Maps Exhibition Development – Part 3: Military Maps

Humber Museums Partnership - Maps Exhibition Development – Part 3: Military Maps

About the project

Planning is continuing for our next temporary exhibition at North Lincolnshire Museum. The exhibition will display maps from the museum’s collection and show the different ways maps have been used and created.

Following on from my previous blogs this blog will focus on the category of military maps.

Military history is intertwined with mapping. Geographical knowledge is vital to military success and controlling this knowledge is an important tool in defence.

The creation and longevity of the Ordnance Survey in Britain is rooted in the military. The Jacobite Rising of 1745 in Scotland prompted the military survey of Scotland. In addition, the threat from France created a need to prepare to defend the south coast. Before these first surveys, maps lacked the detail needed for planning military manoeuvres. This was the start of the Ordnance Survey as military organisation. Although other uses for mapping became increasingly important the Ordnance Survey didn’t become an entirely civilian organisation until 1983.

First World War trench map that belonged to Leonard Took.

RAF war issue map. Marked on is the flight path from USAAF supply base at Burtonwood to their training base at Goxhill.

As well as being an important tool for planning military campaigns, controlling map data is a key part of defence. By preventing an enemy from gaining geographic information you are preventing them from gaining an advantage. For example, during the Second World War street signs were removed so any invading force would struggle to find their way. Equally, sensitive information is often omitted from maps during wartime. Even during peace time, top secret locations do not appear on publicly available maps.

Exhibition planning continues, so check back here for updates.