UK: On June 21, Ordnance Survey celebrated 220 years of mapping the UK. From military beginnings, mapping the south east coast of Britain for fear of invasion by Napoleon, through to the modern digital age, Ordnance Survey has played a constant and vital role for charting the changing face of the nation for over two centuries.
To mark the anniversary, dignitaries and senior military officials from the Royal Engineers, gathered to dedicate the organisation’s new War Memorial which remembers the sacrifice of the 123 Ordnance Survey staff who gave their lives during the two World Wars. The design of the memorial echoes the iconic shape of an Ordnance Survey trig pillar.
The presence of the Royal Engineers harks back to Ordnance Survey’s military origins, where fear of a French invasion promoted the Board of Ordnance, the Ministry of Defence of the day, to carry out a survey of the south east – hence Ordnance Survey’s rather unusual name. That work was vital in preparing the country against a possible invasion and ultimately contributed to the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The art of map making subsequently played a major role in both World Wars, with Ordnance Survey staff being dispatched to map the trenches throughout The Great War, whilst during World War II some 342 million maps were printed for use by the Allied forces. By 1944 maps were off the presses and in the hands of men at the front within 24 hours.
Today Ordnance Survey is a GBP 130 million-a-year government owned business, making use of state-of-the-art technology to produce mapping products and geographic data that are the best in the world. From the paper maps beloved by walkers and ramblers to the digital mapping that underpins in-car sat navs, the emergency services and national security, Ordnance Survey plays a role in everyone’s daily lives.
Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive, commented, “Today as we remember those former colleagues who gave their lives to protect this country, we stand in the grounds of our brand new head office, having invested in the future so that we can continue to map Great Britain for many more years.”
Source: Ordnance Survey