Alternative Name(s): Range Board, Artillery Board, Battery Board, Artillery Map Board, Battery Plan, Target Map

Ranging board, comprising a quadrant of wood with a map of the Messines (Mesen) area of Belgium in 1917, during World War I. It was used by a German officer in charge of a Heavy Mortar Battery against 2nd Anzac Corps at Messines.

Ranging boards were used by artillery units to show the range of a gun in a placement overlooking the enemy trenches. They also detailed the position of the gun itself and the enemy trenches, entanglements and other features. In this instance the board depicts the area around Wulverghem (today Wulvergem) in Belgium before the Battle of Messines in 1917. It includes details of extensive trenches.

Labelled 'Gradbogen fur Minenwerfer', the board was created to guide a 'Minenwerfer' - a 'mine-thrower' or short-ranger mortar. The exact type of Minenwerfer remains unknown as all three calibres of Minenwerfer had a similar range. The location of the Minenwerfer is shown on the board by a red circle near the top right corner, next to arrows indicating geographic and magnetic north. The magnetic variance between the two north points is 13°21'; magnetic north would have been the point from which 0° was calculated.

The board uses angular mils, a form of measurement whereby 6400 mils = a circle for its bearings and the outer bearing arc is graduated at 5 mil intervals. Possibly due to the Minenwerfer's dual sights, the bearings have been marked using the centre of the board itself rather than a direct bearing. Contemporary photographs indicate that a range arm would have been attached to the board by a pin at the Minenwerfer's position; however, this board does not have an arm.

The board is inscribed on reverse with words including 'Ansbach' (a city in Bavaria) and 'Kartenstelle III' (a German military division), a possible reference to the division that used the board and its place of origin.

According to accounts of the Battle of Messines, the Minenwerfer's position would have been overrun by the afternoon of 7 June 1917. An inscription on the back indicates that the board eventually passed into the possession of a 'Lieutenant Stuart' of the 2nd Australian Topographical Section. Subsequent research has shown that Lieutenant's surname has been spelt incorrectly that the inscription actually refers to William Alexander Stewart. William enlisted in November 1914 with the 1st Divisional Supply Column before transferring to the 2nd Australian Topographical Section in February 1917. He eventually returned to Australian in January 1919 and was reunited with his wife, Marion, and their two children, Judith and Kenneth. William died in October 1949.

Physical Description

Quadrant of wood with printed and drawn map.

More Information

  • Collection Names

    Returned and Services League (RSL) Collection

  • Collecting Areas

    Public Life & Institutions

  • Acquisition Information

    Donation from Victorian Branch, Returned & Services League of Australia Limited (RSL), circa 1986

  • Place & Date Used

    Messines, Belgium, 1917
    NB: In some contemporary sources 'France' is substituted for 'Belgium.'

  • Place

    Used by the German Army.

  • Inscriptions

    Inscriptions on front include' 'Gradbogen fur Minenwerfer'. Inscribed on back in hand-writing: 'Ansbach / M.W.4. / Vermess. Abt.24. Rartenstelle III. / Angelertigt: / [illegible signatures] / Gepruft / [illegible] / 27.[4?].17.' Inscribed on the back in hand-writing along one of the supports: 'RANGING / BOARD / USED BY / OBSERVING / OFFICER / OF GERMAN / Heavy Trench / MORTAR / at MESSINES / opposite / 2nd Anzac / Corps. / (from Lt Stuart) / 2nd Anzac / Topo Section'

  • Classification

    Military history, Cartography, Maps & charts

  • Category

    History & Technology

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • Overall Dimensions

    540 mm (Width), 36 mm (Depth), 620 mm (Height)

  • References

    With thanks to the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company, and advice received from Herbert Jäger (German army, retired), Ralph Lovett (artillery enthusiast, USA), Charlie Clelland (Landships II) and David Pearson (archaeologist), 2014.

  • Keywords

    World War I, 1914-1918, German Armed Forces, Artillery: German