In this incredibly detailed look at a perspective of World War 1, seldom observed, Martin Woods has presented a complexity of fact hat boggles the mind, creating a journey of war news and maps based in propaganda, giving to the public what the hierarchy felt they should know and the flamboyant rhetoric used in recruitment drives for more and more soldiers, in a war that was going tragically, horrifically wrong.
During the 1914-18 war ‘news maps’ became sought after, offering a quick reference as to where ‘our boys’ were serving. They provided the Australians at home with detailed information which allowed their loved ones, as well as the general public, to track the various campaigns and discover places not heard of prior to this time, thus making any Australian who cared to follow the course of the War into an almost instant expert, on what was taking place in Turkey and Europe.
Before the advent of WW1 maps were in existence but nowhere to the same degree. They were ornate; they detailed campaigns fought long ago. Ptolemy (c.100-170) created his ‘Map of All of the Inhabited and Known World’; woodprints of ‘maps’ from biblical times show the destruction of Jerusalem first by the Babylonians (587BC) and later by the Romans in 70AD.
The fifteenth and sixteenths century saw maps burgeoning and whilst not readily available, the art of cartography was becoming incredibly sophisticated compared to earlier pictorial style maps. Much of the description that accompanied the maps drawn was poetic and flamboyant, until Fred Rose (1877) created maps of Europe which, while satirical and wonderfully colourful, did show that politics and tensions ran high throughout Europe.
The first of Rose’s maps to be shown (page 37) sends a chill down the spine as it too readily draws attention to an area of the world that now, some almost 140 years later, is facing similar conflict but in a far more complex and sophisticated society.
Once it became apparent that WW1 was going to last a considerable length of time, the maps became a lifeline of sorts to the reading public and grew increasingly detailed as the years rolled along. It is very easy to imagine the astonishment of the Australian public following the war efforts in Europe, when they discovered that ‘their boys’ were being sent to Gallipoli, not the Western Front, a place they knew little or nothing about via news maps.
Much of the news that came back to Australian newspapers was outdated, mainly due to censorship, time delays and the ‘wire service’ between Britain and Australia. More often than not, the information appearing in the papers and on the news maps was weeks old.
Adding to all this misinformation was the very real issue that the Command of the British Army didn’t want the public to understand what was really happening and ensured what was written and published by the war correspondents fitted the image they were wanting to present; that of the British beating the Hun, in a somewhat similar manner to the popular Boy’s Own books of the times.
Newspapers, and forward thinking merchandisers used maps as drawcards or incentives to buy their papers or goods and also to show they were supporting the war efforts; keeping the public up to date with the latest happenings became the top priority for many.
Once aerial combat and reconnaissance became an aspect of WW1, maps in general became far more detailed as the picture titled, ‘Remarkable Photo From An Aeroplane Of The Champagne Trenches’. This was published by The Globe and Sunday times War Pictorial in Sydney, on 6 May 1916, which then allowed the public too eventually to get an understanding of exactly what was happening in the trenches of Europe.
Whether you have an interest in history, cartography, war or Australian history, or are simply curious to try and understand a time long gone, in a world that was far less complex than today, this is a book which, while taking a while to peruse, creates a pause to consider that in so many ways, not a lot has changed, in a world where so much appears to have changed.