Good maps are essential for any military operation, so it should be no suprise that the earliest modern maps were prepared and surveyed by military officers. In the United Kingdom the most common maps to be found come from the ‘Ordnance Survey’, its very name revealing its military origins. It was not just in the UK that British officers were involved in map making. The first maps of the Indian sub continent were surveyed by army officers in the nineteenth century and then periodically updated as the landscape and settlement changed to ensure they were accurate for military operations. These maps were primarily for military use, however they had equally as much use in civilian settings so they were printed and sold commercially to the general public as well.
Today we are looking at a 1920s or 30s era map of the Indian provinces of Kashmir and Jammu:
Kashmir and Jammu was a princely state that is today right on the border between modern India, Pakistan and China.
The title across the top shows what the map is depicting and that this edition dates from a survey completed over the years 1915, 1917 and 1920-21:
The bottom of the map has the key to the features on it and a date of 1929:
The terrain featured on the map has large numbers of contour lines, very close together. This is indicative of high mountains with deep mountain passes between them and very rough country for any military operations. Roads are also very limited and train lines are virtually non-existent suggesting that this would be difficult terrain to conduct anything but infantry operations:
It is always interesting to spend ten minutes poring over a map and trying to imagine the terrain and how one would move men from one place to another, but it is also worth thinking of the difficulties the surveyors will have had making the map in the first place. This was probably done with theodolites and pencils, none of the modern GPS equipment used today, but British military maps had a long reputation for being particularly accurate.