WWI Trench Maps & Aerial Photographs

Trench Map Collection Provenance

Beginning in the early 1970s, McMaster University Library made several large purchases of books and related material from British booksellers like Bertram Rota. Amongst the items purchased were several hundred World War I maps and aerial photographs. Over the following decades donations, both small and large, were added to this original core of a collection resulting in a total of approximately 460 maps and 580 photos by the time this website was first launched in 2003.
In 2009, with financial assistance from the Canadian Heritage Ministry, McMaster University Library acquired the private collection of the world's foremost expert on WWI cartography, Dr. Peter Chasseaud of Lewes, Sussex, England. It was believed to be the largest and most comprehensive collection in private hands numbering almost 900 maps. This accrual brought McMaster's total to nearly 1,500 making it the largest collection in Canada (excluding Archives Canada) and the largest, online collection in the world.

Trench Map Collection Content

Most of the maps were produced by the British Ordnance Survey for the Allied forces, although a few German, French and other maps purchased privately by officers exist within the collection.
Map Scale:
They range in scale from very detailed operations maps used for trench raids to very broad overview maps used to show the entire front.
The majority of the collection is made up of 1:10,000 scale "trench maps ", 1:20,000 scale "artillery maps", and 1:40,000 scale "officer's planning maps".
Temporal Coverage:
The bulk of the collection is from the latter part of the war in the years 1917 and 1918 when map production had increased dramatically. Many are of the Canadian sector of the front during the so-called "Last Hundred Days" of the war (August 1918 - November 1918).
Geographic Coverage:
As the collection is almost exclusively made up of British mapping, coverage is limited to the British sector of the Western Front extending from the English Channel in the north to the vicinity of Reims in the south.

Contact: mapref@mcmaster.ca