O. G. S. Crawford

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Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford
O.G.S. Crawford, Portsmouth, 1912.jpg
O.G.S. Crawford in 1912.
Born (1886-10-28)28 October 1886
Bombay, India
Died 28 November 1957(1957-11-28)
Nationality British
Occupation Archaeologist
Known for Aerial photography pioneer

Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford (28 October 1886 – 28 November 1957) was an English archaeologist and a pioneer in the use of aerial photographs for deepening archaeological understanding of the landscape.

Early life[edit]

Born in the city of Bombay the son of a civil servant, he was brought up in London and Hampshire by his paternal aunts due to the death of his mother in 1886 and his father in 1894. Crawford was educated at Marlborough College and then Keble College, Oxford where he began reading literae humaniores but changed to geography. Upon graduation in 1910 he worked as demonstrator in the Department of Geography at Oxford until 1911. In 1913 Crawford joined the Scoresby Routledge expedition to Easter Island but quarrelled with the principals and left before the expedition reached its destination. Instead he joined Henry Wellcome's excavations at Jebel Moya and Abu Gelli in the Sudan. On his return to England he excavated a long barrow on Wexcombe Down with Earnest Hooton.

Military service[edit]

During the First World War, Crawford served first in the London Scottish, then in the Survey Division of the Third Army. On 21 October 1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as a flying officer (observer) with seniority from 17 February 1917.[1] His aircraft was shot down in 1918 and he was held in Holzminden prisoner-of-war camp until the end of the war.

Work as an archaeologist[edit]

Following a series of short-term jobs, in 1920 he was appointed the first Archaeology Officer of the Ordnance Survey, a post he held until his retirement in 1946. By 1945, he was powerful enough at the Survey to have an assistant, W.F. (Peter) Grimes. In 1927 he founded Antiquity; A Quarterly Review of Archaeology.[2] He became known over time among archaeological circles for his cap, which rarely left him. When he went indoors it was in his pocket, rolled up. When he was in a moment of defiance he would throw it to the floor.

He was instrumental in the discovery of Woodhenge, situated near Stonehenge, which had been the subject of a study by Gilbert Stuart Martin Insall. During 1925, Insall had photographed the area and found a barrow with white spots in a circular formation. Crawford identified it to be a henge.

World War II[edit]

During the Second World War he was responsible for saving much historical material in his garage in Nursling. He had noticed that all the major museums and galleries were hoarding their valuables, and the Ordnance Survey wasn’t doing anything with the original ordnance maps. He took on the senior ranks of the Survey, who eventually allowed him to talk to the Director-General. In a meeting described in British Archaeology, issue no.42 in 1999, Crawford, his cap (which he held in his hand), and Peter met with the Director-General, who told them nothing would be done. Crawford threw his hat to the floor, and threatened to write to The Times in order to get the public on his side. The Director-General (who didn’t seem to be affected by such a threat) asked Crawford about the whereabouts of his residence, and then said "if you think so much of the precious maps you’d better take them to Nursling", which ended the audience. Crawford and Grimes stored all of the old maps in Crawford’s garage the following week. This proved to be useful, because the Ordnance Survey offices in Southampton were the target of a bombing attack the next year.

Also during the blitz he created a photographic record of old Southampton for the National Buildings Record.

Post war[edit]

In 1951 he wrote: "How much nonsense have not we of the present generation seen faded by our silence (...) Where now are (...) the Old Straight Trackers (...)." He did not live to see the revival of Ley Lines from the late 1960s. "Future archaeologists will perhaps excavate the ruined factories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when the radiation effects of Atom bombs have died away" he wrote in his 1953 book, Archaeology in the Field.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30373. p. 11572. 6 November 1917. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  2. ^ Jim Cole; Tony Stankus (25 February 2014). Journals of the Century. Routledge. pp. 146–. ISBN 978-1-317-72014-0. 

Books by O. G. S. Crawford[edit]

  • The Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, 1925
  • Wessex from the Air, 1928
  • Air Survey and Archaeology 1928
  • Air-Photography for Archaeologists 1929
  • Topography of Roman Scotland North of the Antonine Wall, 1949
  • Archaeology in the Field, 1953
  • Said and Done: the autobiography of an archaeologist, 1955
  • The Eye Goddess, 1957

Books about O. G. S. Crawford[edit]

  • Hauser, Kitty Bloody Old Britain: O.G.S. Crawford and the Archaeology of Modern Life 2008

External links[edit]