle of Chang-Chia-Wan, fought between French and British forces and the Chinese between 1857 and 1860 during the Second Opium War over trade restrictions, hostility to British settlers and the selling of opium in the West.

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Divisions are indicated by the rectangular blocks and troop and cavalry movements shown by lines of advance. The use of the rectangular box to indicate units of troops is a long established practise which continued up to and past the Second World War, the main difference between the old and the new being that divisions got bigger as the areas of conflict grew, and maps as detailed as this, which has a scale of 2 inches to a mile, become less relevant as whole fronts are depicted.

Judging by the marble design on the verso of the map and the tag (not shown) at the top of the map this is most probably a fold-out from a book. Single sheet maps from the time don’t usually have the elaborate marble pattern on the back that this one has.

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Marbling is created when paints are floated onto a gum solution and then swirled into patterns, paper is then laid on top of the pattern which is transferred on to the paper and then dried.

It is interesting to note that the map is lithographed by Col. Sir Henry James, Director-General of the Ordnance Survey. A second map from the Opium Wars shows the situation between the 1st and 21st of August and the taking of the Taku forts (D5:17 (30)).

Sketch illustrating the action fought on the 18th of September, 1860 by the allied armies in China taken from the road survey made by Lieut: Colonel Wolseley, D.A.Q.M.G. and Lieut: Harrison, Rl. Engineers [1861]. D5:17 (29)

 

Carte de pilotage du Danube

Rising in the Black Forest region of Germany the Danube flows a curving 1770 miles through Central and Eastern Europe before reaching the Black Sea. As well as an important shipping route the river forms part of the national borders of seven European countries.

The first Commission to aid navigation and control safe and clear passage of the river was created during the Congress of Paris in 1856, following the end of the Crimea War. This was replaced by an International Commission during the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 which lasted until the outbreak of World War Two. Following German defeat in 1945 a new Commission was created, and it is this Commission that has produced a series of books of maps covering the course of the river as an aid to navigation.

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With a mixture of Russian and French text and German mapping the book shown here covers the river from Regensburg – the furthest upstream navigable by large craft – to Kachlet, in the Bavaria region of Germany. The cover gives no hint to the wonders within. A long and continuous strip map follows the river at a scale of 1:10,000 and provides information on, amongst others; bridges, ferry crossings and power cables. The red numbers in boxes show the kilometres remaining to the sea.

IMG_0261This photograph gives some indication of the length of the map folded within the book (the amount show here is approximately 2/3rds of the map) and gives an idea of the intricacy of the way in which the map has been created to show the curves and flow of the river. Special folds

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and additional sections have been added to create a practical as well as an impressive work.

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Carte de Pilotage de Danube, du Port de Regensburg (km 2379) A l’Ecluse Kachlet (km 2230.5), (1958). Published by the Commission du Danube. C22:11 c.8

The view from Mont Blanc

At 628 centimetres this view from the summit of Mont Blanc is, after the Sheldon Tapestry, the longest map held in the Bodleian collection.

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This panoramic view has been created by joining together the 13 sheets and title page from a collection of views of, and from, Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps, and forms part of the border between Italy and France. Part of the view includes the tracks to the summit made by the illustrator, Paul Helbronner, a major figure in the cartography of the French Alps.

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Panoramic views are a popular way of showing mountains on maps, and give a better idea of height than the usual use of contours, hachures or shading found on normal topographic maps. Another example can be seen in an earlier blog post (http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/2014/05/)

oblongFeatured in this photograph is the MacKerras Reading Room, on the 1st floor of the Weston Library. This is the Music Reading Room, and has books on music, composers and scores on the shelves.  The MacKerras is part of the Special Collections group of rooms and, along with the Rare Books Reading Room is where manuscripts, modern papers and rare material, as well as music books, are consulted.

Tour d’horizon complet du sommet du Mont Blanc (4807m), from Description géométrique détaillée des Alpes Français, published in Paris in 1921. 20485 a.8