The contribution of geologists to the development of emergency groundwater supplies by the British army
During the 19th Century, the British military pioneered geological mapping and teaching, and the operational use of Norton tube wells. In the First World War, the British army appointed its first military hydrogeologist to serve as such, to develop water-supply maps for Belgium and northern France and guide deployment of Royal Engineer units drilling boreholes into the Cretaceous Chalk of the Somme region and Tertiary sands beneath the Flanders plain. Similar well-boring units were also deployed with geological guidance in the northeastern Mediterranean region. All military geologists were demobilized after hostilities ceased, but wartime experience was quickly drawn together in the first Royal Engineer textbook on water supply. During the Second World War, several British military well-drilling units were raised and deployed, notably to East Africa and North Africa as well as northern France, normally with military geological and sometimes (in Africa) with military geophysical technical direction. A reduced well-drilling capability has since been retained by the British army, through the Cold War to the present day, supported by a small group of reserve army geologists to contribute basic hydrogeological expertise to the armed forces for peace-time projects and war-related operations.