Aspects of German military geology and groundwater development in World War II
A uniformed geological organization was re-created within the German Army by the start of World War II and developed to comprise 40 centres or teams by 1943. Many specialist geotechnical maps and reports prepared by these military geologists have survived the war as part of the Heringen Collection; some remains in the USA, but other parts are in Germany, notably within the archives of the Bundeswehr Geoinformation Office. German armed forces made use of about 400 geologists in total during the conflict, mostly in the Army. Many of their tasks involved groundwater studies, some including the preparation of groundwater prospect maps. Temporary water supplies were set up during mobile campaigns by planning efficient use or enhancement of existing civilian resources, supplemented by driving shallow ‘Abyssinian’ tube wells, for example, in Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of SE England planned for September 1940 but ultimately cancelled. Sustainable long-term supplies in militarily occupied territory were achieved by rigorous data collection and programmes of well drilling, spring capture or percolation gallery construction, one example being on the Channel Islands between 1940 and 1945. Geophysics sometimes aided the geological and borehole studies that guided deployment of well-drilling teams, for example, in 1941/1942, to support German and Italian forces operational in North Africa.
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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.