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This new book records the trials and tribulations of staff in the Hydrographic Department during World War Two. The importance and secrecy during WW2 of the preparations for the Invasion of France is well documented and publicised. Eight decades later, British and foreign allied services still attend to remember and celebrate those heroes who ventured all. From these ports the Allies would sail for D-Day, delayed by storms until the 6th of June, went thousands men and ships in tight formation.The Hydrographic Department of the Navy was responsible for all the charts and navigational products designed, compiled, proofed, printed and distributed to the Allies. The vital work in Taunton and Bath, without which the invasion would fail, was undertaken in total secrecy. All that outsiders knew was that the buildings used were simply “the Admiralty”. The numbers of charts produced by the Department are staggering, as in 1938 only just over one million (M) were issued, compared with almost seven million in 1944. During the war 30.7M charts and diagrams were supplied to 4,969 vessels from fourteen allied countries, compared with an average of 3.5M over a similar period in peacetime. This increase had a tremendous effect on chart making staff in the Department. The stories of the secret chart making activities has not been told until the publication of this book – “Churchill’s Secret Chart Makers: the Road to D-Day and Beyond in Somerset, 1939-1945”. It details the work of the Hydrographic Department predominantly based in Taunton and Bath, with satellite operations in Exeter, Frome, Ironbridge, Armadale, Nottingham and London. Written by a local historian, Dr Adrian Webb, it brings to light the importance of the work undertaken by the Department. Based on a wide range of sources, including interviews with war-time staff, this fully illustrated hardback book contains 272 pages. It is available at £25.


Dedicated to the staff who worked in the Department during World War Two.


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CLICK ON THE LINK ON THE RIGHT TO READ Book Reviews and Expert Comments

Churchill's Secret Chart Makers

  • Adrian Webb has done well to spot this important gap in our knowledge of the UKHO and its vital role in Britain’s war-time chart making - and he’s provided a highly readable, gloriously illustrated and brilliantly-researched account to bring this ‘secret’ history to light.

    (Dr Vanessa Collingridge, Author and Broadcaster)


    I would like to thank you and congratulate you for your most recent publication about the history of the Office during WWII. As an ex-RN droggie turned RAN droggie and eventually SG of the IHO, there were plenty of names, events and situations that I recall, but lots of other stirring details that were new to me. It is so good that these have been recorded and are now much more accessible through your work. The book and its details are yet another illustration of how important hydrography is to all activities conducted in, on or under the sea - even those that would have been best not to have had to happen. Well done, Adrian.

    (Mr Robert Ward, Former Secretary-General of the International Hydrographic Organization)


    I have devoured Churchill’s Secret Chart Makers. Thank you so much for this fine product of years of painstaking and highly intelligent research, creating a priceless resource. The whole account is rich with enlightenment on what went on in the Department during those years.

    (Captain Mike Barritt RN, Former Hydrographer of the Navy)


    This is a superb tribute to the work that went into the mapping: people, places, processes, and products, fully referenced and lavishly illustrated. The volume is very well produced and does justice to the illustrations. Apart from getting your own copy, urge your library to get it too.

    (Dr Jonathan Harlow, Avon Local History & Archaeology, June 2024)

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