TrenchMapper Knowledge Centre- Subject Index     Main Help page

Body Density Maps

There are more than 100 maps recently georeferenced on TrenchMapper that have come from a collection known as the Body Density series and have been the subject of much interest over the years. See the full list below.
The term Body Density is completely unofficial, its origins are unknown but it is a term in common use to describe them1. Verbal sources within the IWM indicate they were found for sale in a bookshop in Guildford by a member of staff, purchased and kept at the museum for safe keeping. Sadly they came with no supporting documentation or other evidence of their provenance.
Within the set are two distinct groups:-

Some maps from both groups are heavily marked up, some very sparingly
The Sir Herbert Ellissen maps show cemetery locations in a distinctive hand drawn purple ink whilst the AAM maps usually show numbers in some map squares hand drawn in the same blue pencil as the letters AAM. Neither set shows a date of creation apart from the base cartography which is not particularly helpful.
There has been some discussion and research over the years about what the maps show, how to date them and whether or not the information given is accurate. This article attempts to show what is known and what should be the subject of further research.

The AAM maps

Research carried out by Harry Heap in March 2006 showed the letters AAM are most likely to be initials and the best of fit those is Arthur Albert Messer.
Arthur Messer was born in England in 1864 and qualified as an architect. In 1888 he went to Texas as a partner to A. J. Armstrong in Fort Worth where amongst other notable buildings, he designed the Texas Spring Palace. He returned to England with his brother Howard in 1905 and continued work in architecture. After a period working in France, Arthur Messer returned to England to take care of some private matters.
On the outbreak of war he joined the Red Cross service and was attached for a time to the French Army, later he was a driver in No. 1 Ambulance BRXS (British Red Cross). By 1916 had the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the General List (which means no particular affiliation to a unit). He was Fabian Ware's second in command in the early stages of the Grave Registration Unit and when Ware returned to England in 1916, Messer was given the responsibility for the Western Front. Both Ware and Messer started with a RX (Red Cross) unit, their work in establishing grave registration eventually led to a Government organisation being set up with the Prince of Wales as patron.
After being demobbed in January 1920 he was eventually appointed as the IWGC Representative in neutral countries and held this post until March 1925 when budgetary cuts at the Commission forced them to cut the post. However, Colonel Messer agreed to continue his work with the Commission on an 'expenses only paid basis'. He died on the 14th April 1934 at his home in Hook Heath, Woking, age 70 and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery. He was awarded the DSO in 1917, created CBE in 1919 and Chevalier, Legion d'Honneur.
Arthur died in 1934 at age seventy and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery. It is fitting to note that he designed two chapels in that cemetery.

Arthur Albert Messer, date unknown

There is no proof that AAM means Arthur Albert Messer but it would be a considerable coincidence that he shares the same initials and had a significant role in the IWGC that relates directly to the content of the maps. One map, ID=m_5_000738, shows 'Lt-Col. A.A. Messer' on the cover but not the letters AAM, however, the colour and hand of the annotations look the same as that on AAM maps.
It is believed the maps were compiled between December 1918 and July 1919 when Lt-Col. Messer was working as the Assistant Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries in France. During this period he had been instructed to select and lay out war cemeteries and plot isolated graves.
The blue pencil numbers equate to the number of marked burials registered in each square. For example, take square N.9.c. on sheet 36; CWGC records3 show that in November 1919 when the Graves Concentration Unit visited this square it found just 3 crosses :-
Cross 1 was marked 'Erected to the memory of 49 Australian Soldiers'
Cross 2 was marked 'Erected to the memory of 115 Australian Soldiers'
Cross 3 was marked 'An unknown number of British soldiers'

But it removed nearly 300 bodies from this square for re-burial in Rue-David Cemetery. There were further recoveries from unmarked graves being made from this square in December 1920, October 1921 and April 1922.

Fragment of AAM map sheet 36 showing the value 3 in square N.9.c. TrenchMapper ID= m_5_000758

The same area on an Ellissen map. TrenchMapper ID= ma_004470

Some AAM maps show cemeteries in a purple ink but not in the same had as the Ellissen maps. It is likely they worked together and may have agreed an informal colour coding but that is not entirely consistent across the set of maps.

The Sir Herbert Ellissen maps

The maps are marked with his title but as he was knighted at the end of July 1923, the stamps may be have added later as part of his collection- there is otherwise nothing to date them. He was a French and German speaker who held a number of key posts.
He had been appointed as the IWGC Financial Adviser and Controller of Administration in September 1920, so the maps were probably produced so he could oversee the establishment of war cemeteries in France and Belgium. The information written on these maps show the development of cemeteries, those marked with a 'church with a spire' symbol show that they are cemeteries which have had a Cross of Sacrifice erected in them. Those with a 'hot cross bun' are those without (although these are clearly work in progress maps as some 'hot cross bun' sites do later get Crosses). Some sites are also shown with the number of graves in them.

Sir Herbert Ellissen, date unknown

If a record can found when a cemetery later got a cross, that may help to date when the map was annotated.
It is likely they were used from 1924-1926 by Herbert Ellissen to establish how far the cemetery building programme was complete, as he had been tasked with re-configuring the Commission for the post-construction phase. Ultimately, this lead to some down-sizing of the Commission and the establishment of the Endowment Fund in 1926 (which at the time was expected to fund all future maintenance).


Biographical details:-

Roles

Archive records showed he dealt with and corresponded with major political figures,
Subjects discussed included-
A: Disputes on headstone inscriptions:
1) Use of Salvation Army badge
2) Use of the Cross.
3) Use of Regimental badges with Cross on Jewish graves.
4) Request for building of Sikh and Muslim temples on-site at cemeteries.
5) Australian high level Government complaints on Belgian overcharging.

B: Bringing bodies home from "Claiming the Fallen" Associations.
C: Transfer of bodies in Germany to cemeteries outside Germany.
D: 1920 Discontent by Labour Exhumation Companies.
E: 1920/21 Opposition to the Ruling of Cessation.


Examples

High Wood area

Fragment of AAM map sheet 57C showing High Wood on the Somme. Note the cemeteries that not longer exist. TrenchMapper ID= m_5_000761

In books like Phillip Johnstone's 'High Wood' and Terry Norman's 'The Hell They Called High Wood', High Wood is said to still hold the remains of 8,000 soldiers from both sides. Further research is required to explain the absence of markings on the map in square 4.

Ypres area

Fragment of AAM sheet 28, North East of Ypres. TrenchMapper ID= m_5_000756

Battle of Loos area

Fragment of AAM sheet 36C. Does not show the blue pencil but the hand of the purple marking matches other AAM maps. TrenchMapper ID=m_5_000759

Arras area

Fragment of sheet 51B tagged Sir Herbert Ellissen. TrenchMapper ID= m_5_005330


References

1. Imperial War Museum's page at www.iwm.org.uk/learning/resources/remembrance-in-the-first-world-war
2. Harry Heap's work on multiple documents at TNA in March 2006
3. Correspondence with Roy Hemington, CWGC
Harry Heap. One of the volunteers for the now defunct Friends of the Imperial War Museum was Harry Heap. A small group of these volunteers were tasked with re-writing the IWM's database of Great War maps, a project that spawned the WFA's Mapping the Front DVD and TrenchMapper projects. During this time, Harry spent a long time at TNA researching "AAM" and Herbert Ellissen, some of his work is presented here. Sadly not many years after this Harry became seriously ill and died but his contribution lives on with this work and in TrenchMapper's database- a website he was never to see. Thank you Harry.


List of map IDs on TrenchMapper tagged with AAM or Sir Herbert Ellissen


In TrenchMapper, to see a particular map, right click and Choose Map ID Jump then use an ID from this list.
NB. TrenchMapper is not yet finished, a small number of maps in the list are yet to be georeferenced by our amazing team of volunteers.
Most of the maps here are regular GSGS 2743 1:40,000 sheets.

ID Sheet number Comments
ma_004400 4 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004410 11 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse
m_5_000744 11 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_000743 12 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004420 13 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000742 19 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004430 19A Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004440 19B Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000773 20 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_005440 21 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005279 27 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse
m_5_000772 27 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004450 27 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse. Note "Registration Officer, No. 1 Area" on reverse
m_5_000756 28 Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_027197 28 Marked in the same manner as those with AAM on reverse
ma_004460 29 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005289 32 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004470 36 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_000080 36 Annotated with cemeteries. Not in AAM or Ellissen series
m_5_000758 36 Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
ma_004480 36A Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000763 36A Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_5_000760 36B Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
ma_004500 36C Probably AAM series
ma_004490 36C Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000759 36C Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_5_005299 36D Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004520 37 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000731 38 Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_000732 39 Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004530 40 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004860 41 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005311 42 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000733 44 Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_005316 44B Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004540 45 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000734 45 Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_000735 46 Marked AAM on reverse. Revised system of squaring. From Messer collection
ma_004550 46 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse. Revised system of squaring
ma_004560 48 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005325 49 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse. Revised system of squaring
m_5_005327 51 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000736 51 Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004570 51A Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000757 51A Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_020503 51B Annotated with cemeteries. Not in AAM or Ellissen series
m_5_005330 51B Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000764 51B Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
ma_004840 51C Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000765 51C Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_5_005339 53 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005340 54 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005342 57 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000737 57A Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_000766 57B Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_5_005344 57B Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000738 57C Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Lt. Col. A.A. Messer [AAM]. From Messer collection
ma_004580 57C Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000761 57C Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_5_000767 57D Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
ma_004780 57F Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000768 57E Eastern Half Annotated with cemeteries. Not marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection. Map is enlargement from French 1:80,000.
m_5_000769 57E Western Half Annotated with cemeteries. Not marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection. Map is enlargement from French 1:80,000.
m_5_005356 58 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005357 59 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000739 62A Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004590 62A Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004600 62A Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004830 62A Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000740 62B Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004610 62C Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004800 62C Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000762 62C Annotated with disinterments and cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection.
m_5_000771 62D Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_005363 62D Annotated with cemeteries. Not in AAM or Ellissen series
ma_004620 62D Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004790 62E Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000770 62E Annotated with cemeteries. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_000741 66 Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_005371 66A Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_002710 66B Marked AAM on reverse
ma_004630 66B Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004640 66C Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000749 66C Annotated with cemeteries and scattered burials. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_000748 66D Annotated with cemeteries and scattered burials. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004650 66D Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000747 66E Annotated with cemeteries and scattered burials. Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
ma_004660 66E Annotated with cemeteries. Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
ma_004900 66F Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_000745 70D Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_000746 70E Marked AAM on reverse. From Messer collection
m_5_005386 75 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse
m_5_005387 76 Marked Sir Herbert Ellissen on reverse

 

Other maps tagged with cemeteries on TrenchMapper

ID Sheet number Comments
m_81_000231 12 Annotated with cemeteries. Coloured [probably by hand]
m_5_005265 19 Annotated with cemeteries
m_97_000002 19 & 20 & 27 & 28 & 36 & 36a [Parts of] Annotated with cemeteries
m_84_000422 19 & 20 & 27 & 28 [Parts of] Annotated with cemeteries
ma_004880 19, 20, 27, 28, 36, 36a [parts of] Annotated with cemeteries, memorials and pillboxes
m_3_000123 19, 20, 27, 28, 36, 36a [parts of] Annotated with cemeteries, memorials and pillboxes. Annotated 38th Div. 2 WR
ma_005410 28 Annotated with cemeteries and hand written title "N&S of the Menin Road"
m_5_005282 28 Annotated with cemeteries
ma_004510 36B Marked with blue lines as others in series
m_5_005315 44A Annotated with cemeteries
ma_006330 45 Marked "reburials" on reverse
m_5_005319 45 Annotated with Communal Cemeteries.
m_5_005334 51E Annotated with Communal Cemeteries.
m_5_005335 52 Annotated with cemeteries
ma_005390 57 Marked "Reburials" on reverse with "3/16005" and 29/6/1919
ma_004810 57D Annotated with cemeteries and dressing stations etc. Marked "Survey Dept. M" on reverse
ma_004820 62B Annotated with cemeteries
ma_004850 62D Annotated with cemeteries
ma_005400 66D Annotated with blue symbols, possibly cemeteries.
ma_000040 1 Annotated with cemeteries
ma_000030 8 Annotated with cemeteries
ma_000020 12 Annotated with cemeteries
ma_000010 14 Annotated with cemeteries
m_5_000686-back 0 Body Density series
ma_000060 0 Annotated with cemeteries. No marginalia
ma_000070 0 Annotated with cemeteries. No marginalia
ma_000050 0 Annotated with cemeteries. Commercial map
ma_006840 0 Annotated with cemeteries
m_025933 0 Stanford's commercial map with index


 

 

 

Help v 2.4