Michael Williams

Steaming to Victory – and the 70th anniversary of VE Day

April 21, 2015 Blog


With the 70th anniversary of VE Day coming up on May 8, I’m thinking of the heroes and heroines of the Home Front who I interviewed for my recent book Steaming to Victory. Here’s what I wrote in the book of the sacrifice of the people who kept the railways running in wartime…

‘CERTAINLY, after VE Day, life in general had started to go back to normal again: no more blackouts, bomb shelters, fire watching and civil defence. But when the lights went up, there was a national sense of huge anticlimax. All around there were scenes of devastation, both in the hearts of our cities and the industrial areas, where factory upon factory had been torn apart. True, the railways were functioning – but only just, with new timetables yet to be applied and installations bearing the scars of war. The coaches and rolling stock were filthy and ill maintained and the stations shabby and blighted by bomb damage. And yet the railways could look back with pride at what they had achieved.

As it turned out, the heroic efforts of Britain’s railwaymen and -women during the six years of war limited the damage to much less than the German high command had hoped. Still, it was bad enough. The attacks on the main line railways and London Transport lines killed 900 people and injured 4,450. The totals include 395 railway staff killed and 2,444 injured. The heaviest toll was on the Southern Railway, which took the brunt of the air attacks, since it was closest to the Channel, and the most involved with troop and equipment movements. One hundred and thirty of its staff were killed and 796 seriously injured. On the LNER 115 lost their lives with 702 seriously injured. The figures for the GWR were 52 dead and 241 seriously injured, while those for the LMS were 51 and 561 respectively. London Transport lost 40 of its staff with 111 seriously injured.’


April 21, 2015 Blog

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