A series of seven British maps, this first dating from February 1916, showing the known, or believed, distribution of German forces facing the Allies on the Western Front.
These first maps cover the area of our recent Battle of the Lys tour, this one showing the Armentières-Laventie sector in February 1917,…
…and this equivalent map from the next month, March 1917, showing that little has changed, although if you look carefully, the presence of 7th Bavarian Regiment, questionable in February, has now been confirmed.
The information on all these maps was gained from German corpses, much searching of the newly-dead taking place in No Man’s Land after dark, and from captured documents or prisoners taken during trench raids, the source and date of each piece of intelligence annotated to the left of the front line on this particular map from September 1917. Occasionally, men from both sides would attempt to cross No Man’s Land to end their war by giving themselves up to the enemy, although early in the fighting this might not have been the most sensible option. In January 1915, south of Ypres, ‘A young German, 18 to 19 years of age, came across to the Wilts line the other day, quite unharmed. He asked for bread, and wanted to give himself up. The men let him come within 20 yards and then riddled him with bullets’*. He might, perhaps, have had a better chance later in the war, when the value of intelligence gained from such men was perhaps better understood by the soldiers in the front line.
*The Burgoyne Diaries.
January 1918, and a map showing German dispositions along the whole of the Western Front, from the English Channel to Switzerland.
The sector south of Armentières once again, this time on a map dated May 1918, after the Battle of the Lys, with the German gains from April clear to see (Armentières now in the top right corner). Apart from a couple of question marks, Allied intelligence still seems to be operating well enough, despite the near-disasters of the previous month.
And a last map, dated 11th November 1918, marked with the final line reached by the Allies between the Dutch border north of Ghent at the top, and Tournai, near the French border (bottom left), and the German forces still facing them. Of the seventeen full German divisions marked along the front line, only five are deemed, by the British, to be ‘moderately fresh’, the others all annotated as ‘exhausted divisions’.