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Britain's Railways in the Second World War (Hardback)

WWII British History Transport London Photographic Books Trains and Railways London Transport

By Michael Foley
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 100 black and white illustrations - integrated
ISBN: 9781526772282
Published: 18th November 2020

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The outbreak of the Second World War had an enormous effect on the railway system in Britain. Keeping the trains running through times of conflict was not such a distant memory for the railway companies and their workers but in this second major war of the twentieth century, the task was to prove a very different one.

The railway system no longer consisted of the hundreds of companies of the past, but the ‘Big Four’ still needed to learn how to work together and forget their differences for the war effort. The logistics of the mass evacuation of children, and transporting thousands of troops during the evacuation of Dunkirk and the preparations for D-Day, for instance, were unprecedented. At the same time, they had to cope with the new and constant threat of aerial bombing that military advances brought to the Second World War. The railway system, and the men and women who ran it, effectively served as another branch of the military during the conflict.

At the end of the war, Winston Churchill likened London to a large animal, declaring that what kept the animal alive was its transport system. The metaphor could have been applied to the whole of Britain, and its most vital transport system was the railway.

This book is a fascinating account of the important role that the railways played in the defence of the country as well as in their support of the Allied forces in theatres of war around the world. It brings to light the often forgotten stories of the brave and hard-working men and women who went to work on the railways and put their lives on the line.

The book is excellent and very intriguing, telling the story of the railway system and its adventures throughout the journey of the war. At first it talks very much about the military aspect of things and the demands put upon it to help out other industries. The book then takes a look year by year in each chapter filled with stories from local people and employees at the time. Having not been a great lover of transport books until recently, I have read this book and a book about the bus service through the 20th century. It has opened my eyes to another avenue of history which I find quite interesting and intriguing, it’s actually the ‘new history’ and social side of transport I find really interesting. For me I found it a well written book as a beginner and the amount of photographs very good, I also enjoyed the cover design very much as it seemed very much of the time. A really good book especially for those looking to get into transport history.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

The book contains many black and white period photographs, detailed script on each year from 1939 until 1945 as well as details on military railways and the railways before and during the war. I would say a very worthwhile publication which is an easy read.

Review by Andy Thomson
 Michael Foley

About Michael Foley

Michael Foley developed his interest in railways after training to be a guard on goods trains. He later qualified as a teacher and spent much of his teaching career in primary schools in the East End of London. After leaving teaching to become a full-time carer to his twin grandsons, who were severely disabled, he began to write seriously for the first time. Since then he has had more than thirty local and military history books published. He has contributed numerous articles to magazines such as Best of British, This England, Essex Life and Britain at War. He has also had short stories published in My Weekly magazine. In recent years, he has written a weekly football column for the Havering Post and a weekly local history column for the Dagenham Post. He lives in Romford with his wife and grandson.

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