A paper by Professor Peter Doyle (London South Bank University) as part of the Gateways to the First World War and In Flanders Fields Museum joint First World War Seminar Series.
The Great War. As the trench lines snaked across Europe they cut through varied terrain. Every aspect of the ground conditions had a material effect on the war, from the health and well-being of the men, the ability of the trenches to protect their occupants and stop attacks, and the capability of the trenches to aid in the assault. With the enduring imagery of the war presenting men mired in seemingly bottomless mud, facing hills, ridges and high ground to be taken at all cost, the significance of geology to its outcome was stark. To assist in this war, military engineers enlisted geologists – who helped drain the trenches, to map out and combat the diversity of unsuitable ground, design and build dug-outs and pill-boxes; supply water and other resources; and to improve the lot of the frontline soldier. Not surprisingly, geology had a significant role in this defensive war; but arguably it had an even greater one in planning the offence, influencing the effects of artillery fire, naturally, but also in providing a means of undermining the enemy, of controlling the flow of poisonous gas, or in permitting the use of tanks.This talk examines the significance of geology to, and the role of geologists in, the Great War. Using examples from the author’s new book Disputed Earth (Uniform Press, 2017) it takes examples of the significance of the science to the outcome of the war in British sector in Flanders and northern France.
Research Centre, Reading Room, In Flanders Fields Museum, Sint-Maartensplein 3, 8900 Ieper. Free and open to all.