Oi! LinesMan!

On tidying up some admin files this morning, I came across an old receipt, dated November 2010. It was the happy day that I bought the LinesMan product from Great War Digital. I have used this product literally every day since then, other than the time when I was in hospital undergoing surgery!

Let me explain.

At its most basic, Linesman is a collection of trench and other maps that have been digitised by the Great War Digital company and which can be viewed using the Memory-Map application. The system has never let me down and I regard it as an essential tool.


Memory-Map is a terrific software application that runs on Windows, Android, macOS and iOS. It can be purchased as a stand-alone product from the company, which also sells a wide range of digitised maps such as the British Ordnance Survey series. I will demonstrate some of its capabilities in this article but there is much more to it. Memory-Map is at its most basic a viewer through which a map can be examined, zoomed in and out, and overlaid with graphics and text.

But it is also centred in GPS technology, meaning that a user can view with ease the map that relates to where they are standing, viewing the map through a GPS-enabled device such as a tablet. An indicator shows the exact position of the user on the map that is being viewed. When the user moves, the map moves. I use LinesMan on a tablet on my battlefield trips, but 99% of my use is on a desktop and not using the GPS capability when I am looking a Great War map. Not many trenches in Leamington Spa!

Memory-map allows a user to install the application on up to five devices at any one time, hence me being able to install it on a PC and a tablet at no extra cost. I have actually moved it several times as I have replaced tablets over the years and managing your own licence is very straightforward through a log-in at the memory-map site.

Great War Digital

Great War Digital is a UK-based company whose purpose is to conserve historical maps and documents by digital scanning and then making the scans available on digital media such as DVD/USB. The founders were Guy Smith and Jerry Whitehead, both of whom were instrumental in the development of the LinesMan. In fact, I first heard of the development of the system from Guy, who told me that he had a way of seeing trenchmaps in 3D. The company is now run by Stephen Chambers, who intends continue the development and growth of the company.

When I bought LinesMan more than a decade ago, what I acquired was a bundle of the Memory-Map application and in effect three sets of digitised maps: trench maps of the 1:10000 and 1:20000 scale covering the British occupied areas of France and Flanders, and a collection of various other Great War maps (for example, the Ypres League map of 1920 and the Holts’ map of cemeteries and memorials in the same area). Add to that the present-day French and Belgian equivalents of the Ordnance Survey and I found I could flick from the Great War maps to today and back again, or even see them side by side.

For the user who is predominantly looking for GPS-based use on a tablet, Great War Digital makes life easy by selling it all pre-installed. For example at present you can buy it installed on an 8-inch Galaxy. I bought the maps on DVD but you can also get them on USB stick.

Let’s take a look. The following images are scereen shots as I use the system on my desktop, but it would look very similar on tablet.

LinesMan in action

A typical screen on start-up. In this instance, it is showing a map of the area of Authuille and Thiepval on the Somme. User controls are in a simple toolbar across the top.

The Memory-map functionality allows the user to view the map, zoom in and out, add scales, print the map, and so on. Moving around is (on desktop) by mouse control and the user can flip between maps using a selection menu. The maps are geo-referenced, meaning that if I went from the map shown above to another of the same area at a different date, it would display exactly the same area as that I have just looked at.

A most valuable capabiity: two maps seen in separate side-by-side windows. They are in sync, so if I move a map (on a desktop, by holding down a button and moving the mouse) the other ones moves with it. In this instance, I have a present-day map of the area of Gheluvelt near Ypres, alongside a map of 1917.
Same maps as above. I have now overlaid a red line and some text (saying “Tower Hamlets”) on the Great War map to pick out some features that are of interest to me – and they appear on the modern map, too. You will see examples of this in various articles on the Long, Long Trail. My additions are saved, so if I copy them across to the installation on a tablet I could see them when I am on the ground and my map is in in sync with GPS.

The 3D functionality is one that I have very rarely used, but this is mainly as the landscape of the British battlefields of France and Flanders is hardly mountainous. The image above from the company’s website gives some idea. If Great War Digital every gets round to the campaigns in Gallipoli and Italy, it might come more into its own! Speaking of which …

Future LinesMan

Stephen Chambers tells me that he is working on geo-referencing French Army maps and also a future Gallipoli map product. He is also looking at making them available as a digital download to move away from using USB memory sticks. Power to his elbow!


Great War Digital (external)

Memory-Map (external)

How to read a trench map