Crouching enemy, hidden ally: the decisive role of groundwater discharge features in two major British battles, Flodden 1513 and Prestonpans 1745
Paul L. Younger, 2012. "Crouching enemy, hidden ally: the decisive role of groundwater discharge features in two major British battles, Flodden 1513 and Prestonpans 1745", Military Aspects of Hydrogeology, E. P. F. Rose, J. D. Mather
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Geomorphological features associated with groundwater discharge zones can affect ground conditions so greatly that they determine the outcomes of battles. Two cases in point are found in Scottish history: (i) despite outnumbering their English foes, the Scots lost the Battle of Flodden Field (9 September 1513), largely due to failing to identify the presence of marshy ground associated with an area of groundwater discharge; (ii) on 21 September 1745, the Jacobites defeated the Hanoverian army at Prestonpans by finding a way around marshland corresponding to a regional groundwater discharge zone, upon which the Hanoverian commander had been relying as a natural defensive feature. Analysis of both battlefields drawing upon present-day understanding of local stratigraphy and hydrogeological conditions allows identification of the specific groundwater discharge patterns that largely determined the outcomes of these two emblematic battles. At Flodden, the proximal source of groundwater discharge is Quaternary outwash gravels, distally fed from sedimentary strata (Cementstones) of lowermost Dinantian age. In the case of Prestonpans, the groundwater emerges from particularly arenaceous coal-bearing strata of Namurian age. Both case studies suggest that military commanders selecting advantageous terrain could benefit from consulting hydrogeologists who are familiar with the intricacies of groundwater geomorphology.
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This book, generated under the auspices of the Geological Society of London’s History of Geology and Hydrogeological Groups, contains 20 papers from authors in the UK, USA, Germany and Austria. Historically, it gives examples of the influence of groundwater on battlefield tactics and fortress construction; describes how groundwater was developed for water supply and overcome as an obstacle to military engineering and cross-country vehicular movement by both sides in World Wars I and II; and culminates with examples of the application of hydrogeology to site boreholes in recent conflicts, notably in Afghanistan. Examples of current research described include hydrological model development; the impact of variations in soil moisture on explosive threat detection and cross-country vehicle mobility; contamination arising from defence sites and its remediation; privatization of water supplies; and the equitable allocation of resources derived from an international transboundary aquifer.