Britain's Railways in Wartime

BookBritain's Railways in Wartime

Britain's Railways in Wartime

Historic England


November 15th, 2018





In the long and absorbing history of Britain’s railways and the men and women who have worked on them, the most challenging years were those of the two world wars. Neither of these wars could have been won without the railways. Transportation of everything that was grown, made or mined, as well as soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians was largely the task of the railways.

Yet the contribution of railways, and railway men and women in wartime has often been overlooked. This book pays tribute to the way the railways and their staff responded to the demand that they do more with fewer resources. They were called upon to cope with the extraordinary change in the character and volume of passenger and goods traffic, to endure dangerously long hours, and to overcome fear. Small wayside stations could be transformed into a frenzy of activity by the location of a camp or supply depot on its doorstep. Disruption through bomb damage could turn the shift of locomotive crew or guard into an indefinite wait for relief.

The railway companies built many and various memorials to honour their fallen workers – these monuments, created and designed by high-calibre sculptors and architects, are included within the book’s gazetteer.

The book inevitably includes many statistics as well as dates, but it is impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the railway’s contribution to the wars without them. The focus is on the railways of Britain, but sketches of the overseas theatres give some idea of the work of railway construction and operating companies, which were largely made up of railwaymen.

'Books about the railways' work in the World Wars usually deal with just one of them: this covers both, yet it encompasses remarkable detail [...] Despite this volume's relatively small size, it conveys brilliantly the sacrifices made by our railways in text and well-chosen illustrations: warmly recommended.'
Philip Scowcroft, Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society

Author Information

Anthony Lambert has written or contributed to many books on railway history and travel. He is a trustee of two railway museums, a judge for the National Railway Heritage Awards and lectures on railway history.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
1. Before the First World War
2. First World War home front
3. First World War theatres
4. Second World War home front
5. Second World War theatres
6. In memoriam