This collection of reproduction maps was created as part of the commemoration marking the end of World War One. It is estimated that over 33 million British maps of the Western Front alone were printed between 1914-18, the vast majority by Ordnance Survey. Starting from October 1914, large-scale maps were printed in Southampton. Aspects of production increasingly moved to France and Belgium during the War so that by mid-1916 there were five Field Survey Companies, one for each army using hand-operated lithographic presses near the front lines.
Trench maps used standard mapping as a backdrop, and overprinted it with information including trenches, hostile battery positions, targets, and defences. Until early 1918, German trenches were usually overprinted in red, with British or Allied trenches (where shown) in blue. Thereafter the colours were usually reversed for the remainder of the War with German trenches shown in blue to match the French trench map colour system. Most trench maps only show good detail for the German trenches, but generally only a rudimentary indication of the British Front Line, and were the standard maps used in the field.
There are four maps in this collection:
The Somme in 1:40 000 scale
Dated December 1916, this map shows the front line as it moved from July to November of that year. This scale shows less detail than the others, but gives a broad view of the battlefield, including the town of Albert and the villages of Manancourt, Bapaume and Puisieux.
Loivre in 1:20 000 scale (Sheet 76 SE)
Dated 20 April 1918, this map shows incredible detail of the German positions facing across the valley and the Canal de l'Aisne à la Marne. Heavy fortifications can be seen around Brimont, plus supply connections back to Bourgogne. While there is detailed topography on the western side, no details of the British trenches is shown. One interesting feature is a table for converting all the heights from metres to feet, as even at this point all the map heights were shown in metres.
Menin in 1:10 000 scale (Sheet 26 SE 2)
The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres was fought from July to November 1917. This map dated 27 December 1917 shows the twin towns of Menin (now in Belgium) and Halluin (now in France) 16km or so south-east of Ypres. It shows details of a complex German rail supply network connected to the original French railway system. You can also see several critical supply dumps and a training area behind the front line trenches. At 1:10 000 scale this is one of the more detailed maps, showing individual buildings.
Merville in 1:20 000 scale (Sheet 36A NE)
At the junction of three canals, Merville was a strategic supply route. This map dates from 19 June 1918; the town was captured recaptured by British forces on 19 August. This map shows considerable detail for both the German and British trench systems, including a number of named 'lines'. On this particular print the legend is only partially shown.
We have reproduced the maps exactly from the originals held by the National Library of Scotland. They include occasional pencil marks and other features where they have been annotated by hand.They are supplied rolled in a tube, and include a leaflet with information on mapping by Ordnance Survey during World War One. You can also ready more history and our WW1 blog archive.