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The German Army developed a military geological organization during World War I largely as a response to near-static battlefield conditions on the Western Front, in Belgium and northern France. In 1916 it was assigned to support military survey, but in late 1918 it was reassigned to the engineer branch of the Army. It contained over 350 geologists and associated technicians by the end of the war. Military geologists contributed advice on engineering geology and hydrogeology (principally on water supply, but also site drainage). They compiled a large number and wide range of groundwater prospect maps to guide military planning, at scales typically from 1:250 000 to 1:25 000. They contributed advice to guide effective use of groundwater by means of dug or bored wells, ‘Abyssinian’ driven tube wells, and protected capturing of springs. Field hygiene was of particular concern, and military geologists helped to avoid contamination of groundwater, for example by appropriate siting of cess-pits and cemeteries. A few officers made use of dowsing in attempts to locate groundwater, including at least one German in support of Ottoman Turk campaigns SW from Palestine towards the British-held Suez Canal, their Austro-Hungarian allies in campaigns south against Italy and in the Balkans, but with relatively insignificant success.

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