Walk In Your Ancestors’ Footsteps
Customise your battlefield visit using online resources, apps and free trench maps
There are plenty of digital resources to help you make the most of a battlefield trip. If you have pinpointed where your ancestor fought using War Diaries ( nationalarchives.gov.uk/ first-world-war/centenary-unit-war-diaries) and trench maps, or know where he fell ( www. cwgc.org), then you can trace his movements in person. The National Library of Scotland has digitised trench maps and placed them as overlays on satellite images ( maps.nls. uk/ww1/trenches), while an ever-increasing number of apps offer opportunities to visit places where a relative fought. Many use GPS to position you on the right spot. Remember that soldiers spent the majority of their time in the trenches because it was safer, so try peeking out of a ditch or a sunken road to get a feel for what it was like. Most land is private (“Privée”), so stick to roads and tracks. Using metal detectors is illegal, and people still get killed fiddling with leftover ordnance.
Ypres’ In Flanders Fields Museum offers a free iOS and Android app that guides you along the front line ( inflandersfields.be/en/landschap/ypres-salient-1914-1918), while the company Great War Digital ( greatwardigital.com) sells a much wider range of maps in its LinesMan series.
British troops at the Battle of Mons, 1914