FW: Armistice Day Friday 11th November 2011


John Browning
 

Thanks for Terry Olsson of ANGRMS for this Remembrance Day contribution.


Light railways played an important part in WW1 in France. In the environment
of the Western Front, main line railways could get no closer than five to
eight kilometres from the trenches, as they were a prime target for
artillery and were very expensive to install and maintain. Narrow gauge
'light railways' served as the vital connection between the main line
railheads and the forward areas. By 1917, an average of 165,530 tons of war
material was being moved per week on the light railways. A peak of 210,808
tons was reached in October 1917 in connection with the Battle of Ypres. By
the Armistice in Nov 1917, these light railways totalled about 6000km of
track in the British sector alone, to which about 750 steam locomotives and
a similar number of small internal-combustion locomotives had been
delivered.

Australians played an important part in the operation of these light
railways, with several Australian Light Railway Units.

Here is a copy of a letter sent home from one of the Australians who helped
run the light railways in WW1.



The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866-1939), Saturday 30 June 1917, page
41



LIGHT RAILWAYS IN FRANCE.

THE ANZACS.



S. H. Hancox, formerly in charge ofthe electric power house at the railway
workshops, North Ipswich, writes from France to a friend in Brisbane:

I owe you many letters, but must plead the urgency of public affairs.
Building and running light railways at the Front is a most time-absorbing
occupation, especially when there is a thaw after a big freeze, and the
whole country mud. Some of our lines were built during the winter, and, of
course, are all more or less over shell holes, and as we had no ballast, and
could not possibly get any, there was a good deal of ice under the line.
That did not matter till the thaw came. Just then they piled in tons of
ammunition for us to carry. I nearly went white headed over it. However, we
struggled through. Many are the woes of railway building and working at the
Front. To start with, we have to build the lines over shell holes, many
10ft. and 12ft. deep.



Then we have great trouble with the rails. We got over that to a great
extent by gathering up old German rails, many of which had been blown up,
bent and broken. We straightened them out, and pulled old dug-outs, &c, to
pieces to get rails. Then we could not get sleepers for a long time. We
split trees, but they were so filled with shrapnel that that did not pay. We
cut any timber we could get; then we could not get dog spikes, but managed
to eke them out. We never could get enough ballast. We got a little, and
have used bricks and chalk chiefly, but it is slow work digging them out,
and. of course, the railways are wanted in a hurry.



We managed to get some locomotives which no one else wanted, as they were
too hard to keep on the line. We got some tractors and trucks, but it is a
terrible job to get any parts. We got a forge in an old shop and fixed it up
to be driven from our motor tractors, and cast our brasses for bearings. We
are now using old brass shell cases, and pick up scraps of iron in different
villages for the blacksmith, and old machinery for tools. We even rose to
making springs for our tractors, using whale oil to temper them in.



I forgot to say we had to lay our rails without any fishplates. I had the
selection of the men to work the lines. I went through all the battalions,
and we got a pretty good crew of traffic and locomotive employees and
fettlers together. Of course, in addition to the ordinary troubles of
railways, we have German shells to contend with. We have been very lucky so
far as we have not had any rolling stock hit. Altogetherwe have quite a
decent show of mileage of track and rolling stock, and what we have managed
to do surprised everyone.



The corps staff says it has been a huge success, and has exceeded their most
optimistic expectations. The chief engineer of the army says the Anzacs are
the only people who take these light railways seriously, and construct and
run them as railways. One thing we did was considered so important that the
people concerned immediately wired to General Headquarters to tell them. It
is important, too, and I can see great possibilities from it. Now under the
present exciting circumstances of course every one is worrying us, and we
are in a great rush to build more lines. Herb would enjoy these railways.
Our initials are A (Anzac) L (Light) R (Railways). I heard someone say they
stood for 'Always Leaving Rails'. It will be all right when we get dry
ground though.



While the big freeze was on we ran heavy loads at a great rate . . . . In
fact, I'm rather proud of the way in which the Anzacs have held their front
right through the winter, under, I suppose, the worst conditions in the
front . . .


Here is a very interesting "YouTube" link to some great old WW1 war footage
showing these "Light Railways":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3s01i3aa7w





John


Roderick Smith
 

Sitting on my shelf is W J K Davies 'Light railways of the first world war; a history of tactical rail communications on the British fronts, 1914-18', David & Charles, 1967.

It sits beside a larger tome, W J K Davies 'Light railways'.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor


rthorne475
 

Plateway Press, in the UK, produced three excellent books on the British light railways in WWI...possibly still available.  One was a reprint (with photos added) of a book privately published c1930 by one of the senior officers involved.

Richard Horne


________________________________
From: rnveditor <rodsmith@werple.net.au>
To: LRRSA@yahoogroups.com.au
Sent: Tuesday, 8 November 2011, 11:39
Subject: [LRRSA] Re: FW: Armistice Day Friday 11th November 2011


 
Sitting on my shelf is W J K Davies 'Light railways of the first world war; a history of tactical rail communications on the British fronts, 1914-18', David & Charles, 1967.

It sits beside a larger tome, W J K Davies 'Light railways'.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor


Bill Bolton
 

On Tue, 8 Nov 2011 07:29:47 +1000, John wrote:

Australians played an important part in the operation of these light
railways, with several Australian Light Railway Units.
My uncle, George Henry Kohler, served as a corporal with the 15th
Light Railway Operating Company in France. As a civilian before and
after the war he was a fireman with Victorian Railways.

Cheers,

Bill


Eddie Oliver <eoliver@...>
 

Of course there was a substantial article in the ARHS journal just a few months ago.


Stephen Percy Larcombe
 

These ones are from Plateway Press:

Narrow Gauge at War - Volume 1 by Keith Taylorson, ISBN 1871980577, 56 pages
Narrow Gauge at War 2 by Keith Taylorson, ISBN 1871980291, 116 pages

I am not sure what the other title might be

Yours

Stephen



To: LRRSA@yahoogroups.com.au
From: rthorne475@yahoo.co.uk
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 2011 11:16:33 +0000
Subject: Re: [LRRSA] Re: FW: Armistice Day Friday 11th November 2011






Plateway Press, in the UK, produced three excellent books on the British light railways in WWI...possibly still available. One was a reprint (with photos added) of a book privately published c1930 by one of the senior officers involved.

Richard Horne

________________________________
From: rnveditor <rodsmith@werple.net.au>
To: LRRSA@yahoogroups.com.au
Sent: Tuesday, 8 November 2011, 11:39
Subject: [LRRSA] Re: FW: Armistice Day Friday 11th November 2011


Sitting on my shelf is W J K Davies 'Light railways of the first world war; a history of tactical rail communications on the British fronts, 1914-18', David & Charles, 1967.

It sits beside a larger tome, W J K Davies 'Light railways'.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]






[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]