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Rare Quarter-Inch Maps

64. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) map of (northern) Ireland composite with military grid (CCSA 218B/42/1)
65. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) map of (central) Ireland composite with military grid (CCSA 218B/42/2)
66. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) map of Ireland sheet 14 with military grid (CCSA 218B/44/1)

In about 1930, Captain James Flynn and Lieut Hugh O’Neill, members of the Topographical Section, General Staff of the Irish Republic, prepared a 'Memorandum on the steps involved in the production of a 1:20,000 map of Ireland from the existing large-scale Ordnance Survey plans'. The result was a map laid out in 513 sheets. Of these only six were published, four in 1934-5 and these four again, together with two more, in 1939-40 in a revised specification. The origin of the map was at 53°30' N, 8° W, the same as that in use on Ordnance Survey national maps of Ireland. A new metric grid was adopted, calculated from a false origin 189,000 metres west and 234,000 metres south of the true origin. It was overprinted in red at 1 km intervals. The same grid, at 10 km intervals, was overprinted on the sixteen sheet quarter-inch map of Ireland, for use of Air Corps and artillery training. The one set of these gridded quarter-inch maps known were assembled into three composite sheets covering the north, centre and south of the country, leaving only the original sheet 14 separate. At present a south western composite, if made, has not been recorded.

From copies in a private collection

71. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) Great Britain Third Edition sheet 1 (Royal Air Force Special Edition) (CCSA 218B/43/3)
72. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) Scotland Third Edition sheet 2 (Royal Air Force Special Edition) (CCSA 218B/43/4)
73. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) Scotland Third Edition sheet 4 (Royal Air Force Special Edition) (CCSA 218B/43/5)
74. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) Scotland Third Edition sheet 6 (Royal Air Force Special Edition) (CCSA 218B/43/6)
75. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) Scotland Third Edition sheet 8 (Royal Air Force Special Edition) (CCSA 218B/43/7)
76. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) Scotland Third Edition sheet 9 (Royal Air Force Special Edition) (CCSA 218B/43/8)
77. Quarter-inch (1:253,440) Scotland Third Edition sheet 10 (Royal Air Force Special Edition) (CCSA 218B/43/9)

The earliest known Ordnance Survey aviation maps were based on the quarter-inch second editions, without hill shading or graticule, and sectioned usually into twelve-inch square sheets, including marginalia at the top. They were issued in the form of Air Packets by the Admiralty War Staff Intelligence Division for the use of pilots of the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War. Following a few experimental sheets, a new national map, covering both England and Wales, and Scotland, was published on the new Third Edition map, beginning in 1925. The specification was revised, enhancing features of particular use to aviators. The earliest version, the 'Royal Air Force Special Edition', was for the use of both service and civilian pilots, and had a two-inch alpha-numeric squaring system in black. This was superseded within three years by maps prepared separately for civilians (with a graticule) and the services (with the War Office Cassini Grid). Very few copies of the 1925 map even of England and Wales seem to survive, and rarer still are the sheets covering Scotland.

From copies in a private collection

96. GSGS 3957 (Air), Experimental Civil Aviation Edition, sheet 4, 1946 proof (CCSA 218B/49/7)
This experimental map was printed in ten colours, including four shades of brown for use in the hill layers. There are also a black plate, two blues, one green, one red, and a magenta plate for the aviation information overprint. The map reached proof stage in 1946 before being cancelled. We are fortunate also to be able to reproduce the Military Survey index card on which its progress was documented.

There are many versions of the quarter-inch Fourth Edition map of Great Britain, which was constructed in the mid-1930s on National Yard Grid sheet lines. These include the post-war civilian form with National Grid, and many different versions of GSGS 3957 and GSGS 3958, some overprinted with the War Office Cassini Grid (modified British system), some with a graticule, for military and air use up to and during the Second World War. While grids, overprint detail and the colour of hills may have varied, the basic mapping between these editions changed very little, the most obvious adjustments being the enhancement of railway lines, the thinning out of minor place names, and the use of a heavy blue band to represent shallow water (replacing marine contours) for the benefit of air crews.

The map reproduced here possesses features radically at odds with this norm. Most seriously affected is the black plate, with churches, road and woodland casings all deleted. The detail of built-up areas is gone, with large built-up areas shown wholly without detail, and small communities replaced by black squares (though the job has yet to be completed – see, for instance, the Wirrall, Codsall, and south of Halesowen). Still in place are thickened railway lines, with the added enhancement of a single cross bar for single track and double for multi-track lines. Shoals are transferred from the black plate to a brown. Heights are given in italics. There is a graticule at ten-minute intervals. Changes affecting the blue plate include the deletion of narrow waterways. The five-fathom marine contour (but not the ten-) is preferred to the heavy band of blue, enhanced by a second marine layer, while coastal water names are transferred from the black to the blue plate. The red plate is reserved solely for classified road infill – its previous use for railway stations, level crossings, road numbers, and additionally in GSGS 3957 and 3958 for viaducts and golf courses, is abandoned, while race courses are transferred to the black plate.

The magenta overprint of aviation information contains different features to those required by the military, the most obvious being danger areas around the coast and on land. Tall obstructions have a special symbol, their heights measured both from land and mean sea level. Isogonals, local mean time, airfields, powerlines all remain, though revised. There is no compass rose.

From a copy in the Map Department, Cambridge University Library, at Maps.aa.G.014.16

101. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 envelope, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/1)
102. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 key plan, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/2)
103. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 1, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/3)
104. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 2, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/4)
105. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 3, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/5)
106. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 4, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/6)
107. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 5, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/7)
108. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 6, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/8)
109. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 7, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/9)
110. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 8, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/10)
111. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 9, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/11)
112. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 10, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/12)
113. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 11, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/13)
114. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 12, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/14)
115. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 13, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/15)
116. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 14, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/16)
117. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 15, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/17)
118. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 16, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/18)
119. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 17, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/19)
120. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 18, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/20)
121. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 19, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/21)
122. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 20, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/22)
123. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 21, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/23)
124. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 22, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/24)
125. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 23, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/25)
126. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 24, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/26)
127. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 25, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/27)
128. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 26, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/28)
129. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 27, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/29)
130. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 28, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/30)
131. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 29, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/31)
132. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 30, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/32)
133. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 31, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/33)
134. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 32, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/34)
135. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 33, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/35)
136. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 35, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/36)
137. I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46 sheet 36, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/50/37)

Air Packets were issued to the pilots of the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War by the Admiralty War Staff, Intelligence Division. They were classified documents, and as such would often have been destroyed after use; thus details of the contents, even the titles, of most of them are lost. Of those numbered between 1 and 100 only 23 have been recorded, and the known copies of those are often incomplete. The majority contain the detail of military objectives in continental Europe, which in addition to topographic maps may include town plans, plans of buildings, photographs, some of them aerial, panoramic views, all visual aids to assist a pilot in locating and identifying his target. Also included was an explanatory sheet. The dimensions were set to a standard twelve inches square, to be of practical use in the open cockpit of the aeroplanes of the day, the whole contained in a waxed cloth envelope designed to withstand the vagaries of the elements.

Another group of Air Packets were sets of Flying Maps, consisting of contemporary quarter-inch mapping also divided into twelve-inch square sections, with marginalia usually printed at the top. A key plan showing the layout of all the sheets included in the packet, together with details of adjoining packets, was printed on the reverse of each sheet. There were four covering the whole of the United Kingdom:

  • I.D. 1054 Air Packet No.25, Sleaford, Midlands and Eastern Counties, March 1916.
  • I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46, Scotland, North of England and North of Ireland, July 1916.
  • I.D. 1084 Air Packet No.47, South of England, April 1916.
  • I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53, Wales, Isle of Man and Ireland (south of Donegal Bay), June 1916.

Air Packet No.25 comprised seventeen sheets covering much of central England to the east coast between Yorkshire and Kent. There was an additional sheet A, a circular map of 22 miles radius centred upon Sleaford, and special sheets B and C, included for sea-flying purposes. There were 36 sheets in No.46 (presented here), 10 in No.47, and 32 in No.53. Also in this category were I.D. 1073 Air Packet No.40, covering North East France, Belgium and Western Germany, April 1916, in 46 sheets, and I.D. 1084 Air Packet No.37, covering the Belgian coast, March 1916, in eleven sheets, the maps of both at the 1:250,000 scale. In addition to the mapping, which may be outline or hill shaded, some sheets were embellished with drawings of notable landmarks of navigational use to airmen, for instance lighthouses or headlands. Upon each sheet was printed a compass rose. The maps were prepared and printed by the Ordnance Survey.

Examples, even incomplete, of these Air Packets are now very rare indeed. Two partially complete copies of No.46 have been located. Single complete copies of Nos 25 and 53 are recorded, and the only known copy of No.47 was recorded complete in the 1980s in a private collection in New York City.
For the explanatory sheet and sheet 34 of Air Packet No.46, see Nos 200 and 201.

From a copy in a private collection

200. I.D. 1083 Air Packet 46 explanatory sheet, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/52/28)
201. I.D. 1083 Air Packet 46 sheet 34, July 1916 (CCSA 218B/52/29)

For information see the note attached to Nos 101 to 137

From copies in a private collection

139. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 explanatory sheet, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/2)
140. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 1, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/3)
141. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 2, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/4)
142. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 3, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/5)
143. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 4, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/6)
144. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 5, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/7)
145. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 6, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/8)
146. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 7, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/9)
147. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 8, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/10)
148. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 9, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/11)
149. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 10, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/12)
150. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 11, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/13)
151. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 12, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/14)
152. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 13, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/15)
153. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 14, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/16)
154. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 15, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/17)
155. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 16, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/18)
156. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 17, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/19)
157. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 18, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/20)
158. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 19, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/21)
159. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 20, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/22)
160. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 21, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/23)
161. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 22, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/24)
162. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 23, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/25)
163. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 24, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/26)
164. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 25, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/27)
165. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 26, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/28)
166. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 27, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/29)
167. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 28, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/30)
168. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 29, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/31)
169. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 30, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/32)
170. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 31, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/33)
171. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 sheet 32, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/34)
172. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 envelope, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/35)
173. I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53 key plan, June 1916 (CCSA 218B/51/36)

Air Packets were issued to the pilots of the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War by the Admiralty War Staff, Intelligence Division. They were classified documents, and as such would often have been destroyed after use; thus details of the contents, even the titles, of most of them are lost. Of those numbered between 1 and 100 only 23 have been recorded, and the known copies of those are often incomplete. The majority contain the detail of military objectives in continental Europe, which in addition to topographic maps may include town plans, plans of buildings, photographs, some of them aerial, panoramic views, all visual aids to assist a pilot in locating and identifying his target. Also included was an explanatory sheet. The dimensions were set to a standard twelve inches square, to be of practical use in the open cockpit of the aeroplanes of the day, the whole contained in a waxed cloth envelope designed to withstand the vagaries of the elements.

Another group of Air Packets were sets of Flying Maps, consisting of contemporary quarter-inch mapping also divided into twelve-inch square sections, with marginalia usually printed at the top. A key plan showing the layout of all the sheets included in the packet, together with details of adjoining packets, was printed on the reverse of each sheet. There were four covering the whole of the United Kingdom:

  • I.D. 1054 Air Packet No.25, Sleaford, Midlands and Eastern Counties, March 1916.
  • I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46, Scotland, North of England and North of Ireland, July 1916.
  • I.D. 1084 Air Packet No.47, South of England, April 1916.
  • I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53, Wales, Isle of Man and Ireland (south of Donegal Bay), June 1916.

Air Packet No.25 comprised seventeen sheets covering much of central England to the east coast between Yorkshire and Kent. There was an additional sheet A, a circular map of 22 miles radius centred upon Sleaford, and special sheets B and C, included for sea-flying purposes. There were 36 sheets in No.46, 10 in No.47, and 32 in No.53 (presented here). Also in this category were I.D. 1073 Air Packet No.40, covering North East France, Belgium and Western Germany, April 1916, in 46 sheets, and I.D. 1084 Air Packet No.37, covering the Belgian coast, March 1916, in eleven sheets, the maps of both at the 1:250,000 scale. In addition to the mapping, which may be outline or hill shaded, some sheets were embellished with drawings of notable landmarks of navigational use to airmen, for instance lighthouses or headlands. Upon each sheet was printed a compass rose. The maps were prepared and printed by the Ordnance Survey.

Examples, even incomplete, of these Air Packets are now very rare indeed. Two partially complete copies of No.46 are known. Single complete copies of Nos 25 and 53 are recorded, and the only known copy of No.47 was recorded complete in the 1980s in a private collection in New York City.

From a copy in a private collection

Another group of Air Packets were sets of Flying Maps, consisting of contemporary quarter-inch mapping also divided into twelve-inch square sections, with marginalia usually printed at the top. A key plan showing the layout of all the sheets included in the packet, together with details of adjoining packets, was printed on the reverse of each sheet. There were four covering the whole of the United Kingdom:

  • I.D. 1054 Air Packet No.25, Sleaford, Midlands and Eastern Counties, March 1916.
  • I.D. 1083 Air Packet No.46, Scotland, North of England and North of Ireland, July 1916.
  • I.D. 1084 Air Packet No.47, South of England, April 1916.
  • I.D. 1090 Air Packet No.53, Wales, Isle of Man and Ireland (south of Donegal Bay), June 1916.

Air Packet No.25 (presented here) comprised seventeen sheets covering much of central England to the east coast between Yorkshire and Kent. There was an additional sheet A, a circular map of 22 miles radius centred upon Sleaford (the Royal Naval Air Force Training Establishment had been opened at Cranwell in April 1916), and special sheets B and C, included for sea-flying purposes, showing the position of light ships in the North Sea. There were 36 sheets in No.46, 10 in No.47, and 32 in No.53. Also in this category were I.D. 1073 Air Packet No.40, covering North East France, Belgium and Western Germany, April 1916, in 46 sheets, and I.D. 1084 Air Packet No.37, covering the Belgian coast, March 1916, in eleven sheets, the maps of both at the 1:250,000 scale. In addition to the mapping, which may be outline or hill shaded, some sheets were embellished with drawings of notable landmarks of navigational use to airmen, for instance lighthouses or headlands. Upon each sheet was printed a compass rose. The maps were prepared and printed by the Ordnance Survey.

Examples, even incomplete, of these Air Packets are now very rare indeed. Two partially complete copies of No.46 are known. Single complete copies of Nos 25 and 53 are recorded, and the only known copy of No.47 was recorded complete in the 1980s in a private collection in New York City.

From a copy in a private collection

203. Quarter-inch Second Edition sheets 15, 19 & 23, with military grid (CCSA 218B/52/31)
The map presented here comprises Second Edition quarter-inch sheet 15, attached to 19 & 23, and covers the whole of central England from Birmingham to the south coast. Overprinted in red is an alpha-numeric grid of one-inch squares. Each sheet has an independent system, parallel with the sheet lines of the map, each with an origin in the north-west corner. The scale of the map suggests some aeronautical purpose, presumably during the First World War, though investigation of the sites annotated in red ink may reveal a more precise function. The Charles Close Society would welcome any suggestions.

From a copy in a private collection

207. Proof copy of quarter-inch (1:253,440) Scotland in Roman Times (CCSA 218B/55/4)
O.G.S. Crawford, the Ordnance Survey’s Archaeology Officer between the world wars, was all too aware of the devastation that might befall the Ordnance Survey in the event of war, and his fears proved well founded when German bombs fell on Southampton on 30 November and 1 December 1940. Among the items lost was the print run of his new quarter-inch map, Scotland in Roman Times. Fortunately Crawford had previously taken out some fifty copies from the stock for circulation among libraries and colleagues. And he had already taken steps in May 1940 when he sent copies of four unfinished maps for safe keeping to Professor E.A. Hooton at the Peabody Museum in Harvard. The response to enquiries in the late 1980s to the Museum was that they could find no evidence of these maps, but a copy of one of the four, Scotland in Roman Times (still with the sheet name Roman Britain), has recently been traced in the Harvard Map Collection.

Late in the 1930’s Crawford began work on his third edition of Roman Britain, which developed into an ambitious project to cover the whole of Roman Britain at the quarter-inch scale, using the new Fourth Edition map as a base. Scotland sheet 3 was the only one to reach completion, though sheet 1 was also ready had not the war intervened. The present proof copy of Scotland sheet 3 is different from the final version in a number of ways: the overprint is red rather than black, there is still a series title rather than a sheet specific one, and one category of overprint detail, Ruins (uncertain), was excluded from the final version. We are grateful to the Harvard Map Collection for providing us with a scan of this probably unique map, and permission to display it here. For further information on this subject, see Roger Hellyer, “The archaeological and historical maps of the Ordnance Survey”, Cartographic Journal 26 (December 1989), 111-133, esp. 113ff.

From a copy in the Harvard Map Collection, Pusey Library, Harvard Library

209. GSGS 2823 1:250,000, War Office, August 1916
This map was produced during the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and shows (in red) a staging airfield at Hawkinge in Kent, and the Front Line, Squadron Aerodromes and what appear to be Royal Flying Corps Brigade airfields/parks in France and Belgium. The most likely reason for its production was for the pilotage and navigation of ferry pilots and new squadrons when taking aircraft across the Channel, delivering them to base parks and aerodromes, and vice versa. There is also the possibility of a ‘strategical’ use in connection with the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15 September 1916), an important stage of the great Somme battle, in which tanks were first used.