The term ‘military geology’, translated from German after earlier use in French and Spanish publications, entered the English language via American publications from 1917 onwards, initially after the USA entered World War I. It was widely used in the USA and, in direct or indirect translation, in several European countries additional to Germany and Austria thereafter, but not in the United Kingdom—although military applications of geology had been perceived and utilized by the British Army for much of the previous century. However, the term was used and its scope defined on the basis of operational experience at a meeting in Brussels on 28 February to 1 March 1945 as World War II drew to an end, a meeting seemingly unique for the War in that it comprised five ‘British’ geologist officers of field rank: the South African Major Gordon Lyall Paver, English Major Frederick William Shotton, Australian-born but Canadian-educated English Major John Leonard Farrington, English Squadron Leader John Francis Kirkaldy, and Welsh Major David Ronald Arthur Ponsford. Their purpose was to review wartime use of ‘military geology’ in the British Army, and to make recommendations for a more efficient British military geological service in the future, especially in the Far East after the war in Europe entered its final phase. The meeting generated a four-page closely-typed unpublished ‘Memorandum: Military geology in the British services’ (now preserved in England in the Lapworth Museum at the University of Birmingham and in The National Archives, Kew, near London). This included a very brief summary of the British Army’s deployment of geologists within western Europe, East Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean region, and India. Those present brought together long experience from all these campaign areas except India (and the Far East in general). That deficiency was made good later in the year, on 7 December 1945, when Eric J. Bradshaw, Superintending Geologist of the Strategic Branch of the Geological Survey of India, completed an 81-page typed unpublished ‘Military geology: Memorandum of post-war policy’ (accessible in England at Birmingham, at Kew, and at the British Geological Survey, Keyworth). This with its 23 pages of appendices records details of wartime work in India and discussions held by the author there and in the United Kingdom following the end of hostilities in Europe on 8 May 1945. It re-defines the scope of ‘military geology’ for British armed forces in terms of water (resources, floods and drainage), stone and miscellaneous mineral resources, soils, engineering projects (reconnaissance, stability and excavations), terrain, ‘photo-geology’ and several miscellaneous applications. The memorandum proposed a grandiose organization of 151 geologist officers plus ancillary staff for British military geology postwar. That organizational scheme was not adopted—but by 1945 the term ‘military geology’ had clearly extended from American to significant British use.

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