Abstract

Between November 1943 and June 1946, at least 16 geologists assisted the Inter-Service Topographical Department (ISTD), a British military unit primarily of geographers, under Royal Navy auspices, to prepare reports and geotechnical maps to guide planning of Allied military operations. Reports assessing terrain factors were generated with geologist assistance for parts of Italy, France, Germany, Austria, the Low Countries and the Balkan region; also for Malaya, parts of Indonesia, Thailand, Indo-China, Formosa, Hainan, Hong Kong and the nearby Chinese mainland. The Geological Section ISTD, as it was officially designated from August 1944, based at Oxford, had an authorized establishment of four Royal Engineers officers (briefly assisted by a few US, Canadian and Dutch military personnel), but simultaneously involved up to 12 earth scientists or engineers by August 1945; it was the only team of British military geologists to be constituted (except in India) in either World War. Its work marks a significant if largely unknown phase in the development of engineering and hydrogeological terrain evaluation skills prior to the evolution of terrain analysis as a major discipline postwar, revealed by declassified reports now preserved in the UK within the National Archives and the Royal Geographical Society's library; maps at the British and the Bodleian libraries; and documents in the University of Birmingham's Lapworth Museum of Geology.

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