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Military Aspects of Geology: Fortification, Excavation and Terrain Evaluation

Rose Military GeologyThis Special Publication is a companion volume to the Society’s Special Publication 362 ‘Military Aspects of Hydrogeology’ published in 2012. Both publications were generated under the auspices of the Society’s History of Geology Group and the Hydrogeological Group (SP 362) and the Engineering Group (this volume). The papers of this volume were derived from a joint meeting between the two groups, held at Burlington House in November 2016.

There are fifteen papers from authors in the UK, USA, Germany and Austria. They cover a diverse range of topics from third century Roman forts in South East England and coastal defence forts in nineteenth century USA, through aspects of geological influence in both World Wars, to the Islamic State’s use of tunnelling in northern Iraq as recently as 2017.

The first paper is a historical overview by the three editors and forms an excellent introduction to the military use of geology and geologists. This overview covers topics including Napoleon taking geologists on his military expedition to North Africa as early as 1798; the use of geologists in the military in the nineteenth century in Europe; both World Wars, focussing on British, American and German geologists; the Cold War period; and tunnelling in Mosul. This paper, along with many of the others, is very well illustrated with photographs and maps, many of which are in colour. The other chapters are gathered into three sections, which are Coastal Fortification, Excavation and Terrain Analysis.

As one might expect, several papers are devoted to the use of geology and the geologists involved in both World Wars, with topics ranging from the German Northern Atlantic Wall in Norway, to tunnelling and trench construction on both the Western and Eastern Fronts in World War 1. Two comprehensive papers on the Quarrying Companies of The Royal Engineers in both World Wars are well illustrated in colour and black and white, and give a good overview of the operations and personnel involved, as well as the extent of their activities.

If you are only to read one other chapter after the editors’ exceptional overview, I would recommend Bulmer’s ‘Geological considerations of contemporary military tunnelling near Mosul, northern Iraq.’ Although I work in a Military Environment, the level of sophistication and equipment used was an eye opener for me and I expect it might be for many others also.

This volume will appeal to geologists, military historians and military personnel and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Richard Porter


MILITARY ASPECTS OF GEOLOGY: FORTIFICATION, EXCAVATION AND TERRAIN EVALUATION, by E.P.F. Rose, J. Ehlen & U.L. Lawrence (eds) 2019. Geological Society of London SP 473, 314 pp. (hbk.) ISBN: 978-1-78620-394-6 List price: £ 110.00 Fellow's price: £ 55.00 W: https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/SP473