Monday, August 20, 2018

Germany's Plans to Invade Britain

Germany's invasion map of Newcastle - Library of Congress

The German plan for invading Britain in World War II was code-named Operation Sea Lion. Although both Germany and Britain believed that an invasion was unlikely to succeed it didn't stop both sides from planning for a German invasion of Britain. In Germany the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Nazi German Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) ordered that a series of military and geographical assessments be carried out in preparation for an invasion of Britain.

These assessments consisted of photographs, drawings and maps of British towns and military & strategic targets. In order to prepare troops for the invasion of Britain a series of maps of the country were drawn up, identifying strategic locations, and military targets. Published in 11 A4 sized folders these invasion plans included 144 maps of British towns and cities and over 1,500 photographs of key military targets.

The maps and photos in these invasion plans highlighted locations which would be important for troop movements, such as airports, railways, docks and bridges. They included strategically important sites, like hospitals, airfields and radio stations. They also identified important infrastructure and industrial sites, for example waterworks and power plants.

The German invasion plans also included photographs of key strategic targets in each town. 
Neue Strassenbrucke uber den Tyne in Newcastle upon Tyne - Library of Congress

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection has interactive copies of the German invasion maps of Britain. These include both the maps and the photographs identifying Germany's military and strategic targets for the invasion. If you want to find the German invasion map of your town then expand the 'where' section in the sidebar to view an alphabetized list of links to the town maps.

The invasion maps were copies of Ordnance Survey maps on which the strategic and military targets were highlighted. A simple color-code was used when highlighting these targets. For example, bridges are highlighted in black. Railway and goods yards are highlighted in red. Purple is used to show industrial sites, such as waterworks and power plants.

As the German maps were merely copies of Ordnance Survey maps they would presumably not show many of the country's secret locations. Secret and classified buildings like military locations and barracks were often omitted from Ordnance Survey maps at the direction of the British government. This is presumably why during the cold war the Russian's created their own maps.

During the cold war the Soviet Union created detailed maps for thousands of cities around the world. We don't know exactly how the Russian military completed their detailed maps of the west. Presumably they also used freely available maps as the basis for their maps. However the Russian maps often contain military sites left off of western maps (for military secrecy), therefore they must have been based to some extent on knowledge gained from spying and espionage.

John Davies has written an interesting article on the Soviet military maps for the British Library. Soviet Military Mapping of the Cold War Era includes more information about the composition of the Soviet military maps, the cities mapped and more informed speculation on how the maps were made.

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