Groundwater as a military resource: pioneering British military well boring and hydrogeology in World War I
Edward P. F. Rose, 2012. "Groundwater as a military resource: pioneering British military well boring and hydrogeology in World War I", Military Aspects of Hydrogeology, E. P. F. Rose, J. D. Mather
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The first British Army hydrogeologist to be deployed as such on a battlefield was Lieutenant W.B.R. King, in June 1915 on the Western Front. There, the British Expeditionary Force, in Belgium and northern France, expanded at its peak to five armies: 1.5 million men and 0.5 million horses/mules, each man/animal requiring on average 10 gallons (45 l) per day of potable water. A ‘Water Boring Section Royal Engineers’ was eventually raised for each army, equipped with American-made ‘portable’ drilling rigs, and utilizing air-lift pumps. These innovations and King's pioneering ‘water supply’ maps facilitated the development of the British Army's first operational ability to exploit groundwater from deep aquifers, primarily those in Cretaceous Chalk, by drilling >470 boreholes. Additionally, in 1915, a report by three ‘British’ Geological Survey officers helped guide limited boring within Allied amphibious landing areas on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. A civilian water adviser, Arthur Beeby Thompson, transferred from Gallipoli to the Balkans in January 1916 and thereafter used geology to guide significant groundwater abstraction by siting 125 military boreholes and 211 Norton tube wells. From 1915, the Director of the Geological Survey of Egypt, W.F. Hume, provided similar guidance for campaigns from Egypt into Palestine.
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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.