ABSTRACT

Military applications of geology became apparent within the United Kingdom during the nineteenth century, and were developed during the First World War and more extensively during the Second, incidentally by some officers with links to Canada. In the nineteenth century, three Royal Engineer major-generals with geological interests had served there briefly: Joseph Ellison Portlock (1794–1864) helped to stem invasion of Upper Canada by the United States Army in 1814, pioneer geological survey in Ireland from 1826, and promote knowledge of geology amongst British Army officers; Frederick Henry Baddeley (1794–1879) helped to pioneer geological studies in south-east Canada in the 1820s; Richard John Nelson (1803–1877) served in Canada after mapping the geology of Jersey in 1828 and making geological observations in Bermuda. During the First World War, Tannatt William Edgeworth David (1858–1934), a Welsh-born Australian and from 1916 to 1918 the senior of two geologists serving with the British Army on the Western Front, had a Canadian military family link through his mother; and Reginald Walter Brock (1874–1935), Dean of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia and a distinguished Canadian geologist, interrupted his career for infantry service in Europe but was used as a geologist from mid-1918, in Palestine. During the Second World War, the British military geologist Frederick William Shotton (1906–1990) provided geological advice to, amongst other units, Canadian forces who generated thematic maps for parts of northern France that predicted ‘going’ (conditions affecting cross-country vehicle mobility) to follow the D-Day Allied landings in Normandy. In 1943, Thomas Crawford Phemister (1902–1982), Professor and Head of the Department of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland but from 1926 to 1932 an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, as an ‘emergency’ Royal Engineers captain founded the Geological Section of the Inter-Service Topographical Department, a unit whose reports and thematic maps provided terrain intelligence for Allied forces in both Europe and the Far East from a base in England, within the University of Oxford. John Leonard Farrington (1906–1982), an undergraduate student from 1923 to 1928 of Brock and/or Phemister at the University of British Columbia, co-founded the Section and soon succeeded Phemister as its head, from 1944 to 1945 in the rank of major. Soon after 1945, military geologists became established in continuity within the British Army.

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