By Captain C B Henderson
The Regiment has served around the globe and the Museum has a large collection of maps covering many campaigns and tours of duty. These range from the hand-drawn map of current day Belgium and northern France, carried by Lieutenant Archibald Campbell of the 91st Highlanders during the Napoleonic campaign of 1815, which is on display in the Museum, to a modern military map of Afghanistan used by members of the 51st Highland Regiment in 2005.
There are few remaining examples, however, of the maps used by soldiers in the course of day to day operations. This is perhaps not surprising. Paper does not easily withstand the rigours of extreme conditions and documents with militarily sensitive information would be destroyed. In most cases, maps used on the ground have simply not survived.
Cartography was well advanced by the early 19th century and many of the locations covered by maps in the Museum’s collection are instantly recognisable today. The Museum’s maps of earlier campaigns are much larger in scale compared to what the modern soldier would find useful. The map belonging to Captain F W Burroughs of the 93rd, of the Crimea and showing the position of the rival armies in June 1855 was 1:350,000 in scale (or 1 inch to approximately 5.5 miles).
Many of the sketches and plans of battles that exist were drawn up after the event for historical record. An example of this is the sketch by Ensign G Forbes-Robertson, 93rd Highlanders, of the engagement on 1st November 1857, at the village of Kudjwa, in the course of the Indian Mutiny, reproduced in the Records of the XCIII Sutherland Highlanders.
The Museum has many examples of the sophisticated military mapping which developed throughout the course of the First World War. Trench systems were represented in detail, the mapmakers being much aided by the progress in aerial photography. Maps used by the infantry tended to be 1:10,000 in scale (very close to 6 inches to the mile) and by early 1916 were extremely accurate, showing the German defences in a wealth of detail. Poorer quality productions would be made, though the base detail had been traced, for use by the soldiers in the trenches. Until late in the war, the British trench systems were shown in blue, the enemy trenches in red. (In 1918 the French approach was adopted, which was the opposite).
An outstanding example of a home-made trench map is the beautifully drawn sketch by Captain J L Irvine of the 2nd Battalion dated 30th April 1915. This shows a wealth of detail of a trench held by No 1 Company south of Burnt Farm at La Vesee on the Western Front, which had been constructed by the 2nd Battalion and 1st Middlesex between January and July 1915. The scale used was 48 inches to the mile.
On display from World War II is the map of the action at Longstop Hill (Djebel el Ahmera), North Africa, on 23rd April 1943, where Major J T McK Anderson won the Victoria Cross.
Another important map in the Museum’s archive is the original map used by the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Ian Stewart, for the operation of the crossing of the causeway for the battle of Singapore in January 1942. It, together with other maps, was taken out of Singapore and sent to the Colonel of the Regiment. The wax pencil markings remain to this day.
An unusual map from World War II is a double sided, rubberised cloth map of Europe, issued to 2nd Lieutenant H Scott as part of his escape aids. This map would have been stitched inside an escaper’s clothing. The button compass and other items are on display.
Also in the Museum archives are numerous maps post-1945. These include Borneo, a detailed town plan of the Crater district in Aden, the Hong Kong-China border from 1979 and, more recently, West Belfast. Many readers will be familiar with the green and orange areas marked on the latter street map, reflecting the city’s religious divide and the location of numerous RUC stations.
The Museum’s collection of campaign maps is an important part of the Regimental archive and adds an extra dimension to the study of our history.