Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Occom Trenches


While Rauner Library is full to the brim of fascinating tidbits and historical treasure troves, every once in a while you stumble upon something that makes everyone come over to see. As war raged in the Europe of 1916, America set about preparing to jump into the fray. Colleges around the country began military training programs for their students, and Dartmouth was no exception. Under the umbrella of the War Department’s Students Army Training Corps program, and with the aid of Captain Louis Keene of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Dartmouth went from an institution of learning to a fully-fledged army training camp.

One of the most remarkable parts of this program was the construction of an elaborate series of trenches on Dartmouth’s athletic field. Utilizing Captain Keene’s firsthand experience and expertise, students dug out an emulation of the allied trenches found in the Western Front of The Great War. Rauner happens to have a complete map of the system those men created.

Drawn out by a pair of unknown cartographers, but presumably under the direction of Keene, this map is a beautiful model of the elaborate system that was trench warfare, with the enemy located somewhere around the alumni gym to the north. While not an exact rendition of what was actually to be found “over there,” Keene was careful to include as many of the main features of trench warfare as he could. The staggered front line is clearly evident, and vast systems of barbed wire were strategically laid throughout the fortification. There is quite a lot of depth as well, as there were 4-5 main horizontal trenches with many vertical ones connecting them all. There are even drawn out spots where the “latrines” were located. Most fascinating are the machine gun emplacements, as the artists took the time to sketch where their fields of fire reached, and how those fields overlapped each other.

With each position and feature clearly labeled, the map is easy enough for anyone to understand. However it still provides a level of complexity and insight into what soldiers of the time thought were the important features of trench warfare, so aficionados and experts will still enjoy and appreciate it.

To see the map in full detail, ask for D.C. Hist G3744.H3R4 1910 .M435. Be sure to clear off a table for it, as it is quite large.

Posted for Scott Bohn '18, HIST 62 class

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