GreyC

Strange trench design. Aerial photo. Explanation?

26 posts in this topic

ID: 1   Posted (edited)

Hello Gentlemen,

This aerial photography caught my attention because of the trench design perfectly visible in this aerial photo. I have seen quite a few trench systems on photos from the air, none in this form though. It reminds me of the outline-design of old fortresses to avoid blind spots. Unfortunately no information on place or photographer. Only the date that seems to point to the battle of the Somme. The way the information was written on the photo seems to indicate a none German origin.

Does any of you have any idea of the idea and function of this design, by what country it was built and maybe the place where this was?

Thank you!

GreyC

LuftbildGrabenmusterkl.jpg

LuftbildGRaben_D.jpg

Edited by GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 2   Posted (edited)

I can't speak to the country of origin, but there are several possibilities as to function.  One, they are defensive positions meant to provide a wider field of fire for riflemen or MGs than the standard 'crenellated' trench design.  Two, if the are in fact BEHIND, the main trench they are a series of bays meant to hold weapons or men, allowing a large number to be concetrated into a narrow section of the front.

 I tend to lean   to the latter expanation, having seen diagrams of British trenches not unlike this: a front line or even front and second line and then a cluster of small pits to house reserve troops and supplies.  It is a very efficient use of space on a restricted front, though it does invite shelling in a way a greater dispersal does not.  That said, the military often took such risks - the way in which aircraft are lined up for refuelling and so on being a classic example - close for ease of access but more subject to strafing.  

So, my conclusion: reserve bays rather than defensive positions.  And that opinion is worth what you pay for it! ;)

Edited by peter monahan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Peter,

thank you for your opinion. The latter explanation seems to have a lot going for it.

Thanks for sharing your insights.

GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is that the whole picture in post 1 or is there more?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Don,

the first picture in #1 is the full size picture the 2nd pic is a detail out of the 1st.

GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 6   Posted (edited)

To specify the differences between German and Allied inscriptions on aerial photographs here are the main differences:

German dates were written with dots inbetween as in: 29.7.16. Never with "-" The time (?) 17H is not German. The time was written in the 12 hour format V[ormittags]=a.m., N[achmittags]=p.m..

The square format was only used by very few German army field flying units and was more often used by German Naval Squadrons. Hope that helps a bit.

A good source for infos concerning German aerial photogrphy are the books by Helmut Jäger, a former recon expert of the Bundeswehr.

Edited by GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding German or Allies trenches I suspect the key lies in what I believe to be the North arrow marked on the photo, if indeed this does indicate North and the cog wheel type emplacements face the enemy then surely they face east and are therefore Allied in origin.

Just a thought and certainly an unusual trench layout I have not come across before.

Regards Simon//

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Coldstream,

thank you for your thoughts which seem plausible. However I do think that the photo was not taken by the Germans. Which does not rule out that the British or French might well have taken photos of their own lines. The Germans did so anyway. To substantiate my theory here a few observations:

To specify the differences between German and Allied inscriptions/notations (what´s the right word?) on aerial photographs here are the main differences:
German dates were written with dots inbetween as in: 29.7.16. Never with "-" The time (?) 17H is not German. The time was written in the 12 hour format plus V[ormittags] to indicate a.m. or N[achmittags]=p.m..
The square format was only used by very few German army field flying units and was more often used by German Naval Squadrons (which can be counted out here, I think).
A good source for infos concerning German aerial photography are the books by Helmut Jäger, a former recon expert of the Bundeswehr.

GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are these 'strong points', built as defensive positions

btw091.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Spasm,

interesting designs. Thank you for sharing these. Te semi-circle designs resemble the ones on the photo somewhat, indeed. Should the trenches depicted on the aerial photo serve the same purpose i.e. strong points for defence, do you think it could be the Somme region (29th July 1916) ? After all the British went out to attack from 1st July. Or is this some place else?

GreyC

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 11   Posted (edited)

Hello!

The english would write 7-29-16, wouldn´t they?

And germans would write the "One" as a "1" and not as a "I"

Probably it was taken by french?

Edited by The Prussian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Strong points would be constructed on both ends of an attacking line to protect the flanks or as a base of operations etc, covered by machine guns in the main trench line. They could also be constructed as a rallying area or defensive 'fort' behind the main line in case of retreat or threat of attack. A sort of bastion that could hold out and divide the attacking lines of troops.

Andy - It's the Shermans who write 7-29-16, English is the more traditional 29-7-16, but I reckon it's French as the 7s are crossed, not an English thing, and the loop of the 9 below the base line, again English would most likely have a straight backed 9. 

The strong points look as though they were constructed at the time of the main trench line, given the looks of the excavated chalk. Could be the Somme area given that it is almost all chalk there. They are very well set out, unlike the similar construction at the very top of the photo. Much more 'messy' and not so well set out. So, looks like this was a prepared defensive line to protect the road and whatever those 'sidings' are behind the line. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 13   Posted (edited)

Thank you spasm,

your contributions are very helpful for me.

GreyC

Edited by GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Spasm!

What do you mean with "Shermans"? Germans? Hmmm, I´m german, but we didn´t write "Month/Day/Year"...:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Shermans=Americans?

GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sherman tanks - Yanks - Those of the colonies :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah. Ok. Thank you!

But the photo is from 1916.

So probably french.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 18   Posted (edited)

Here, for comparison, a classically annotated German aerial photo by the sFAA278:

GreyC

DeutschesLuftbild_Grey.jpg

Edited by GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 19   Posted (edited)

Andy - yep, I'd go for French too.

Also doesn't seem to have had a lot of artillery action. Does that mean not near the front line? Newly dug in the territory just taken? Not an important area? Hmmmm.

It does seem to be a bit behind the front lines as the communication trenches start at roadways, these would have been quite long before the front or even second lines were reached. So I would say a rear area that has been prepared quite well.

Cheers Steve

Edited by Spasm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello!

Then  we have another question. Did the french fly through english operation zones? If not, the photo might have been taken south of Amiens up to the Alsace front.

Because the altitude is 3000m, such a big trench system might be close to the front

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fascinating discussion and great to see both the level of expertise and the obvious checking/research done by some members more industrious than myself!  My only additionsl thought is that this looks awfully elaborate for early in the war but the lack of shell cratering and the roads suggest, as Spasm says, a rear area.

Is it neat enough to have been a 'demonstration' or training layout?  I was at a symposium on Vimy this past weekend and someone pointed out that a trench in a photo was clearly a model, as the corners were square and so were the sandbags!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 22   Posted (edited)

Hello Peter,

thanks for your interesting thoughts. There were quite a few demonstration trenches in German cities. I know of some in Hamburg, Brauschweig, Hannover and Berlin, but they were by far not as large as the one pictured. Training facility could be, but why train in trenches that would not match the real deal at the front? Just meant as food for thought, not as criticism. :)

To draw a preliminary conclusion:

I think what has been ascertained is that it is a french aerial photo. Still open to be answered what army built these trenches, where they were and to what purpose they were built. I still like the idea of strong points by spasm, but wouldn´t rule out training facility.

Prussian´s hint at the height from which the photo was taken (3000m) should also be taken into consideration.

Thank you all up to here,

GreyC

Edited by GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 23   Posted (edited)

On 23.2.2017 at 19:08, GreyC said:

Here, for comparison, a classically annotated German aerial photo by the sFAA278:

GreyC

DeutschesLuftbild_Grey.jpg

Hello!

That phot must have been taken east of Binarville (Argonne)

Edited by The Prussian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Andreas!

GreyC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once again I've dropped the ball!  [shame-faced icon here]  The 3,000m height suggests a scal which I agree is unlikely for a training or 'demo' trench.  Shutting up now! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now