Why did the British Army deploy 60cm light railways on the Western Front in 1916 and how were these railways adapted to the needs of trench warfare?
Joshua Lewis Scott
Part 1- The Canadian Deliverance
Part 2- The Tin Turtle enters the field
Part 3- Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and the light railways
Image Reference List
This independent project will investigate the deployment and adaptation of 60cm light railways by the British Army along the Western Front during the First World War. To begin, the literature of this subject will be examined along with works which should discuss the issues presented by light railways but do not. The subsequent chapter will discuss the introduction of an unofficial light railway network deployed by the Canadian sappers along the line. These handcrafted lines would be incorporated into an official logistical system after the transport report presented by Sir Eric Geddes, which was fully endorsed by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. Chapter two will examine the locomotives and rolling stock deployed by 1918 and how these were adapted to the needs of the front as well as how they were often remodelled by the men on the ground to suit their needs. The third and final chapter will explore the wider logistical and theoretical issues which surround the light railways including economics, both in terms of manpower and money, the role of Haig in introducing civilian experts to solve the logistical crisis which had emerged by 1916 and how these railways were to the army benefit during an attack or defence.
Joshua lewis Scott
The history and significance of the light railways during the First World War has almost entirely been forgotten by academic historians. Keith Grieves has rightly described how, “the political and military consequences of transport developments from August to September 1916 to 1917 is a neglected episode in the studies of the Western Front and the British Government in the Great War.” This independent project will investigation why the British Army deployed light railways in 1916 and how this logistical entity was soon adapted to meet the needs of the Western Front with the support of British industry and men on the ground to develop the railways. In support of this argument; contemporary accounts, newspapers, oral history and journal articles will all be deployed to demonstrate the benefits that the light railways provided to the British Army by 1918.
Little academic attention has been placed on the light railways during the World War One which means many historical analysis of the logistical system and the conduct of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig fail to mention this important element. In these arguments, the ways in which the light railways were adopted to meet the needs of trench warfare and how by 1918 they were used both as weapons delivery system as well as how they became a crucial instrument in an advance of the line and ultimately contributed to victory are ignored.
The following investigation will begin with a literature review to determine where gaps in the historiography of the light railways occur but also to evaluate the sources which do discuss this topic. The first chapter will go on to consider the logistical position the BEF found itself in the summer of 1916 as it carried out its first major offensive on the Western Front. Chapter two will subsequently engage with the debate concerning how the light railways adapted its equipment and practices to the needs and difficulties of the lunar landscape of the Front. The third chapter will engage with the wider debates which the light railways can be incorporated into, including their decisive role in both the attack and defence capabilities of the British Army, but also how they engage with the ongoing debate concerning the conduct of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. To conclude this investigation into the light railways, the different elements will be gathered together, including all of the evidence presented to illustrate a rounded image of the significant role which the light railways played along the Western Front during the First World War.
“I should like, in conclusion, to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the loyalty of the whole light railway staff … always cheerful, always anxious to put their last ounce of energy in. Casualties were inevitable, but the memory of those very gallant railwaymen who paid the supreme sacrifice will be ever with us.”
In 1920, with the realities and memory of war still painfully present in Britain it is hardly surprising that the Railway Gazette made such a fitting tribute to men who had a significant role in the British Army’s ability to wage war on the Wester Front. At the time of it publication “the work of the 60-cm. gauge little is generally know” and so it is indisputable why it has been forgotten from many historiographical works focusing on the First World War.
To say that this entity of World War One has been entirely forgotten from literature would be misguided. There are a number a publications which focus on the deployment of light railways by the British army on the Western Front and many also include their deployment in other theatres. First and foremost, solely dedicated works discussing light railways such as, Keith Taylorson three works, Roy C. Link’s recent publication and Humphrey Household’s 1988 publication Narrow Gauge Railway: Wales and the Wester Front are examples of works which focus solely on the WW1 light railways. , Although being well researched texts which provide a good understanding to the subject; they lack wider context and a polemic stances. To coincide with the centenary of the First World War there has also been a surge in publication, including those dedicated to the standard gauge railways history which often dedicate a section to the use of light railways.
In Andrew Roden’s 2014 publication Trains to the Trenches a seventeen page chapter details the role of the light railway network on the Western Front and other theatres. Although being a well-researched and informative book, it can be observed that the chapter regarding the narrow gauge network is less well researched, especially compared to other chapter based discussions, for instance Colette Hooper’s 2014 publication. Roden states that “for most of the war the locomotives were steam powered…” This is simply untrue, before the British Army had realised its need for light railways, in 1916, there were already pioneers expecting their introduction. J D Abott of the Motor Rail Company had observed the build-up of German light railway material before the outbreak of war and so in response designed a small petrol locomotive. Although turned away by Kitchener and the War Office in 1914 the Simplex petrol locomotive would become an essential in the forward areas of the light railway network. This is without mentioning the Dick, Keer tractors, the British Westinghouse PE’s both of which were Petrol-electric tractors or any of the other locomotives deployed which did not rely on steam. Roden’s argument is contradicted three pages before he states that for most of the war the locomotives were steam powered due to the image printed on page 171. The image shows a 20hp Simplex, in 1916, loading wounded men on stretchers; the captions describing how Simplex locomotive were far less visible to enemy forces, contradicting Roden’s argument that the light railway were limited because of its reliance on steam powered locomotives in the forward areas. Roden, in defence of his work, does discredit the argument made by William Philpott in his work, Bloody Victory, The Sacrifice on the Somme. Philpott argues that “modern mechanised transportation systems gave way the nearer it came to the front.” Although true in the summer of 1916, summarised by Colonel A. M. Henniker, this transportation error was soon rectified by the large scale deployment of light railways.
Colette Hooper’s Railways of The Great War with Michael Portillo engages much more with the wider debate compared to Roden. Hooper begins by discussing how the German Army were more prepared for trench warfare by referring to the work of Christian Wolmar who argues that the Germans had laid their first lines of light railways within a few days of the war, “to help with their attack on Lige.” Hooper also highlights that it was the recommendations of Sir Eric Geddes as Inspector General of Transport that spurred the British Army into deploying light railways. Keith Grieves takes this idea further by professing that even before Geddes had issued his report to the government, Field Marshal Haig had already started to act upon the recommendations such was the desperation of the British Army.
Martin & Joan Farebrother’s ‘Narrow Gauge in the Arras Sector Before, during and after the First World War’ is the latest work to be published on the subject of the WW1 light railways. The Farebrother’s have presented an in-depth examination of the 60cm and the 1 meter gauge railways which were used by British forces. Although the co-authors have used maps and a large array of statistics in their well research book they fall in line with many of the monographs on the light railways which have proceeded them. This publication fails to engage with the wider discussions and debates which could incorporate the role of the light railways including the command of Haig and the significance of battlefield logistics. The books chapters on the light railways during the First World War also fail to engage with some of the specialised equipment. In terms of the workshop trains the authors merely tag a note to the end of their chapter which discusses the railway workshops by saying, “In addition, a 60cm gauge repair train was provided for each army. Each train consisted of a generating car, two machinery cars, a tool car, a stores car and an officer car.” As with previous works the light railway workshop trains are merely described with no attempt to describe its significance or its role with thus demonstrates a failure to tackle some of the less researched entities of this subject. This book does in one respect set its self apart from many of the books that have come before it as unlike Keith Taylorson or R. Links, the Farebrothers included a bibliography which although limited, includes both English and French sources which shows the extensive research undertaken by these historians. Martin and Joan Farebrother’s work, although being well research, does not add to the academic historiography and fails to engage with the debates which the light railways encompass.
Some literary works forget entirely the subject of light railways on the Western Front. Bill Rawling’s, Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps, 1914-1918, fails to discuss at all about the role the Canadians had in either introducing trench tramways or their pivotal role in constructing and maintaining the system. Keith Taylorson, Roden and especially F. Angus’ journal article highlight the fact that it was the Canadian troops who introduced hand or horse powered trench tramways in their sectors by using any material there were to hand. Colonel A. M. Henniker notes how Canadian units on their own intuition established hand push rails in their sectors. The effectiveness of these tramways and the inheritance of a French network, along with a section of the Front, would convince the British High Command to mobilise light railways along the front, highlighting their willingness to introduce new technologies to the battlefield; something Rawling fails to discuss. Tim Travers’ The Killing Ground discusses how the British Army adapted to trench warfare and how the Army introduced new technologies in an attempt to break the stalemate. Travers’ work however does not feature a discussion concerning the deployment of light railways: although not an entirely new concept to warfare, the scale of British Army’s deployment during the war was unprecedented in its history. Additionally, due to the nature of operations it meant some of the locomotives were modern diesel and diesel-electrics which again demonstrates how the British forces were willing to incorporate these new technologies.
Dale Clarke, a PHD student who specialises in the application of technology to warfare, has authored an enlightening guild to the artillery tactics deployed during the First World War. Clarke fails however to mention the critical role the light railways had in supplying the British artillery with the huge quantity of shells they needed. Neither horse nor motor lorry could carry the quantity needed for the great offensives, nor could they get as close; light railways often led directly to the artillery batteries. Roy C Links work and Charles S. Smalls, Two-Foot Rails to the Front both use a transport and distribution map to show how the narrow gauge network filled the gap between the standard gauge lines, the various gun batteries and the Front. [See Figure 1] Failing to discuss this crucial logistical aspect of the war is a fundamental mistake. To begin with, failure to highlight the importance of the light railways in supplying the artillery guns with ammunition, Clarke fails to engage with the issue that British Command were willing to introduce new technologies to the battlefield in order to allow the artillery the number of shells it needed. Secondly they fail to identity how the light railways were the most efficient means of transport along the destroyed terrain of the Western Front, a terrain that horse, lorry and fatigue parties found extremely difficult and sometimes deadly to traverse.
Colonel A. M. Henniker’s official history of transport on the Western Front remained the standard authority for the history of logistics for many years. Henniker’s work details the entirety of the British transport system on the Western front and so gives a detailed impression of the overburdened transport which turned to light railways in order to relieve pressure on the failing motor lorry and horse networks. Henniker also highlights how both the Germans and the French had quickly deployed light railways while the British realised their importance only after their advances in August 1916. Motor Lorries nor standard gauge lines could be constructed over the devastated terrain of the former No Man’s Land rapidly enough to consolidate the newly won territory. Henniker contributes to the wider debate as his evidence demonstrates that British command were adapting to trench warfare and a demonstration of their willingness to introduce new technologies to meet the challenge.
Academic work concerning the use of narrow gauge railways during the First World War is sparse, surprisingly, considering its important role in the logistical support of the Front. Its deployment and development can also be incorporated into wider historical debates concerning the conduct of British command and their relationship with new technological advances. As more unexplored histories of WW1, such as child soldiers and the role of empire troops are explored, one must wonder when academic attention will turn more significantly to the narrow gauge railways.
The Canadian Deliverance
How did the BEF’ logistical situation develop between 1914 and 1916 as the war developed into stalemate?
The pre-war British military doctrine stated that in terms of lines of communication the British Expediency Force were to rely on standard gauge railways, mechanical transport and both horse and fatigue parties to make the final movement of materials to the front. When war broke out in 1914 Sir John French, the BEF commander, observed these tactics, which during a war of movement was the most logical course of action. However as the war ground to a halt and a war of stalemate emerged the resulting stagnation lead to a breakdown of these practices which threatened to buckle and create severe vulnerabilities to the British military position in France. This chapter will examine the BEF’s logistical situation and how it developed into a critical situation by 1916 calling the attention of the government and the civilian services. The chapter will then go on to examine both the official and unofficial response to the logistical situation in terms of the light railways and their wider implications.
The six British divisions of the BEF deployed in 1914 who held a front of around 20 miles, “had about 1,200 lorries, 200 lorries per division.” By 1916 these figures had increased dramatically, “the Fourth Army with a front of 15 miles had 4,691 lorries, 235 lorries per division … besides over 1,000 motor cars and nearly 2,000 motor- cycles.” Many authors, including Keith Taylorson, have identified the dilemmas that extensive mechanical road transportation caused to the French rural road network. With solid rubber tires the lorries quickly destroyed the roads creating quagmires and rendering many of them impassable. With the ever increasing need for maintenance crews, greater quantities of men were pulled into the black hole of repairs, along with a growing expansion in the amounts of materials and equipment required simply to maintain lines of communication. The Marquise Quarries located close to Boulogne, provided most of the road stone for the BEF’s use in their sectors. The quarry was quickly developed so that by 1918 it produced “nearly 2,000,000 tons … [compared to] 1,000,000 tons during 1917,” all of which would need to be transported to its place of utilisation. The 1909 Field Service Regulations did recognise the dangers of placing dependency on motor lorries by stating that, “the destruction even of small bridges may delay mechanical transport greatly, and special measures to protect them may be necessary.” It is clear then that in 1914 the British command was not expecting a stalemate in which road traffic density would become a critical issue. Gary Mead has rightly argued that in 1914 “the BEF had not been prepared for the difficulties of modern warfare.” By 1916 these weakness had become exceedingly visible as the motor lorry lacked the capacity and versatility to serve the needs of the Front. Coupled with the relentless effort to maintain the road network, trench warfare meant that an astronomical list and quantity of materials were needed to be transported to a relatively small area: everything from picks and shovels, food, shells, duck boards, evacuation of the wounded, flares, small arms ammunition etc were needed to be transported. All of these materials put logistical commanders and services under such pressure that they had to alter their practices to meet the needs of modern mechanised war which emerged on the Western Front.
While other combatant nations on the Western Front deployed light railways to alleviate the logistical pressures early in the conflict, British Army commanders, between 1914 to 1916, continued to hold on their belief that mobile war would soon commence imminently. In thinking so, the British army command had confidence in that this would render the light railways obsolete making standard gauge railways, lorries and horses the ideal strategy. However, officially, the British Army would abandon this thought, in terms of its logistics, in the summer of 1916. With the slaughter on the Somme it was soon realised that a quick break through would not be achieved and so thoughts focused on sustaining the army’s material needs in order to sustain a war of attrition and hold the line by reforming their logistical networks. William Philpott describes how“modern mechanised transportation systems gave way the nearer it came to the front.” This became clearly evident during the Somme offensive which called for reform in the supply chain to the front.
The deployment of light railways had already started before its official introduction in 1916 as some units, namely the Canadian sappers, had already introduced improvised light railways or trench tramways in their sectors. By the outbreak of the offensive along the Somme many of the Canadian sappers had introduced their own improvised 60cm gauge rail networks copying the systems deployed by the French. The sappers created their own rolling stock from anything they could acquire in order to manufactory wagons, many of which had multi-purposes. The propulsion for these wagons was basic, often consisting of the men themselves pushing the wagons, or as Sapper William J. Hill described that if the light railways were being used to move shells up to an artillery position, the artillerymen would often loan their horses in order to increase the speed of the wagons. [See Figure 2] These early attempts at improving the army’s logistical capacity also tackled some of the more problematic supplies needed at the Front. The supply of water to the front line was of crucial importance for both the men, the horse and the British Vickers, a water-cooled machine gun. Water however was a bulky and difficult resource to carry across the lunar-like landscape of the Western Front and so it is hardly surprising that the light railways quickly came to the aid of this problem. Taken from the Daily Mail, the reporter has captured an image of improvised water wagons in the forward area. [See Figure 3] This basic predecessor of the H wagons composed of a simple construction of a corrugated water tank attached to the bogies. Although these wagons would be top heavy and likely to topple over, improved in the next generation of water tanks, these undoubtedly provided a crucial and more reliable water supply to the forward areas along with reducing the need for numerous fatigue parties to carry the supplies. These improvisations demonstrate how the British Army was beginning to learn how vital an efficient logistical system was in order to fight in a static mechanised war. With these lessons and official backing for the light railways, the army concerted its efforts in becoming both a logistically capable and a key fighting force on the Western Front.
Officially the British Army, by 1916 under the command of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, took control of its first light railway network. In February 1916 the British Army inherited a section of the Front from the French Army who had recently constructed a 60cm gauge railway which came under the remit of the Railway Operating Division (ROD). The Battle of the Somme became the critical moment in terms of the British Army’s military conduct on the Western Front. With the army’s logistical weakness recognised, Sir Eric Geddes formerly General Manager of the North Eastern Railway was dispatched to investigate the British Expeditionary Force’s logistical situation. Geddes’ report called for changes throughout the logistical chain, from the unloading materials in the French ports to the handling of goods over the shell punctured landscape in the forward sectors. One of the most significant recommendations put forward by Geddes concerned the use of light railways which were to supply the forward area recognising their logistical advantage in an unchanging battlefield compared to its horse and motor lorry counterparts. Crucially for this argument, the speed in which Geddes’ proposals were taken up by the British Command was astonishing. As Keith Grieves suggests, Haig had already started to act upon the recommendations made by Geddes before they had been submitted to the government. Although discussed in greater detail in the third chapter, at this junction it can be suggested that this is evidence of Haig’s willingness to accept new technologies and strategies to the battlefield in order to gain an advantage in an attempt to break the stalemate. Haig even went as far as condemning Geddes’ critics, including some of his staff, for their ignorance towards the scale of the war on the Western Front by stating that these men “failed to realise the size of this Army, and the amount of work which the Army requires of a civilian nature.” To counteract the critics Haig was quick to act in appointing Geddes the honorary title of Major General. This adds new ground to a historical argument which has raged since Andrew Clark’s, The Donkeys which debates the conduct of the British Command, particularly Haig, during the First World War. In the case of light railways, at least, he proved quick to seize upon a new practical technological solution to the logistical challenge of trench warfare.
In response to the success of the Canadians improvised systems, the recently inherited French network and the logistical crisis developing along the Front, the War Department were quick to place orders for 60cm track and equipment. By August 1916 the total orders made by the War Office consisted of “600 miles of track, 120 tractors and locomotives and over 1,600 wagons.” Although discussed in greater detail in the next chapter, many of the locomotive orders were placed with the American manufacturer Baldwin as British manufactures managing both commercial contracts and its contribution to the war industry could not fulfil the urgent needs of the Army.
Even after its early introduction to the battlefield correspondents recognised the importance of the light railways. In an article published in October 1916 the journalist W. Beach Thomas describes how the defence of a British position “had every advantage, a great store of bombs, well placed machine guns, a partly shell-proof position and light railways behind.” By 1916 the defensive and offensive logistical benefits that the light railways could provide became clearer to the British Command. With the ability to rush men to the front, supply the engineers with equipment to consolidate their position and keep the artillery well supplied with shells, it was soon demonstrated the instrumental role the light railways could have in the army’s strategy on the Western Front. It must however be recognised the importance of Sir Eric Geddes’ contributions in his recommendations for the deployment of the light railways in his Government report. As previously discussed Haig’s rapid deployment of the light railways, in accordance to Geddes’ recommendations, demonstrate Haig’s spontaneous energy in adapting his tactics with the new technologies available on the battlefield.
‘The Tin Turtle Enters the Field’
How did the Light Railways adapt to the needs of the Western Front?
By the third year of the war, the British sectors witnessed the early introduction of light railways along the Western Front with the Canadian sappers taking the lead in demonstrating the effectiveness and the utility of the system. Under these enterprising sappers, a number of handcraft multipurpose wagons were manufactured to serve the needs of the front. Once the British Army had adopted these new transportation lines, the evolution of the light railways rolling stock and propulsion took a dramatic increase. This process would see the introduction of the latest technologies to the field, coupled with British engineering, in order to serve the needs of a mass citizen’s army operating in a modern mechanised war against an equal European power. This chapter will discuss the advances made in propulsion and rolling stock, which demonstrate the transformative ways in which the light railways benefited the supply of the front and also both the defensive and offensive abilities of the army.
Once light railways had been accepted by the British command, the army rapidly deployed them to the front where they transformed the basis of the army’s field logistics: in 1916 the army only operated “96 miles of railways, the mileage [had] increased to 815 by the end of 1917.”This rapid expansion of rail lines throughout the British sectors did not plunge the army into a labour black hole crisis as the road construction and maintenance had done. Fortunately, the British took the example of the French army who, before the war, had adapted the agricultural prefabricated narrow gauge 16 foot segment of track invented by Paul Decauville.Colette Hooper has described the versatility of these prefabricated tracks which, as she highlights, could “be laid quickly, then lifted and shifted as necessary to serve the changing needs of the campaign.”Laying the prefabricated track would not require the expertise of highly-trained and scarce engineers, as a simple ‘fishplate’ (a metal bar that allowed two tracks to be bolted together) was the only implement needed to connect the segments. This meant that labour units were able, increasingly, to take up the task, including the numerous Chinese labour battalion that began to arrive in France by 1917. This rapid track laying technique would pay dividends for the light railways throughout the war as they could for one, quickly repair artillery damaged track, but it also resulted in the light railways gaining the ability to quickly follow an advance of the line, in order to keep supplying the new front. Once the village of Passchendale was occupied in 1917, it took only “sixty hours to have a light railway was operating right into the village, bringing up stores and taking back the wounded.” This was crucial if tactical momentum was to be maintained during offensives and offered one component of the operational solution to the problem of trench stalemate. These tracks were supplied in different weights, ranging from the 9lb track, the 16lb and the 20lb all of which were deployed depending on the ground in which they were to be laid over or the weight of the loads that would pass over them. This gave the army logistical flexibility, for if the ground was particularly uneven and shell damaged then 9lb tracks could be constructed across in order for light hand pushed wagons to be used meaning supplies were still moved even over broken ground.
The official introduction and mobilisation of light railways throughout the British Army drew upon the contributions of British industry and civilian expertise. The narrow gauge steam locomotive, by no means a new technology, still had a vital role to play on the light railways. From 1916 the predominately hand pushed Canadian wagons and carriages began to be replaced with mechanical transport. At this junction it must be noted that the French Army were much more utilitarian when it came to their propulsion methods as it was observed in 1916 that “eleven dogs with two men, [could] pull a ton up to some of the most precarious slopes … with a very great economy of men.”For the British Army their reliance would be placed on steam, horse, diesel/electric and manpower propulsion. In 1916 the War Department placed orders with the major light railway construction companies. However with the delayed introduction of the light railways to the Western Front many of the engine and wagon companies, including the largest the Hunslet Engine Company, had turned their production to war work and so although Hunslet delivered “155 locomotives” between 1916- 1919 the Army’s quantitative needs were by no means met. The Hunslet 4-6-0T became popular with its crew for its general stability and for its fully enclosed cab, not only protecting the crews from the elements but it also gave crews a greater chance of concealing the light emitted from the fire which would serve as a target for enemy observation. [See Figure 4] The War Office, in order to for fill the army’s sudden need turned to the American Baldwin Company whose industrial capacity and might could provide the British Army with the equipment they needed. An order for 45 locomotives was placed in March 1916 and astonishingly all were delivered by October. The Baldwin 4-6-0T were less favoured among the crews due to its large side water tanks which, on the uneven tracks of the front, often led these locomotives to topple of the rails. [See Figure 5] This problem became so prevalent that the ever innovative Canadian railwaymen removed the side tanks and converted a B class wagon to be pulled behind the locomotive as a tender. [See Figure 6] This demonstrates that although the Baldwins were not the most adapted to the needs of the Western Front, the War Office chose to order so many simply because they could satisfy the demands of the army logistical organisation, as W.J.K Davies describes, the “War Office sacrificed quality for speed of delivery.” The experience and know-how of the men of the Light Railway Companies is also demonstrated as their knowledge of their locomotives centre of gravity and the difficulties they faced in their operations allowed them to adapt the equipment they had in order to run an efficient system.
The steam locomotives, whether a Hudson’s, Hunslets or Baldwin all had inherent weaknesses when operating near to the front. Due to their open fire and plumes of smoke these locomotives were vulnerable to enemy observation both threatening the locomotive, its load and the track. Although there were some exceptions, steam locomotives were, therefore, generally confined to the rear. In response to this problem, the War Office turned once more to British industry to find a solution. J. D. Abbott of the Motor Rail and Tramcar Company had presented his 20hp petrol tractor prototype to the War Office in 1914. However Abbott’s design was refused as the War Office were at the time convinced that light railways would not have a significant role in a future war. However as discussed this policy was soundly reversed in 1916 and so Abbott was brought back to War Office where he was requested to begin production of his 20hp Simplex Petrol Locomotives. [See Figure 7] The Simplex became a vital locomotive on the light railways along the Western Front. Without the plumes of smoke and a visible fire, the Simplex engines could work more safely in the forward area with less risk of attracting enemy artillery and machine gun fire. Inevitably, on occasion Simplex’s did come under fire but they offered no crew protection. However this was to change as the drivers’ security became increasingly more important with the introduction of the 40hp Simplexs. These improved models arrived in France in two sorts; the first, the armoured Simplex, offered all around protection for the driver, gaining them the nickname ‘the little tank’, or more commonly, the tin turtle. [See Figure 8] The Motor Rail Company also provided a 40ph open Simplex which provided the armour of the tin turtle minus the doors. [See Figure 9] These advances demonstrate the need for protection so that these locomotives could take an ever increasing logistical role in close proximity to the front line. One of the greatest advantages of the Simplex was its simplicity, both in maintenance and operation. With its simple operation the Simplex could be driven by relatively unskilled drivers, in part due to the comparable modernity of these petrol locomotives but also it allowed the soldiers of the citizen’s army to operate them, relieving pressure on the Light Railway Operating Division and the Army Ordnance Corps. The War Office understood this and so published a small booklet for the simplex drivers which detailed how to maintain and operate their locomotives which thus highlights the Army’s recognition of the unskilled civilian army which had taken to the field by 1917. The success of the Simplex tractor became clear as “contract after contract was placed with the Motor Rail Company.” The light railways adapted to the difficulties and the needs of the Western Front, especially with its locomotives, powerful steam locomotives moved supplied to the marshalling yards while predominantly the diesel/electric locomotives took the supplies to the Front.
British industry were employed to put their imagination towards the production of the rolling stock to be used on the light railway networks. As previously discussed it was often down to the individual unit to supply their own equipment before the official introduction of 60cm gauge railways to the Western Front. The improvised water tanks as mentioned in chapter one were taken out of service and replaced with a new design which became much more efficient and effective on the battlefield. The H water wagon which entered service after 1916 consisted of a D class wagon with the addition of a steel reverted water tank which could hold 1,500 gallons, enough to fill a Hunslet “at least four times.” [See Figure 10] As well as having a lower centre of gravity than its handcrafted predecessors the H wagons were far less likely to topple of the rails, so much so that the H wagons was special designed to reduce the chance of them derailing. In the knowledge that 1,500 gallons sloshing in one direction could spell disaster for the wagon, manufactures split the wagons internal tank into three sections to ensure the force of the moving water would be reduced and to ensure that the H wagon could navigate the difficult terrain of the front.
By 1918 the light railways rolling stock had taken on an astonishing array of wagons to serve the front. With multipurpose wagons including the A, B, C and D wagons the light railways mobilised specialist rolling stock, for one the H water tank. One of the uses of the light railways was to evacuate wounded men from the front and so in 1917 a covered ambulance van was issued to the Army to begin replacing the handcrafted stretcher wagons which had been constructed. [See Figure 11] With sliding side doors and narrow sliding doors at each end these access points gave attendants the ability to move along the train to attend the nine stretcher which could be accommodated in each van. With no windows or ventilation R. Link assumes that the journey must have been, “unpleasant and, if in one of the upper stretcher position, claustrophobic.” Although true, Link underestimates that in some cases quick evacuation from the battlefield could mean the difference between life and death for some casualties and so this attempt by the light railways to move the wounded can only be exonerated even if it was at the cost of comfort. Link does make the valid point that with its high centre of gravity the ambulance vans were not deployed close to the front as the track there was too unstable but rather they would collect the wounded from a causality clearing station or an improvised stretcher bearer train which could reach the end of the line.
The Light Railways attempted to become self-sufficient, one wagon to be introduced to meet that aim was that of G class wagon which could carry 180 gallons of paraffin, cylinder oil and lubricating oil. [See Figure 12] To be truly independent however the light railways needed to reduce its dependency on external workshops such as one sited at Beaurainville which did not provide access to all light railway networks and so the equipment on these lines would have to be transported by standard gauge railway or motor lorry. In an attempt with reduce this dependence on outsourcing their repairs the light railways were issued with workshop trains in 1918. These workshop trains have created a chasm in the historiography of the First World War. In the 2015 publication co-authors M. J. B Farebrother and J. S Farebrother entirely miss the significance and importance of these workshop trains as they merely state what wagons were included to create these entities. This level of detail is replicated in R. Links work, however the description is taken further with a greater detailed section on the composition of wagons which includes images that present a better understanding of the workshop train as a whole. One attempt to describe the role of these workshops can be found in H. Household’s 1988 publication in which he describes how these trains were used “for maintenance and repair of light railway locomotives and rolling stock when the advance of the armies carried railheads far ahead of the main repair facilities.” Although Household discusses the importance of these repair trains in the advance of the front it still lacks further critique and analysis. Perhaps the most in depth analysis of this entity comes from W. J K Davies who describes how these trains were “capable of undertaking fairly heavy repairs … [and] without which the whole light railway system would quickly have ground to a standstill.” Although Davies discusses the purpose and the importance of these workshop trains he fails to contextualise this information, especially the significance of these wagons during the final months of the war when mobile warfare resumed along the Western Front.
Perhaps one of the least discussed aspects of the light railways of the First World War is that of the experiments which were conducted to discover ways in which the railways could be used as a weapons delivery system. Limited discussion of this use of the light railways has appeared in Keith Taylorson’s second publication, W K J Davies’ work and F. Angus journal article, however there has been no attempt to discuss its significance.
W. Mackenzie who served with the Royal Engineers Special Gas Company has described how, on one occasion, his company worked alongside the light railways to deliver a gas attack. Before discussing Mackenzie’s experiences the guidance of John Tosh’s The Pursuit of History concerning oral history has been taken into account and Mackenzie’s account cross referenced with other literature. Mackenzie describes how in the arras sector the light railways facilitated a night attack in which “10 tucks, each with 100 [gas] cylinders” were driven close to the German front line and released by means of electric detonators. As Mackenzie describes the attack was an “experiment” which was not designed to soften the enemy front line ready for an immediate attack, but rather to kill as many of the enemy as possible. Mackenzie’s evidence demonstrates how the light railways and the British Army in general were continuing to experiment with the materials and equipment they had to hand in an attempt to demoralise or attack the enemy. However in the unreferenced examples provided by Keith Taylorson, the risks of using the light railways as a gas delivery system are discussed. Although it did not happen to Mackenzie, the noise of petrol locomotive and a number of wagons clanking their way to the front sometime invited artillery fire which meant when the trains were waiting for the gas to be released they were a sitting target. There was also the usual risks associated with deploying gas when depending on the wind to carry it across no man’s land. Although in some instances these kinds of operations could be particularly dangerous for the light railways, it further demonstrates the utility of the system and how by 1918 the British Army continued to experiment in order to gain the upper hand.
The relationship between the light railways and the artillery had always been a positive one as the light railways were able to deliver shells closer to the artillery sights, and in turn the artillery often lent their horse if the railway men had only man power for propulsion. It is unsurprising then that by 1918 experiments were under way to use the light railways as a means of self-propelled artillery. The Canadians once again took the lead in this field with their own construction, International No.1 and No.2, a converted wagon which could hold an 18 pounder artillery gun, its ammunition and crew. [See Figure 13] Discussed in The Canadian Railway and Marine World journal and referenced by F. Angus these self-constructed, self-propelled artillery units demonstrate the interconnectivity between the artillery and the light railways. These gunners could be quickly moved into the forward section to fire upon German position and then swiftly evacuated away before German retaliatory fire could take effect. This tactic would both confuse the German counter battery observers as the 18 pounders shells kept changing their place of origin, but they would also prove beneficial for the British counter batters and these evasive self-propelled artillery could act as a honey trap for the German gunners. W J K Davies referrers to another piece of self-propelled artillery constructed for the light railways which consist of a 6 inch howitzer placed on a small bogie. [See Figure 14] Although this gun would have taken longer to deploy it would still have a rapid limber and unlimber time and with the ability to change its direction it would be able to carry out as Davies describes “sniping missions” deploying the same tactics as the 18 pounders of fire and move. Overall these experiments in self-propelled artillery demonstrate not only the Canadians continued innovation on the battlefield but the wiliness of the British Army as a whole in adapting their existing technologies and continued experimentation in an attempt to create weapons which would give them an edge over their enemies.
To answer the question initial set out for this chapter it evident that by 1918 the light railways had adapted its rolling stock and its propulsion to serve the needs of the front. In doing so the light railways not only ensured that regular supplies made it to the front but with the ability to evacuate the wounded and dexterity to operate in newly conquered territory, they became a crucial part of the logistical chain. Coupled with this aspect the experiments conducted to transform the light railways into a weapons delivery system demonstrate how the British Army continued to adapt the technologies available on the battlefield in order to gain an advantage over the Germans.
Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and the light railways
Should we attribute the success of the light railways to the command of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and how did they affect British tactics on the Western Front?
By 1918 the light railways had become an “independent part of the forward area transport system, moving 160,000- 180,000 tons per week and [carrying] around 200,000 men a week over 6- 14 miles.” The chapter will demonstrate the significance of the light railways both to the success of the army, but also to the conduct and reputation of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig whose performance as a commander has, since the First World War, been questioned by historians and politicians. The role of the light railways as a tool for defence and advance must also be discussed as it had an important role in maintaining the army’s ability to wage war along the Western Front.
Historians including Gary Sheffield, Walter Reid and Gary Mead have all discussed the significance of the appointment of Sir Eric Geddes in his transport mission to resolve the logistical issues which had developed along the entire chain. Lloyd George described “Geddes as ‘one of the most remarkable products of the Great War.’” Although this statement was tainted with biased views as Lloyd George’s appointed Geddes, it can be argued that Geddes’ appointment both saved the British Army from defeat and lead to its victory in 1918, all facilitated and supported by Haig. With no experience in supplying such a large army within a relative small area it is to see how Haig’s acceptance and endorsement of a civilian expert demonstrates his readiness to adapt to the needs of modern trench warfare.
The widespread introduction of light railways along the Western Front gave Haig the ability to “to vary his objectives and switch attacks.” This became vital in succeeding in a war of ‘bite and hold’ as Haig could carry out a limited attack in one area, then after defending the position against the German counter attack, Haig would have the ability to close down the attack and quickly move supplies, artillery and men to another sector using the light railways to begin the next assault. The light railway also demonstrate how Haig, against the wishes of some of his commanders turned to civilians experts to give him the advantage when attacking the German lines. Gary Sheffield describes Haig’s decision to endorse Geddes recommendations as “the single most important contribution to logistics.” Haig’s role in the logistical reform which occurred during 1916 and his full endorsement of Geddes, including making him a Major General, all bear witness to Haig’s adaptability and forward thinking policies which culminated in giving the army mobility in a stagnant war.
The role of the Canadian sappers in bringing about the adoption of the light railways and their role in the deployment and adaptation of them must also be recognised in the success of the railway’s role in supplying the front in terms of defence and attack. As previously discussed, the Canadians had an instrumental role in the early introductions of light railways and the basic trench tramways, but as the British Army took on the light railways officially the Canadians were still there to use their intuition and ingenuity. The remodelling of Baldwin locomotives to ensure they were more suited to the front and the adaptation of wagons to be used as self-propelled artillery all lead to the question of why historians have failed to investigation these issues further, as it attributes particular significance to the role of dominion troops and demonstrates how technological and tactical improvements sometime occur at ground level. The light railways can be placed beside the jam tin grenades and the sounding range technique deployed by the artillery in the historiography of the army’s adaption to modern trench warfare as many of the technical advances “were made by the army in the course of the war originated not at headquarter level or even at army level.” It must be recognised that among many technology advances, the light railways in particular were taken up officially after their unofficial grassroots introduction and development which continued throughout the war. This responsiveness by High Command to innovations driven by front-line troops demonstrates again Haig’s adaptability and willingness to response to the challenges of trench warfare.
In the years precluding the First World War technology “had transformed the nature of warfare…” With this in mind, Haig’s willingness to embrace new technology and strategy during the war contradictions his reputation as a “technophobe… [which] rests heavily on post 1918 criticisms by his enemy, which some historians have unwisely followed.” The light railways were deployed because of Haig’s agreement with the recommendations made by Geddes. Their late introduction to the British sectors cannot be seen as a failing of Haig to adapt domestic technologies to the front but rather a failure of military policy. Once trench warfare dominated the Western Front Haig and his command predicted that a break through action would soon resume mobile warfare and would thus render light railways less effective as the army moved. By 1916 the army’s mind had changed and although a breakthrough action was still predicted, it was recognised that this would take a lengthy attritional battle in which the logistical chain would be put under considerable strain and would need reforming. Haig fully endorsed the technological assets which accompanied the light railways as it gave the network greater utility to the army.
The light railway also had their role to play in the economics of the British Army both in terms of man power and in monetary value. As previously discussed the light railways relinquished the need for increasing numbers of men to join the road gangs who tirelessly laboured to maintain the French roads which served the army’s lines. The light railways however also contributed to saving man power along the logistical chain, discussed in depth by William J. Hill who highlights how the light railways were more economical in terms of men and money. Hill argues that a “motor lorry [could] only haul three tons of ammunition … [while] a 45 Hp tractor will take three wagons of ammunition.” The great advantage of the light railways over motor lorries was that less men were needed in terms of maintenance and operation to supply the same or more amounts of equipment and ammunition. The light railways had the ability to deliver the artillery’s ammunition directly to the gun batteries, or at least closer to them than the lorries. This meant that fewer men were needed to convey the ammunition from the drop off point to where it was needed. In terms of operations, Hill highlights the numbers which each logistical network needed to deploy. For each light railway train a total of “four men” would be on each train while the motor lorries needed “two men and one guild per lorry, making a total of 30 men, with the same amount of materials.” With fewer men needed to convey materials, the light railways allowed the redistribution of men and equipment to other sectors or would relieve some of the logistical stress which followed an advance of the line in the same or other sector.
In terms of its economic value the light railways were a more much frugal transport system that did not compromise on efficiency. W. Hill states that “cost per ton, per mile by light railway [was] 1 1/4d compared with 9 1/2d by motor.” These substantially differing figures are testimony to the efficiency of the light railways but they also engage with a national debate which had gained traction by 1916. In its July 25th 1916 edition the Daily Mail discussed the outline of the new military expenditure and asked why the army did not rapidly deploy light railways across the entire front. The article comments, “the movements of supplies behind the line needed an extensive network of light railways instead, we blocked our roads with costly motor transport, with on each motor vehicle two or three sturdy fellows receiving higher pay than the men in the trenches.” By 1916 questions concerning the advantages of the light railway network were being highlighted in the national press. With reduced need for men and equipment, the light railways proved to be economically and tactically vital to the British Army. W. Davies argued that “the use of men and pack mule teams was uneconomical” as military transport, especially motor lorries, which had not developed into the peak of its efficiency but it was the light railways which achieved the greatest proficiency.
This was not simply a question of logistics, but a matter of tactics too. In terms of defence, the light railways were a key tool which the army could employ to defend a position from an enemy attack. One of its main advantages was the light railways had the ability to supply the artillery with all the ammunition it needed which could prove critical in a defensive action. Hill describes how during March 1918 as the Germans attempted to retake Vimy Ridge, the artillery was “in constant action, breaking up the assembled forces of the enemy and in consequence ammunition was in constant demand.” Although the artillery’s significance during the First World War has been recognised by many historians, few have placed due gravity on the logistical chain which supplied these guns. For without the light railways enormous stress would have been placed on this chain so much so it could have collapsed and the artillery’s effectiveness diminished. In terms of defence the light railways also gave the army ability to swiftly transfer troops from the rear to the forward sectors. By moving the troops by light railways towards the front, commanders were not only given the ability quickly to deploy troops to the front, but it reduced the fatigue of those men resulting in a better level of combat effectiveness when they reached the front. The issue of the combat effectiveness of the troops was also to be benefited by the light railways as they could move supplies, including food and water closer to the front ensure a more reliable supply. The light railways played a vital role in the dense of British positions as they allowed the artillery to expend the ammunition it needed but also allowed supplies vital to maintain morale and combat effectiveness to be moved swiftly to the forward areas. This point is perhaps most poignantly expressed by an anonymous pioneer who said “We are the fairy godmothers of the artillery. We reconstruct light railways to bring their ammunition …” further demonstrating the vital importance of logistics which the light railways were pivotal in supporting.
The light railways also had their role to play in the offensive and the eventual return to mobile warfare in late 1918. A previously discussed the light railways were instrumental in supplying the artillery which, during an offensive, gave support and cover to the advancing infantry which itself has been discussed extensively as a key tactic and weapon on the Western Front battlefield. The light railway gave the army a greater ability during an offensive as it allowed them to consolidate a position as materials and men could be swiftly deployed and the wounded evacuated as discussed in chapter two. The light railway also previously discussed were constructed over rough and uneven terrain which became one of its many assets. In 1917 German forces withdrew to fortified positions along the Hindenburg line but as they did they conducted Operation Alberich, which saw a policy of scorched earth. Private Hugo Natt (1881-1963) of the 118th German Infantry described in his diary how, “all river crossings, railway lines, highways [were] blown up, [and] all houses destroyed… The water system has been systematically destroyed and polluted with faecal matter.” With such a desolate waste land with roads blocked and no water available in the immediate area, the light railways would have provided a rapidly deployed transport chain which could support forces which had advanced until convention transport links could be re-established and a diverse chain reinstalled. Some may assume that as the line advanced rapidly in 1918 the light railways surely lost their advantage and were relegated in favour of horse and motor lorry transport. In fact, however, during a large scale advance the light railways were “used extensively” as they could be linked rapidly with the “excellent German system” which was often left persevered in the rapid retreat. In doing so the light railways had the ability to keep up with the advance and so could continue to provide ammunition and provisions which were critical for both attack and defence. A previously discussed the light railways deployed their own workshop trains which meant when they advanced with the army in 1918 they were able to remain efficient with the ability to do repairs in the field without the need for established workshops or transfer to the rear. The light railways became one of many pivotal tools which the army learnt to use by 1918, all such elements culminated into the effective fighting force which confronted the Germany Army in late 1918 and led to its defeat.
To end I must return to the question which was set out towards the beginning of this independent project, why have academic historians forgotten to mention the key role which the light railways played in defence of the line, an offensive and how this logistical entity adds ground to the debate concerning Field Marshal Haig’s conduct. The deployment of the light railway not only demonstrate how the British Army used industrial expertise and new technologies, it shows a more pragmatic approach which was to benefit the army both economically and in terms of man power. The use of the light railways during an attack further demonstrates that even as mobile warfare returned to the Western Front the light railways could still be an important asset to the army and undoubtedly had a role in victory.
This investigation set out to highlight the crucial role which the light railways (60cm) had on the Western Front during the First World War. This subject has been neglected by many historians whose work would have greatly benefited from the inclusion of this topic. The publications which do focus on the light railways, including the surge of works to coincide with the centenary of WW1, fail to engage with the wider academic debates which surround the topic.
The role of the Canadian troops must once again be highlighted due to the innovations which both led to the early unofficial introduction of the light railways but also their continued ethos of progress by adapting the light railways’ equipment to meet the needs of the Western Front. The Canadians early introduction of light railways provided an answer to the growing logistical crises which had emerged by 1916. Inspired by the Canadians and an inherited light railway, Sir Eric Geddes as part of his transportation report of 1916 recommended the deployment of the light railways which Haig fully endorsed. The light railway rolling stock was also adapted to the needs of the front, from the H wagon with its low centre of gravity to ensure stability to the ambulance cars which allowed the rapid evacuation of the wounded. The Canadians also played a role in developing the light railways as a weapons delivery system. With both self-propelled artillery and the ability to move a large number of gas cylinders to the enemy front line, the light railways gave the British Army another way to attack the enemy and in terms of the artillery the ability to confuse the German batteries thus adding to the confusion of war.
The light railways also contribute to the debate which surround the conduct of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. The light railways clearly demonstrate Haig’s willingness to accept new technologies and methods to the front in order to achieve an advantage. Haig’s full endorsement of Sir Eric Geddes, demonstrates the acceptance of civilian expertise and Haig even ensured the acceptance of Geddes among some of his more sceptical Generals by appointing him a Major General. The light railways also made the British Army more efficient in terms of manpower and cost. Less men were needed to move supplies to the front and so reduced the cost of the logistical chain making the army more efficient, releasing men to carry out other roles. With its ability to move men and supplies close to the front and to act as a weapon in itself the light railways crucially supported both the attack and the defence capabilities of the army, especially during the late 1918 offensives. British light railways were connected with the German systems meaning a rapid advance and the return to mobile warfare could be supported with a more reliable and readily available logistical connection.
“Of the work of the light railways of 60cm gauge … little is generally know.” Although this work has attempted to tackle the darkness which surrounds this subject there is still much research to be done. Further research could focus on the light railways on other fronts, including the Middle East, the Italian Front and the Balkans. Research must also focus on the day to day maintenance and operations of the system but also investigate other combating armies’ use of light railways during the war as Germany, France and the United States all used light railways along their sections of the Western Front.
In all, the light railways played a vital role in the logistical chain along the Western Front and assisted in relieving the pressure which was threatening the British transport lines in 1916. The advance in 1918 would also be supported by the light railways as they could be rapidly constructed over the former battlefield due to the ease of the prefabricated sections of track. The light railways have unjustly been forgotten from the history of the First World War and in conjunction of the centenary academic historians must turn their attention to this subject.
Keith Grieves, ‘The Transport Mission to GHQ, 1916, in ‘Look To Your Front’ Studies in The First World War, Brian Bond (Staplehurst: Spellmount Publishers Ltd, 1999) pp. 63
The Railway Gazette, ‘Special War Transport Number’, The Railway Gazette and Railway News, 1920 p. 36
Railway Gazette p.20
Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd: RCL Publications, 2014)
Humphrey Household, Narrow Gauge Railways: Wales and the Western Front (Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1988)
Andrew Roden, Trains to the Trenches (London: Aurum Press Ltd, 2014)
Colette Hooper, Railways of The Great War with Michael Portillo (London: Transworld Publishers, 2014)
Colonel A. M. Henniker, Transportation on the Western Front 1914-1918 (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 2013) p. 148
2) Henniker, Transportation p. 148
3) Keith Taylorson, Narrow Gauge at War 2 (Norfolk: Plateway Press, 1996)
4) The Railway Gazette, ‘Special War Transport Number’, The Railway Gazette and Railway News, 1920, p. 27
5) War Office, Field Service Regulations Part 1 Operations 1909. (London: Harrison and Sons, 1912) p. 213
6) Gary Mead, The Good Soldier (London: Atlantic Books, 2007) p. 344
7) William Philpott, Bloody Victory, The Sacrifice on the Somme (London, Little Brown Book Group, 2009) p. 158
8) Peter H. Liddle 1914-1918 Archives Manuscript [LIDDLE/WW1/GS/0767], Sapper W.J. Hill, 19th & 31st Light Railway Companies, Recollections of France and the light railways during the Great war 1914-1919 p. 1
9) Daily Mail (London, England), 18th October 1916, Issue 6410
10) Sir Eric Geddes (1875-1937). Despatched in 1916 to compile a report on the BEF’s transport system as Inspector General. 1917 Geddes became the controller of the navy and then First Lord of the Admiralty and by 1918 had taken the role of Lloyd Georges Imperial War Cabinet.
11) Keith Grieves, ‘The Transport Mission to GHQ, 1916, in ‘Look To Your Front’ Studies in The First World War, Brian Bond (Staplehurst, Spellmount Publishers Ltd, 1999) p. 63-78
12) The Private Papers of Douglas Haig, ed. by Robert Blake (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1952) p. 174
13) Alan Clark, The Donkeys (London: Pimlico, 1991)
14) Henniker, Transportation p. 158
15) W. Beach Thomas, ‘Triumph over the Mud’ Daily Mail (London, England), 10th October 1916, p.5
Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd: RCL Publications, 2014) p.1
2) Colette Hooper, ‘Keeping the War Moving’ in The Railways of the Great War (London: Transworld Publishers, 2014) p. 115
3) Hooper, ‘Railways’ P. 115
4) W.J.K Davies, ‘Great War Railways’, The Marker, October/November (1983), p. 172
5) Allen H. Warner, ‘Vosges Dog Teams’ Daily Mail, 20 June 191, p. 6
6) Link, WDLR p. 148
7) Link, WDLR p. 156
8) Davies, ‘Great War Railways’ p.164
9) War Office, Instruction to Drivers of “Simplex” Petrol Tractors 20 H.P and 40 H.P. (60cm Gauge) (Gwynedd: RCL Publications, 2015)
10) W. J. K. Davies, The Early Years of the Motor Rail and Tramcar Company 1914-1931 (Norfolk, Plateway Press, 2008) p. 12
11) Link, WDLR p. 201
12) Link, WDLR p.214
13) Link, WDLR p.214
14) Martin J B Farebrother & Joan S Farebrother, Narrow Gauge in the Arras Sector (Barnsley, Pen & Sword Transport, 2015) p. 84
15) Humphrey Household, Narrow Gauge Railways: Wales and the Western Front (Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1988) p. 140
16) W. J K Davies P.177
17) Peter H. Liddle 1914-1918 Archives Manuscript [LIDDLE/WW1/WF/REC/02/M4], Dr W. Mackenzie, Royal Engineers Special Gas Company, Manuscript giving more details of his experiences, including being wounded and accounts of gas attack.
18) John Tosh, ‘Memory and the Spoken Word’ in The Pursuit of History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013) pp. 303- 329
19) Mackenzie, Royal Engineers Special Gas Company p.4
20) Mackenzie, Royal Engineers Special Gas Company p. 7
21) Keith Taylorson, Narrow Gauge at War 2 (Norfolk: Plateway Press, 1996) p. 54
22) Unknown ‘The Canadian Railway and Marine World’, November 1919 p. 576
23) Davies, ‘Great War Railways’ p. 174
24) W.J.K Davies, ‘Great War Railways’, The Marker, October/November (1983), p. 155
25) Walter Reid, Architect of Victory (Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited, 2006) p. 454
26) Reid, Architect p. 455
27) Gary Sheffield, The Chief (London: Aurum Press Limited, 2011) p. 150
28) Reid, Architect p. 458
29) Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (London: Penguin Books LTD, 1998) p. 9
30) Sheffield, The Chief p. 370
31) Peter H. Liddle 1914-1918 Archives Manuscript [LIDDLE/WW1/GS/0767], Sapper W.J. Hill, 19th & 31st Light Railway Companies, Recollections of France and the light railways during the Great war 1914-1919 p. 80
32) W.J. Hill, Recollections p.81
33) W.J. Hill, Recollections p.81
34) Parliamentary Representative, ‘£5,000,000 a Day to October’, Daily Mail (London, England), 25th July 1916 p.3
35) Davies, ‘Great War Railways’ p. 158
36) W.J. Hill, Recollections p.52
37) Pioneer, ‘Handy-Men of the Army’ Daily Mail (London, England) 09th July 1918, p.2
38) Davies, ‘Great War Railways’ p. 172
39) Gerhard Hirschfeld, Gerd Krumeich and Irina Renz, Scorched Earth the Germans on the Somme 1914-1918 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2009) p.164
40) Davies, ‘Great War Railways’ p. 181
41) The Railway Gazette, ‘Special War Transport Number’, The Railway Gazette and Railway News, 1920 p. 30
Peter H. Liddle 1914-1918 Archives Manuscript [LIDDLE/WW1/GS/0767], Sapper W.J. Hill, 19th & 31st Light Railway Companies, Recollections of France and the light railways during the Great war 1914-1919
Peter H. Liddle 1914-1918 Archives Manuscript [LIDDLE/WW1/WF/REC/02/M4], Dr W. Mackenzie, Royal Engineers Special Gas Company, Manuscript giving more details of his experiences, including being wounded and accounts of gas attack.
The Railway Gazette, ‘Special War Transport Number’, The Railway Gazette and Railway News, 1920
War Office, Field Service Regulations Part 1 Operations 1909. (London: Harrison and Sons, 1912)
War Office, Instruction to Drivers of “Simplex” Petrol Tractors 20 H.P and 40 H.P. (60cm Gauge) (Gwynedd: RCL Publications, 2015)
Canadian Army, Official Magazine of The Canadian Sapper. 3, 13 (1918)
Canadian Army, Official Magazine of The Canadian Sapper. 3, 13 (1919)
Unknown The Canadian Railway and Marine World, November (1919)
The Railway Gazette, ‘Special War Transport Number’, The Railway Gazette and Railway News, (1920)
Daily Mail, ‘Picture Gallery’ Daily Mail (London, England), 18th October 1916, Issue 6410
Parliamentary Representative, ‘£5,000,000 a Day to October’, Daily Mail (London, England), 25th July 1916, p.3
Pioneer, ‘Handy-Men of the Army’ Daily Mail (London, England) 09th July 1918, p.2
W. Beach Thomas, ‘Triumph over the Mud’ Daily Mail (London, England), 10th October 1916, p.5
Allen H. Warner, ‘Vosges Dog Teams’ Daily Mail, (London, England) 20 June 1916, p. 6
The Private Papers of Douglas Haig, ed. by Robert Blake (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1952)
Haig: A Re-Appraisal 80 Years on, ed. by Brian Bond & Nigel Cave (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 1999)
Alan Clark, The Donkeys (London: Pimlico, 1991)
Dale Clarke, World War 1 Battlefield Artillery Tactics (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2014)
W.J.K. Davies, Light Railways of the First World War: History of Tactical Rail Communications on the British Fronts, 1914-1918 (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1967)
W. J. K. Davies, The Early Years of the Motor Rail and Tramcar Company 1914-1931 (Norfolk: Plateway Press, 2008)
Marin J. B. Farebrother & Joan S. Farebrother, Allied Railways of the Wester Front- Narrow Gauge in the Arras Sector (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2015)
Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (London: Penguin Books LTD, 1998)
T. R. Heritage, Narrow Gauge at War: The Light Tracks and the Western Front (Norfolk: Plateway Press, 1999)
Colonel A. M. Henniker, Transportation on the Western Front 1914-1918 (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 2013)
Gerhard Hirschfeld, Gerd Krumeich and Irina Renz, Scorched Earth the Germans on the Somme 1914-1918 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2009)
Humphrey Household, Narrow Gauge Railways: Wales and the Western Front (Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1988)
Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd: RCL Publications, 2014)
William Philpott, Bloody Victory, The Sacrifice on the Somme (London: Little Brown Book Group, 2009)
Gary Mead, The Good Soldier (London: Atlantic Books, 2007)
Bill Rawling, Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps 1914-1918 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014)
Andrew Roden, Trains to the Trenches (London: Aurum Press Ltd, 2014)
Walter Reid, Architect of Victory (Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited, 2006)
Charles Small, Two-Foot Rails to the Front (United States: Railroad Monographs, 1982)
Keith Taylorson, Narrow Gauge at War (Surrey: Plateway Press, 1987)
Keith Taylorson, Narrow Gauge at War 2 (Norfolk: Plateway Press, 1996)
John Tosh, The Pursuit of History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013)
Tim Travers, The Killing Ground (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2009)
Chapters in books
Keith Grieves, ‘The Transport Mission to GHQ, 1916, in ‘Look To Your Front’ Studies in The First World War, Brian Bond (Staplehurst: Spellmount Publishers Ltd, 1999) pp. 63-78
Colette Hooper, ‘Keeping the War Moving’ in The Railways of the Great War (London: Transworld Publishers, 2014) pp.108- 123
John Tosh, ‘Memory and the Spoken Word’ in The Pursuit of History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013) pp. 303- 329
F. Angus, ‘Canadian Rail’, The Canadian Railroad Historical Association, 437 (1993), pp. 191-228
W.J.K Davies, ‘Great War Railways’, The Marker, October/November (1983) pp. 153- 188
Image Reference List
|Figure 1: Transport and distribution map|
Taken from Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd, RCL Publications, 2014), p. 42 & 43
|Figure 2: Ploegsteert Wood. Man of 2nd Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery, riding mule drawing light railway truck, April 1916.|
Taken from: Imperial War Museum Collection (Catalogue number Q 50762)
|Figure 3: Improvised water tanks Taken from Daily Mail, ‘Picture gallery’ Daily Mail (London, England), 18th October 1916, Issue 6410|
|Figure 4: Hunslet 4-6-0T Taken from Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd, RCL Publications, 2014), p. 148|
|Figure 5: Baldwin 4-6-0T Taken from Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd, RCL Publications, 2014), p. 29|
|Figure 6: Converted Baldwin 4-6-0T Taken from Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd, RCL Publications, 2014), p. 161|
|Figure 7: 20hp Simplex|
Taken from War Office, Instruction to Drivers of “Simplex” Petrol Tractors 20 H.P and 40 H.P. (60cm Gauge) (Gwynedd: RCL Publications, 2015)
|Figure 8: Armoured SimplexTaken from Keith Taylorson, Narrow Gauge at War (Surrey: Plateway Press, 1987) p.14|
|Figure 9: Open Simplex|
Taken from War Office, Instruction to Drivers of “Simplex” Petrol Tractors 20 H.P and 40 H.P. (60cm Gauge) (Gwynedd: RCL Publications, 2015)
|Figure 10: H tank Taken from Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd, RCL Publications, 2014), p. 199|
|Figure 11: Ambulance Car|
Taken from Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd, RCL Publications, 2014), p. 214
|Figure 12: G Wagon|
Taken from Roy C. Link, WDLR Album (Gwynedd, RCL Publications, 2014), p. 217
|Figure 13: International No.1 or No.2|
Courtesy of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society Collection
|Figure 14: 6inch Howitzer mounted on a 60cm gauge bogie|
Courtesy of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society Collection