Infographics, Notebook

The Navigator

Notebook: 5 October 2015 | INFOGRAPHICS


How Ray got from A to B before satnav

Ray had been a navigator in the RAF during the latter stages of WWII, in Wellington and Liberator bombers, seeing action in the Mediterranean and then, at the end of the war, helping transport troops and POWs back from Italy and Germany to Britain. He later worked for the Ordnance Survey. He had a great sense of direction and a real knack of finding his way from A to B, whether it be navigating an aircraft from Munich to Cambridgeshire or driving his Ford Capri across London. The stars would guide him at night time and he’d note the sun’s position and landmarks during the day, and of course he had a large range of maps to help see him home as well. A favourite was The Reader’s Digest AA Book of the Road published in 1966 which featured ingenious ‘continuity flaps’ that allowed east-west/west-east routes to be followed from page to page without the reader losing their position.

continuity flaps crop

But trying to follow a page from an atlas is not easy when driving and so if Ray had to get from A to B in his car on a route he’d not travelled before, he would sketch out his own little route map with start point A at the bottom and destination B at the top. The sketch would show the major road junctions and any landmarks to watch out for and a quick glance at the route map while driving, would be enough to keep him on track. He produced around 100 of these sketches between about 1960 and 1995 and what I find fascinating is that they provide a potted history of his travels. One of my favourites is the route he must have taken in the late 1970s in his Ford Capri from his home in Leicester to an address in Bromley – not the easiest of routes because it involved crossing right through the middle of London – the M25 and the Dartford crossing hadn’t been built. His route is pictured below in six stages and passes both Lord’s and the Oval cricket grounds and crosses the Thames at Vauxhall Bridge. The route starts from the M1 at the bottom of page 1 and finishes at Plaistow Lane at the top of page 6.

Route map 1, 2

Route map 3, 4

Route map 5, 6

One day Ray’s sense of direction left him and he took a wrong turning for no apparent reason. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and as it took hold he sadly became lost even in his own house. Fortunately we have his large assortment of route maps as a reminder of him and his travels from A to B.

If you like hand drawn maps, including hand drawn route maps, then you may be interested in a collection of them which were published  in 2010 in a delightful book called From Here to There by Kris Harzinski.

From Here to There

In memory of my father Ray Paul, 30 May 1923 – 22 October 2011