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Canals at War

Historical Canal Maps: NarrowBoat, Winter 2020

Richard Dean looks at wartime canal maps

With the threat of conflict looming, the Canal Joint Committee was tasked with ensuring the best use of inland waterways, and quickly issued a handbook in 1939 giving brief details of the English canals and the carriers operating on each. This was similar to the booklets that had proved useful in World War I. Sketch maps of the main waterway groups were included, and a revised and enlarged version appeared in 1945. Transport networks also attracted particular military attention, such as the series of detailed maps of all the navigations in the areas surrounding the Western Front, which Ordnance Survey had been directed to produce during WWI. In the years leading up to World War II, Adolf Hitler ordered a massive scaling-up of Germany’s military capacity as his plans for European domination developed. It had long been known that for success in war, accurate and up-to-date maps were essential and a huge programme of map production was put in hand, mainly taking and revising infor…

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