"We produced 428 of these battle maps throughout our time in Europe. The kind of position that they would be interested in seeing, where are the gun emplacements, if there are trenches, where are the trenches, anything that would tell us where the Germans were."
At that time that I had finished some basic training, I was also about to go to Ottawa to take some specific technical training in the making of maps. So I did go to Ottawa; and I was with the Canadian Army Mapping Service, a section of it, learning how to make war maps. I spent eight months before going overseas.
I was quite happy to go and to find that there was a survey engineering group unit [1st (Air) Field Survey Company, RCE] that already formed that I would be joining in England. We spent some time in England again, making maps. When it come time for an invasion of Europe and our company was, the Canadian mapping company that was to make the maps of the coast of France for the invasions. And then we couldn’t go right in with the invading troops because it was such a massive area of ships and landing craft, and supplies that an area had to be won first on the grounds of France. And then we could go in later, some weeks later.
We had to go by truck through part of the city of London and down the Thames Estuary to meet a ship that we would board. The ship was called the Liberty ship [American cargo ships]; they were made especially for the wartime use. And that Liberty ship would then take us on further to the coast of France, where we would board a landing craft, and then we would go ashore in France.
Our unit was one unit and it moved en masse. We would get established in old buildings, old schools, new schools, which they’ve had to clear out for us and so on. But we were always welcome wherever we went, as far as getting property to do our work. First of all, they had to tell us the areas they wanted. The next thing would be for the air force to go up and to fly over there, and to take pictures at the given altitudes. So that we would get the kind of photography we need to map from it. So the air forces were busy making a lot of ground cover for us, of aerial photography.
And so we would then take that aerial photography and mark on it that the ground control that was, the positions that were given to us. We would have a big area, maybe 30 feet by 40 feet, on which we could lay out an area that would be equal to the scales for the size of the mapping we would be doing. And those control points would all be marked on a grid on there; and we would be able to take the points off that and have them on a trace, and then set up equipment that would project the image of those photographs down onto that piece of material. Then we would be able to draw the images that are there in their true position relative to the earth.
And so we produced 428 of these battle maps throughout our time in Europe. The kind of position that they would be interested in seeing, where are the gun emplacements, if there are trenches, where are the trenches, anything that would tell us where the Germans were, that’s what they would be looking for. Now, these would be continuous flights over miles. There was one section, a whole unit, that was set up eventually as a map storage. The word would come in of what maps they need. They would be put in a vehicle, trucks, and they would be taken to that battle area or an area before a battle was going to take place. So the commanding officers and officers, sergeants, etc., would have a map from which to lead their men through these areas.