Greenwich, UK, 2000

(Conference summary reproduced with permission; original text published in: Häusler, H. 2009. Report on National and International Military Geo-Conferences held from 1994 to 2007, MILGEO, Nr. 30E, Austrian Ministry of Defence and Sports).

In January 2000 the fourth conference was organised by the Greenwich University in association with the Imperial War Museum, London and the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham. This conference brought together historians, geologists, military enthusiasts and terrain analysists from military, academic and amateur backgrounds with the aim of exploring the application of modern tools of landscape visualisation to understanding historical battlefields (DOYLE & BENNETT, 2002). The abstract volume contained thirty-four contributions from which twenty were published as volume 64 in the “GeoJournal Library” by Kluwer Academic Publishers. Their contributions are listed in Table 1.

The editors considered five aspects in the tactical assessment of terrain:

  • Position is everything in a battle
  • Mobility requires an understanding of the ground conditions
  • Consideration of ground conditions requires an assessment of the geology and the ability of soldiers to dig into it, to create permanent emplacements, defensive positions, and airfields.
  • Resource provision such as agriculture, aggregates or water supply
  • Hazard mitigation: natural hazards such as excessive rainfalls can cause difficulties
Cover of the proceedings of the fourth conference on “Fields of Battle”, held in Greenwich 2000 (DOYLE & BENNETT, 2002). Twenty-six authors published thirteen papers.

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the physical geographer or the military tactician defines terrain as a tract of land. Military considerations are therefore at heart of any definition or exploration of terrain, and it is therefore unsurprising that most of the methods of terrain evaluation are born from military needs. As a concept terrain is, therefore, something that encompasses both the physical aspects of the earth’s surface, as well as the human interaction with them (DOYLE & BENNETT, 2002 b, p. 1).

GeoJournal is an international journal on human geography and environmental issues. It focuses on the links between the transformation of modern society, technological development and environmental change, as interpreted by human geography and related sciences. The sphere of interest of the journal encompasses all relevant processes reshaping human activity patterns in different parts of the world, the methods of their analysis and the forms of application of geographical knowledge in planning and forecasting.

Table 1 – Papers

Author Title Subject
BADSEY Terrain as a factor in the Battle of Normandy 1944. Geography, WWII
BLAKE Airfield country: terrain, land use and the air defence of Britain. Geography, WWII
BOSTYN British underground war in Flanders, 1915-1917. Engineers, WWI, technical
CASTELL & FALCÓ Battle of the Ebro or battlefields as a didactic resource. Geography, WWI, didactics
CASTELL & ROURA The Thirty-Years War: Europe, a dark and bloody ground, 1914-1945: The contribution of battlefields to the creation of a European cultural identity. Geography, WWI, didactics
CATHERS ‘Markings on the Land’ and early medieval warfare in the British
Geography, battle site
CHASSEAUD British, French and German mapping on the Western Front in the First World War Geodetic survey, WWI
CICIARELLI The geology of the Battle of Monte Cassino, Italy, 1944. Geology, WWII
DOYLE & BENNETT Terrain in Military History: an introduction. Terrain, military history
DOYLE & BENNETT Terrain and the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915. Geology, WWI
EHLEN & ABRAHART Effective use of terrain in the American Civil War: The battle of
Fredericksburg, December 1862.
Geography, terrain
EVANS Maps and decisions: Buller south and north of the Tugela., 1899-1900 Topography
HALSALL The geology of battle in Southern England during the First Civil War, 1643-1644. Geology, historic
HALSALL Geology and warfare in England and Wales 1450-1660. Geology, historic
KIMBLE &  O´SULLIVAN Terrain and guerrilla warfare in Navarre, 1808-1814. Topography, historic
PITTMAN Tullahoma: Terrain and tactics in the American Civil War. Geography, tactics
POLLARD An archaeological approach to the landscape of the Anglo-Zulu War,
ROSE, GINNS & RENOUF Fortification of island terrain: Second World War German military
engineering on the Channel Island of Jersey.
Geology, WWII
THOMPSON Road engineering, transportation and movement during the third battle of Ypres 1917. Logistics, WWII
UNDERWOOD & GIEGENGACK  The Long-Range Desert Group 1940-1943. Tactics, WWII