I'm a native to the Ypres region. Here we still have hills retaining their names given during WW1: Hill 60, Hill 62, Hill 41,...

I did some research on the naming of the hills. And during my research I found a similar practice during WW2, Korean war & Vietnam war. For earlier & latter wars, I couldn't find trustworthy examples.

Who's idea was it to designate hilltops with names referring tot their height & when (which war) was it first implemented?

Some Examples


As near as I can tell, it is standard Army practice to label hills in an operating area by their height in meters. That means for all those hills you listed, the number is their height. This is probably also why the important hills near the coast tend to have smaller numbers.

This practice does not appear to have changed recently, so I'd assume it is still going on. I don't know how far back it goes, but obviously prior to the French Revolution it at least would have had to be some other unit of measure.

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    Note the Battle of 73 Easting in 1991. Naming hills for their height requires topographic maps with summit heights on it, and it would be less attractive when everybody uses GPS coordinates ... – o.m. Jul 19 '16 at 15:29
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    @o.m. - Well, one should note that happened in open desert, where there was likely no other geographic feature to designate the location. There was no specific hill or river or town being fought over. All the pictures I can find are of a perfectly flat view to the horizon. – T.E.D. Jul 19 '16 at 16:26
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    Yes, this is correct; this is what I was taught in map reading, which was 1969. The same system was used in WW I and WW II, and probably earlier. Topographic maps show equal elevation contours, and the innermost line circumscribes the hill top. Though the map is not the territory, a knowledge of maps is important for tactical planning. As one goes back in time; the USGS began systematic mapping in 1884, nationalmap.gov/ustopo/125history.html, but I've seen maps (marked in feet) from surveys taken prior to 1820 for Michigan. – Peter Diehr Jul 19 '16 at 19:41
  • I'd think one nice thing about a scheme like is that the name also is somewhat helpful for encoding the relative value of each hill. For example, being on hill x and taking fire from hill x+30 is likely a bit more of a problem than the reverse. – T.E.D. Jul 19 '16 at 19:56
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    @PieterGeerkens - "only since about 1970"? I'm guilty of this too, but at some point we both probably ought to quit talking about things half a century old like they are recent. :-) – T.E.D. Jul 20 '16 at 13:20

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