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Title: Deeds of a Great Railway - A record of the enterprise and achievements of the London - and North-Western Railway company during the Great War
Author: Darroch, G. R. S.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Deeds of a Great Railway - A record of the enterprise and achievements of the London - and North-Western Railway company during the Great War" ***

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[Illustration: Portrait of C. J. Bowen-Cooke, Esq., C.B.E., followed by
his signature.







  _With Illustrations_

  "The Railway Executive Committee have
  been too modest, the public do not know
  what they achieved."--_Engineering._


  _All rights reserved_


Page 120, footnote, _for_ said the Tsar, _read_ said of the Tsar.

  "  149, line 22, _for_ Walschaerte valve appertaining, _read_
     Walschaerte valve gear appertaining.

  "  162, line 23, _for_ mileage of permanent available _read_ mileage of
     permanent way available.


"Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent," is a golden
and an olden precept, one moreover that may, or may not, impel the
aspiring rhetorician to beware the pitfalls which ever and anon
threaten to ensnare his footsteps; and in compiling this little work
the present Author has not been unmindful of at least two dilemmas with
which he has felt himself to be faced; one, the danger of toying with
that "little knowledge" which in the course of his professional duties
he has been at pains--in fact could hardly fail--to acquire; the other,
the debatable policy of presenting to a public, however indulgent, a
subject of which, at the moment of writing, and in common with the
majority of people, he is heartily tired, namely that of Munitions of

Prompted, however, by an ardent and innate love, dating from his
earliest school-days, for railway-engines, trains, and everything
appertaining thereto--a love, moreover, so compelling that at
the romantic age of thirteen he applied for an engine-pass with
which joyously to ride home for the holidays, and without which,
owing to a polite but firm refusal, he suffered many a pang of
disappointment--feeling, too, that railway enthusiasts, whether amateur
or professional, cannot fail to evince a certain degree of interest
in the truly amazing rôle enacted during the war by the locomotive
departments of the great railway companies of the country, he has
ventured to touch upon what may best, perhaps, be termed the "war
effort" of the London and North-Western Railway, the premier British
line, of which the locomotive G.H.Q. are, as is well known, to be
found at Crewe.

In treating this subject, the Author has, as will be seen, refrained as
far as possible from wearying the reader with interminable statistics,
with technical dissertations descriptive of methods of manufacture,
and other tedious prosaics. His aim has been rather to recall the
hair-breadth escapes to which the nation was subjected; to show by
means of various and authentic extracts from public utterances recorded
in the Press of the day, and from recent publications, the necessities
which arose contingent upon the trend of military operations and upon
the arena of political pantomimes; and to illustrate the manner in
which the London and North-Western Railway, predominant amongst the
great railway and industrial enterprises of the British Isles, not only
was able, but did, rise to the occasion, providing those sorely needed
and essential "sinews" of war which were so largely instrumental in
extricating the country from an extremely awkward predicament, as well
as from a situation that was both ugly and menacing.

_Gratia gratiam parit_, but the Author regretfully feels that in the
present instance he is debarred from showing, in any practical manner,
his appreciation of the kindness of those who have assisted him in his
task. Ingratitude is not infrequently held to be the "worst of vices,"
and undoubtedly "words are but empty thanks"; nevertheless the Author
finds it a pleasure as well as a duty to acknowledge his deep sense of
indebtedness to those members of the staff at Crewe Works for their
spontaneous assistance in regard to information supplied.

He also takes this opportunity of tendering his sincere thanks to
the following Editors for their kind permission to reproduce various
extracts from the columns of their respective newspapers: The Editors
of the _Daily Mail_, of the _Morning Post_, of the _Pall Mall Gazette_,
of the _Times_, of _Engineering_, of the _Engineer_, of _Modern

His best thanks are also due to the Managers of the following firms
of Publishers, who have been good enough to allow reproductions of
extracts from well-known books which, respectively, they have produced:
Messrs. Blackwood, "An Airman's Outings," "Contact"; Messrs. Cassell,
"The Grand Fleet, 1914-1916," Lord Jellicoe; Messrs. Constable, "1914,"
Lord French; Messrs. Flammarion, Paris, "Enseignements Psychologiques
de la Guerre Européenne," M. Gustav Lebon; Messrs. Hodder & Stoughton,
"Winged Warfare," Captain Bishop, V.C.; Messrs. Hutchinson, "My War
Memories, 1914-1918," General Ludendorff.

He is equally indebted to Mr. C. J. Bowen-Cooke, C.B.E., for permission
to reproduce extracts from his work "British Locomotives"; also to Mr.
L. W. Horne, C.B.E., M.V.O., and his personal staff at Euston, who
so kindly supplied statistics in regard to war-time traffic. Last,
but not least, are due the Author's thanks to Mr. L. J. Maxse, Editor
and Proprietor of the _National Review_, whose readiness to pen a few
prefatory remarks is now most gratefully acknowledged.

Whilst in no way seeking to underrate the intelligence, or to
disavow the knowledge, already possessed by those readers who may be
sufficiently patient to bear with him, the Author would beg that at
least they may not see cause to classify him with those who "wishing to
appear wise among fools, among the wise seem foolish."

  CREWE, 1920.


The British cannot be accused, even by their bitterest critics,
of blowing their own trumpet. Indeed, they fail in the opposite
direction, and, as a general rule, carry their modesty to a point when
it positively ceases to be a virtue, because it causes credit to go
where it is not due. If we are unpopular as a nation--of which we are
continually assured, though whether we are more disliked than other
nations may be doubted--it is certainly not on account of boasting by
our men of action and achievement. Occasionally, it is true, we suffer
under the extravagant claims of Talking Men--chiefly politicians--who
are possibly inspired by the apprehension that unless they were their
own advertisers mankind would remain oblivious and therefore ungrateful
as regards the services they are supposed to have rendered.

The events of the Great War will gradually emerge in proper
perspective, and things will then seem somewhat different to what they
do to-day, when there is a certain and inevitable reaction which both
enables pretenders to pose as saviours of Society, and encourages us
to overlook much of which we may be legitimately proud because it
has demonstrated afresh to a world that was forgetting it that the
British are essentially a great people with a genius for everything
appertaining to war, however lacking in the supreme art of making
durable peace. In that day we shall want to know a great deal more than
we do at present concerning the origin of a conflict which has been to
some extent obscured by interested parties on both sides of the North
Sea who have enveloped the palpitating pre-war crisis in a curtain of
misrepresentation. It is common ground that Germany willed the war for
which she was super-abundantly prepared, while Great Britain willed
peace for which she was no less eager. Not for the first time in our
history were we taken completely unawares--neither Government nor
public having the faintest inkling of any impending storm, still less
that civilisation was on the eve of a cataclysm of which it would feel
the effects for more than one century.

As we look back on the Dark Ages of 1914, so graphically recalled by
the author of this book, we can only marvel at our blindness and wonder
how it could be that so many highly trained observers and experts on
current events could entirely ignore a danger that, in the familiar
French phrase, "leapt to the eyes." Of this strange phenomenon there
has so far been no attempt at any explanation, no amende from those
"great wise and eminent men"--not confined to any particular political
party--whose business it should have been to see what stared them in
the face, altogether apart from the fact that the Government of the
day commanded that abundance of accurate inside information concerning
international affairs, which, from generation to generation, is at the
service of His Majesty's Ministers. It would be some consolation and
compensation for all we have endured during this portentous period were
there any guarantee that no such catastrophe could recur because the
terrible lesson of 1914 to 1918 had been assimilated by Responsible
Statesmen who ask so much from the Community that we are entitled to
expect something from them in return.

If we cannot afford to forget the political aspect of that crisis, it
is infinitely more agreeable to contemplate the miraculous manner in
which "England the Unready" buckled to and transformed herself into the
mighty machine whose hammer blows on every element ultimately turned
the scale, and with the aid of Allies and Associates converted what at
the outset looked like "World Power" for Germany into her "Downfall."

Of the part played by the Fighting Men we know a good deal, and the
more we know the more we admire. Of the wonderful organisation largely
improvised, that placed and kept vast forces in the field all over
the world, we know next to nothing, partly because the more dramatic
aspects of the war have naturally attracted the attention of its
historians, partly because those with the necessary knowledge have been
too busy re-converting the machine to pacific purposes to be able to
write its war record.

In this attractive volume, Mr. Darroch, Assistant to the Chief
Mechanical Engineer in the Locomotive Department of the London and
North Western Railway Company at Crewe,--who has enjoyed the advantage
of two full years' active service overseas,--tells us in so many words
how our premier Railway Company "did its bit." Every factor in that
great organisation was subordinated to the common object, and the
Works at Crewe as urgency arose became a Munitions Department. It is a
wonderful and stimulating story--made all the more interesting because
the author continually bears in mind that it is part of a still larger
whole and breaks what is entirely new ground to the vast majority of
the reading public.

There is a desire in some quarters to banish the war as an evil
dream--to bury its sacred memories, to forget all about it. If we
followed this shallow advice, we should merely prove ourselves to
be unworthy of the sublime sacrifice, thanks to which we escaped
destruction, besides making a recurrence of danger inevitable. To our
author, who is an enthusiast in his calling, this book has been a
labour of love, and he has certainly made us all his debtors by this
brilliant and entrancing chapter of the history of the London and

  L. J. MAXSE.


  CHAPTER                                             PAGE

        FOREWORD                                         v

        PREFACE                                         ix

     I. BEING MAINLY HISTORICAL                          1

    II. ARMOURED TRAINS                                 39

   III. MECHANICAL MISCELLANEA                          51

    IV. THE GRAZE-FUSE                                  75

     V. CARE OF THE CARTRIDGE CASE                      88

          NOTIONS)                                      93

   VII. THE CREWE TRACTOR                              127

  VIII. "HULLO! AMERICA"                               135

    IX. THE ART OF DROP-FORGING                        139

     X. 1914-1918 PASSENGERS AND GOODS                 153

    XI. INDISPENSABLE                                  176

   XII. L'ENVOI                                        200




        EXPLANATORY OF THE GAUGE                       212





  C. J. Bowen-Cooke, Esq., C.B.E., Chief Mechanical Engineer,
    London and North-Western Railway            _Frontispiece_

  Armoured Train                                                45

  Various Types of Artificial Limbs                             68

  The Protector, or Mine-sweeping, Paravane                     70

  Gauges made at Crewe and used for the Manufacture of
    Graze-Fuses                                                 78

  Reversible Mechanical Tapping Machine for Fuse Caps
    Designed at Crewe                                           78

  The Graze-Fuse, shewn in section                              80

  Rolling out Dents in 4·5-inch Fired Cartridge Case            89

  "Patriot."--A Typical Example of the "Claughton" Class of
    6´ 6´´, Six Wheels Coupled Express Passenger Engine
    with Superheated Boiler; Four h.p. Cylinders, 15-3/4´´ bore
    x 26´´ stroke; Boiler Pressure, 175 lbs. per sq. inch;
    Maximum Tractive Force, 24,130 lbs.; Weight of Engine
    and Tender in Working Order, 117 tons                       99

  6-inch Shell Manufacture in the New Fitting Shop, Crewe
    Works                                                      112

  A Crewe Tractor in Road Trim                                 130

  A Crewe Tractor as Light-Railway Engine on Active Service    130

  Limber Hooks: Illustrating Duplex Method of Drop Forging     145

  Trunnion Brackets for 6-inch Howitzer Gun, Drop Forgings     145

  The 4-ton Drop Hammer                                        148

  Naval Gun weighing 68 tons. A Typical Instance of War-time
    Traffic                                                    173

  Breakdown Crane and Lifting Tackle for Shipping Small
    Goods Engines                                              178

  An Overseas Locomotive Panel "Severely Wounded"              178

  Type of Overhead Travelling Crane, Built at Crewe and
    Supplied to the Overseas "Rearward Services"               180

  "We, the Working Men of Crewe, will do all that is Humanly
    Possible to Increase the Output of Munitions, and Stand
    by our Comrades in the Trenches"                           186

  London and North-Western Railway War Memorial, Euston        210

  Manufacture of a Hob-cutter, in "relieving" or "backing-off"
    lathe                                          _Appendix C_




  "England woke at last, like a giant, from her slumbers,
  And she turned to swords her plough-shares, and her pruning
      hooks to spears,
  While she called her sons and bade them
  Be the men that God had made them,
  Ere they fell away from manhood in the careless idle years."

Thus it was that on that fateful morning of August 5th, 1914, England
awoke, awoke to find herself involved in a struggle, the magnitude
of which even the most well-informed, the most highly placed in the
land, failed utterly, in those early days, to conceive or to grasp;
in death-grips with the most formidable and long-since-systematically
prepared fighting machine ever organised in the history of the world
by master-minds, ruthless and cunning, steeped in the science of war.
England awoke, dazed, incredulous, unprepared; in fact, to quote
the very words of the Premier, who, when Minister of Munitions, was
addressing a meeting at Manchester in the summer of 1915, "We were the
worst organised nation in the world for this war."

The worst organised nation! And this, in spite of repeated public
utterances and threats coming direct to us from the world-aggressors,
as to the import of which there never should, nor indeed could, have
been any shadow of doubt.

"Neptune with the trident is a symbol for us that we have new tasks to
fulfil ... that trident must be in our fist"; thus the German Emperor
at Cologne in 1907. "Germany is strong, and when the hour strikes
will know how to draw her sword"; Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, in the
Reichstag, 1911. Or to burrow further back into the annals of the last
century, one recalls a challenge, direct and unmistakable, from the
pen of so prominent a leader of German public opinion as Professor
Treitshke, "We have reckoned with France and Austria--the reckoning
with England has yet to come; it will be the longest and the hardest."

The reckoning came, swiftly and with deadly purpose. Necessity knew
no law, Belgian territory was violated, Paris was threatened, the
Prussian spear pointing straight at the heart of France.

Unprepared, taken unawares, and, but for the sure shield of defence
afforded by her Fleet, well-nigh negligible, England awoke.

Happily, the nation as a whole was sound; though hampered as it was
by a Peace-at-any-price section of the Press, and honeycombed though
it had become with the burrowings of the "yellow English," that
"lecherous crew" who, naturalised or unnaturalised, like snakes in the
grass, sought, once the hour had struck, to sell the country of their
adoption, the man-in-the-street little knew, and probably never will
know with any degree of accuracy, how near England came to "losing her
honour, while Europe lost her life."

To reiterate all that was written at the time with the one object of
keeping England out of the fray, of making her desert her friends,
and of causing her, "after centuries of glorious life, to go down to
her grave unwept, unhonoured, and unsung," is naturally beyond the
scope of this necessarily brief _résumé_ of the _status quo ante_.
But, lest we forget, lest we relapse once again to our former and
innate characteristics of sublime indifference and of complacent
_laissez-faire_, heedless of that oft-repeated warning, "They will
cheat you yet, those Junkers! Having won half the world by bloody
murder, they are going to win the other half with tears in their eyes,
crying for mercy,"[1] a cursory glance through one or two of the more
glaring and self-condemnatory essays at defection from the one true and
only path consistent with the nation's honour and integrity, may not
be held amiss.

[1] Carl Rosemeier, a German in Switzerland, to the Allies. Cp. _Daily
Mail_, June, 1919.

_Literæ scriptæ manent_, and so he who runs may still read the
remonstrance of a high dignitary of the Church, to wit, the Bishop
of Lincoln, as set forth in the _Daily News and Leader_, August 3rd,
1914--"For England to join in this hideous war would be treason to
civilisation, and disaster to our people"; or this reassuring sop from
the Archbishop of York on November 21st, 1914--"I have a personal
memory of the Emperor very sacred to me." The strange views of a
leading daily newspaper are typical of the "Party of dishonour." In
its columns in August, 1914, we read, "The question of the integrity
of Belgium is one thing; its neutrality is quite another. We shall not
easily be convinced ... that the sacrosanctity of Belgian soil from the
passage of an invader is worth the sacrifice of so much that mattered
so much more to Englishmen." "Cold feet" was an affliction from which
the same journal was evidently suffering on the same date, for "from
all parts of the kingdom we are hearing of businesses that are about to
close down if Great Britain goes to war. It is going to be an appalling
catastrophe." In this respect, too, the Parliamentary correspondent
of the _Daily Chronicle_ doubtless felt that the spilling of ink was
likely to be more profitable than the shedding of blood, as evinced
by his inspiring little contribution on August 3rd: "Whatever the
outcome of the present tension, I believe the Cabinet have definitely
decided not to send our Expeditionary Force abroad. Truth to tell,
the issues which have precipitated the conflict which threatens to
devastate the whole of Europe are not worth the bones of a single
soldier." This policy of "scuttle" must ever remain as shameful as it
is unintelligible to the ordinary self-respecting Britisher; but as to
the nature of the plea put forward by the _Daily News_, August 4th,
there can be no vestige of doubt: "If we remained neutral we should be,
from the commercial point of view, in precisely the same position as
the United States. We should be able to trade with all the belligerents
(so far as the war allows of trade with them); we should be able to
capture the bulk of their trade in neutral markets; we should keep our
expenditure down; we should keep out of debt; we should have healthy

It has been said that "each country and each epoch has the Press which
it deserves"; but although God may have given us our Press just as
He has given us our relations, at least let us thank God that we can
choose our Papers just as we can choose our friends.

On "Black Saturday" (August 1st, 1914) the position was literally
"touch and go," as may be gathered from the following:--"Powerful City
financiers, whom it was my duty to interview this Saturday (August 1st)
on the financial situation, ended the Conference with an earnest hope
that Britain would keep out of it" (Mr. Lloyd George, Chancellor of the
Exchequer, in an interview with Mr. Henry Beech Needham, _Pearson's
Magazine_, March, 1915).

Clearly, international finance had all but succeeded in winning the
day for the Fatherland. S.O.S. must assuredly have been the signal
subconsciously sent out by the staunch little minority in the Asquith
Cabinet; for when the tide was at its lowest ebb, when England's
honour literally hung in the balance, and while Mr. Asquith was still
waiting and wobbling, there came Mr. Bonar Law's memorable letter
as voicing the opinion of the Government Opposition, and of which
the plain, outspoken meaning may be said to have had the effect of
definitely turning the scale:--"Dear Mr. Asquith, Lord Lansdowne and
I feel it our duty to inform you that in our opinion, as well as in
that of all the colleagues whom we have been able to consult, it would
be fatal to the honour and security of the United Kingdom to hesitate
in supporting France and Russia at the present juncture, and we offer
our unhesitating support to the Government in any measures they may
consider necessary for that object. Yours very truly, A. Bonar Law."

The tonic effect of this dose of stimulant was as immediate as it
was invigorating, for "on Sunday (August 2nd)," as Sir Edward Grey
announced the following day in the House of Commons (cp. the _Times_,
August 4th, 1914), "I gave the French ambassador the assurance that if
the German Fleet comes into the Channel or through the North Sea to
undertake hostile operations against the French coasts or shipping,
the British Fleet will give all the protection in its power." Further,
although "we have not yet made an engagement to send the Expeditionary
Force out of the country" we were not letting the grass grow under
our feet, for "the mobilisation of the Fleet has taken place; that of
the Army is taking place." All self-respecting Englishmen were able to
breathe again; we were at least to be permitted to do our bare duty
towards our neighbour; we could, in fact, once again look him in the
face. But the Almighty indeed "moves in a mysterious way, His wonders
to perform," and it needed the blatant blundering of the bullet-headed
Boche, which throughout the prolonged agony has proved one of the
greatest assets of the Entente cause, more often than not being
instrumental in saving ourselves in spite of ourselves, finally to
ensure that we fulfilled our treaty, as well as our moral, obligations.
Our erstwhile "checker" of armament expenditure took very good care,
subsequently, to remove the possibility of any doubt lingering on this
score--"This I know is true.... I would not have been a party to a
declaration of war, had Belgium not been invaded, and I think I can say
the same thing for most, if not all, of my colleagues.... If Germany
had been wise, she would not have set foot on Belgian soil. The Liberal
Government then would not have intervened" (Mr. Lloyd George, in an
interview with Mr. Harry Beech Needham, _Pearson's Magazine_, March,

Wednesday, August 6th, is a day that will remain "momentous in the
history of all times," for owing to the incursion within Belgian
territory of German troops "His Majesty's Government have declared to
the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain
and Germany as from 11 p.m. on August 4th" (cp. the _Times_, August
5th, 1914).

Thenceforth eyes became riveted on the North Sea, thoughts centred on
Belgium. Liège, the first stumbling-block in the path of the invader,
was holding at bay the oncoming enemy hordes, thousands of whom
advancing in close formation were made blindly to bite the dust.

Eagerly the newspapers were bought up; every fresh message ticked
off on the "tape" was greedily devoured. A French success in Alsace,
a German submarine sunk, fighting on the Meuse and in the Vosges,
Lorraine invaded by the French--these and other announcements, acting
as apperitiffs to whet the appetite, added to the excitement of the
hour. Pressure of public opinion had ousted Lord Haldane from the War
Office; Kitchener, "with an inflexible will, a heart that never fails
at the blackest moments, a spirit that time and again has been proved
unconquerable," becoming Secretary of State for War. With the approval
of His Majesty the King, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe assumed supreme
command of the Home Fleets, Field-Marshal Sir John French was nominated
to the command of the British Expeditionary Force. Yet as day succeeded
day and little or nothing became visibly apparent, vainly on all hands,
but with increasing persistence, was asked the question, "Why did not
England move?" Why this inaction, this seeming hesitation? The Fleet
had been as if swallowed up by the waters. All was silence everywhere.
At midnight on August 12th we were at war with Austria, and although
"the general attitude of the nation is what it ever has been in time
of trial, sedate, sensible, and self-possessed," the _Times_ of August
15th, anxious, no doubt, to ease the existing tension, openly commented
on the fact that "all sorts of absurd and unfounded rumours have been
circulated by light-headed and irresponsible individuals," throwing
ridicule on "dire reports of mishaps suffered by the Allies, of German
victories, of insurrections in the French capital, and even of heavy
British casualties by land and sea." Three more days "petered out,"
however, before all doubts were dispelled, and these "dire reports"
shown to be totally void and without foundation. On Tuesday, August
18th, or exactly a fortnight from the declaration of war, it was with
mingled feelings of gratitude and of relief that we read in our morning
paper, "The following statement was issued last night by the Press
Bureau--'The Expeditionary Force, as detailed for foreign service,
has been landed on French soil. The embarkation, transportation, and
disembarkation of men and stores were alike carried through with the
greatest possible precision, and without a single casualty.'"

Only those who had been intimately connected with, or actually
concerned in, this the first move in the great drama were aware of the
intense amount of activity that had been crowded into the breathless
space of those two short weeks. The ordinary man-in-the-street, the
strap-hanger, the lady in the stalls, the girl in the taxi, all were
purposely kept in the dark; the great British Public knew nothing.

Those of us who happily foresaw the historical interest and value that
must surely accrue in the years to come from the preservation of the
newspapers of the day may yet ponder in reminiscent mood headlines and
paragraphs, descriptive of events and portraying emotions, current and
constraining, throughout those August days.

On August 18th, the _Times_, habitually dignified, lucid and exemplary,
touches on the occasion in a vein deserving as it is decorous: "The
veil is at last withdrawn from one of the most extraordinary feats in
modern history--the dispatch of a large force of armed men across the
sea in absolute secrecy. What the nation at large knew it knew only
from scraps of gossip that filtered through the foreign Press. From its
own Press, from its own Government, it learned nothing; and patiently,
gladly, it maintained, of its own accord, the conspiracy of silence."
It was true, in fact inevitable, that "every day for many days now
mothers have been saying good-bye to sons, and wives to husbands," but
"until Britain knew that her troopships had safely crossed that narrow
strip of water that might have been the grave of thousands, Britain
held her peace." However, "now that we are at last allowed to refer
to the dispatch of a British Army to the seat of war, we may heartily
congratulate all concerned upon the smooth and easy working of the
machinery. The staffs of England and France who prepared the plan of
transport, the railway and steamship companies which carried the men,
the officers and men who marched silently off without the usual scenes
of farewell at home, and last, but not least, the Navy that covered the
transports from attack, all deserve very hearty congratulations."

Comparisons are odious, and it is obviously without any desire to
detract from the laudable performances of others in the accomplishment
of this, "one of the most extraordinary feats in modern history," that
reference of a special character is here made to the singularly high
state of efficiency obtaining on the great British railway companies,
which alone rendered possible so remarkable an achievement as that of
marshalling at a moment's notice, and dispatching, the many trains
necessary for the conveyance to the different ports of embarkation
within the United Kingdom of the four Divisions of all arms and one of
Cavalry of which the original British Expeditionary Force was composed.

It is true that on the outbreak of war, the State, at least in
name, assumed control of the railways, and this by virtue of an Act
of Parliament passed in 1871 (34 and 35 Victoria, c. 86) "for the
Regulation of the Regular and Auxiliary Forces of the Crown," section
XVI. of which enacted that "When Her Majesty, by order in Council,
declares that an emergency has arisen in which it is expedient for the
public service that Her Majesty's Government should have control over
the railroads of the United Kingdom, or any of them, the Secretary of
State may, by warrant under his hand, empower any person or persons
named in such warrant to take possession in the name or on behalf
of Her Majesty of any railroad in the United Kingdom ... and the
directors, officers, and servants of any such railroad shall obey the
directions of the Secretary of State as to the user of such railroad
... for Her Majesty's service."

A previous "Act for the better Regulation of Railways, and for the
Conveyance of Troops" (5 and 6 Victoriae 30th July, A.D., 1842, cap.
LV. section XX.), similarly declares--"Be it enacted, 'That whenever
it shall be necessary to move any of the Officers or Soldiers of Her
Majesty's Forces of the Line, Ordnance Corps, Marines, Militia, or
the Police Force, by any Railway, the Directors thereof shall and are
hereby required to permit such Forces respectively with their Baggage,
Stores, Arms, Ammunition, and other Necessaries and Things, to be
conveyed at the usual Hours of starting, at such Prices or upon such
Conditions as may from Time to Time be contracted for between the
Secretary at War and such Railway Companies for the Conveyance of such
Forces, on the Production of a Route or Order for the Conveyance signed
by the proper Authorities."

Hence it will be seen that, always subject to the provisions of the
National Defence Act of 1888 (51 and 52 Victoriae, c. 31), which simply
ensured that naval and military requirements should take precedence
over every other form of traffic on the railways whenever an Order for
the embodiment of the Militia was in force, the actual working of the
various departments of the different railway companies when war was
declared remained, to all intents and purposes, identical with that
prevailing in the piping times of peace, that is to say in the hands
of the individual "directors, officers and servants" of the respective
railways, with the result that in the absence of all attempt at
interference on the part of official bureaucracy, "all went merry as a
marriage-bell"; staffs worked day and night; confusion was conspicuous
by its absence; smoothly, yet unrehearsed, proceeded the unparalleled
programme, until the last man had been detrained, the last gun hauled
aboard the transport lying in readiness at the quay; and in due course,
as has already been mentioned, "the Contemptibles" were landed in
France without a single casualty.

Whilst touching lightly upon the evident and praiseworthy preparedness
and consequent ability of the great railway companies to deal with "the
emergency" the moment it arose, it will perhaps not be uninteresting
to inquire briefly into the circumstances dating back to the "fifties"
of the last century from which were evolved and brought gradually to
a state as nearly approaching perfection as is humanly possible the
organisation necessary for the speedy and safe transport of troops by
rail in time of war.

History ever repeats itself, and it has invariably been the case that
the imminent peril of invasion rather than any grandiose scheme of
foreign conquest has been the determining factor in arousing that
martial spirit, so prone to lying dormant, but which, handed down to
us by our forbears, undoubtedly exists in the fibre of every true-born
Britisher, and which has assuredly been the means of raising England to
her present pinnacle of greatness.

The three more obviously parallel instances in modern times of the
manifestation of this trait so happily characteristic of the nation
are to be found, first and foremost perhaps in connection with
the present-day world conflict, when in response to the late Lord
Kitchener's first appeal for recruits thousands flocked to the colours.
Apposite indeed was the following brief insertion to be found in the
personal column of the _Times_, August 26th, 1914: "'Flannelled fools
at the wicket and muddied oafs at the goal' have now an opportunity of
proving whether Mr. Kipling was wrong." They seized the opportunity in
no uncertain manner; incontrovertibly they proved him wrong, "The first
hundred thousand," or "Kitchener's mob" as they were affectionately
termed, being speedily enrolled, and forming the nucleus of the immense
armies which eventually took the field.

Analogous to this effort may be taken the crisis occurring in the
middle of the last century, when, in the year 1858, out of what may
best be described perhaps as a "storm in a tea-cup," there loomed the
threat of invasion by our friends from across the Channel, resulting
in a scare the immediate outcome of which was the formation of the
Volunteer Force, which quickly reached a total of 150,000 men.

Although this particular crisis must be considered as bearing more
directly on present-day matters of interest in view of the fact that
the importance of steam-traction by rail relative to warlike operations
commenced at that time to make itself felt, the extent to which the
nation seemed likely to be imperilled was, nevertheless, scarcely to
be compared with the danger that threatened during what may be termed
the closing phase of the Napoleonic era, when in the year 1805 massed
in camp at Boulogne was the flower of the French Army equipped with
quantities of flat-bottomed boats ready for its conveyance across the
Channel. To counter this formidable menace was mustered in England a
force of 300,000 Volunteers, imbued with the same fervent ardour, the
same spirit of intense patriotism and self-sacrifice that has ever been
evinced by the country in her hour of peril. How the menace was in fact
averted, and the last bid for world-domination by the Emperor Napoleon
Bonaparte frustrated, is common knowledge, the memorable action off Cap
Trafalgar determining once and for all the inviolability of England's
shores. "England," exclaimed Pitt, "has saved herself by her courage;
she will save Europe by her example."

The average historian of to-day, who mentally is as firmly convinced
that the genius of Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar as he is ocularly
certain that the famous admiral's statue dominates Trafalgar Square,
will, on the other hand, in all probability deny that the use of
steam as a motive force was contemporaneous with the period in which
Nelson lived. But although it is somewhat of a far cry from the
latter part of the eighteenth century to the "eighteen-fifties" when
steam was to become a factor of no mean importance in the waging of
modern war, there is, nevertheless, conclusive evidence to show that
dating so far back as the "seventeen-seventies" individual efforts of
admittedly a most elementary, albeit utterly fascinating, kind were
already being made with a view to solving the problem wrapt up in this
"water-vapour," and so compelling the elusive energy to be derived
therefrom as a motive agency for rendering facile human itinerancy.
No sooner had the first self-propelled steam-carriage made its
appearance on the road, than speculation became rife as to the range of
potentialities lying latent in the then phenomenal invention; well-nigh
limitless seemed the vista about to unfold itself to human ambition,
and looking back over the past century and a half how strangely
prophetic sound these lines from the pen of Erasmus Darwin, who died in

  "Soon shall thy arm, unconquered steam! afar
    Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;
  Or, on wide-waving wings expanded, bear
    The flying chariot through the field of air!"

Evidently the "Jules Verne" of his day, Erasmus Darwin was physician
as well as poet; his ideas, so we are told, were indeed "original and
contain the germs of important truths," to which may, in some measure,
be attributed the genius of his grandson, the famous Charles R.
Darwin, discoverer of natural selection.

It is true the petrol engine has latterly proved its more ready
adaptability to the purpose of road locomotion and of aviation, but
the fact remains that steam to this day eminently preserves her
predominance in the world of ocean and railway travel.

Seldom does one find the evolution of any one particular branch of
scientific endeavour traced in so alluring as well as instructive a
manner as proves to be the case, when, taking down from the nearest
bookshelf that delightful little volume "British Locomotives," one
pursues the author, Mr. C. J. Bowen-Cooke (now C.B.E. and Chief
Mechanical Engineer of the London and North-Western Railway), with
never-abating interest through his treatise on the early history of
the modern railway engine. He tells us that "the first self-moving
locomotive engine of which there is any authenticated record was made
by a Frenchman named Nicholas Charles Cugnot, in the year 1769. It was
termed a 'land-carriage,' and was designed to run on ordinary roads."
Although we learn that "there are no particulars extant of this, the
very first locomotive," this same Cugnot designed and constructed
two years later, a larger engine, "which is still preserved in the
Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers at Paris." The French are a people
ever prone to looking further than their noses, hence the fact that
the French Government not unnaturally "took some interest in this
notion of a steam land-carriage, and voted a sum of money towards its
construction, with the idea that such a machine might prove useful for
military purposes." Man proposes, but God disposes, and as luck would
have it the vehicle seemed fore-ordained to end its brief career
somewhat ingloriously, for after it "had been tried two or three times
it overturned in the streets of Paris, and was then locked up in the
Arsenal." A lapse of ten or a dozen years supervened before England
began looking to her laurels, but "in 1784 Watt took out a patent
for a steam-carriage, of which the boiler was to be of wood or thin
metal, to be secured by hoops or otherwise to prevent its bursting from
the pressure of steam"! It was not long, however, ere the steam road
carriage was superseded by a locomotive designed to run on rails, of
which the earliest "broods," embracing such "spifflicating" species
as the Puffing Billies, Rockets, Planets, etc., and "hatched" from
the brains of eminent men such as Stephenson and Trevithick, were
necessarily original and quaint to a degree. It is, unfortunately,
impossible here to do more than skim the copious wealth of interesting
data through which Mr. Bowen-Cooke so admirably pilots us, and which
evidently he has spared no pains to collect; suffice it to add that the
succeeding years bear unfailing witness to that intense earnestness
which, sustaining the early locomotive pioneers unwearying in their
well-fading was so largely instrumental in the attainment of that
perfection of which we, their beneficiaries, now in our own season reap
the benefit.

It was not until the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in
1830, when the directors of that line offered "a premium of £500 for
the most improved locomotive engine," that any real tendency towards
modern design and external appearance began to make itself apparent.
The stimulus afforded by this offer, however, was rousing in effect,
engines becoming gradually larger and more or less powerful, until in
the year 1858 Mr. Ramsbottom designed and built for the London and
North-Western Railway Company at Crewe an express passenger engine
known familiarly as the "seven foot six," in that its single pair of
driving wheels measured 7 feet 6 inches in diameter. Bearing the name
of "Lady of the Lake" (for, whilst sacrificing perhaps a certain amount
of power for speed, it was "certainly one of the prettiest engines ever
built"), this engine and others of the same "class" remained in the
service of the London and North-Western Railway until quite recently,
thus forming a link between the earth-shaking events of the present day
and that period of anxious calm, when the scare (to which reference has
previously been made) became the occasion in 1858 for centring public
opinion on the possibilities of, and the advantages likely to accrue
from, transport by rail in time of war.

The Crimean struggle of 1855 had done little enough to enhance
England's military prestige, only to be followed, two years later, by
the nightmare horrors of the Mutiny.

Throughout the first and second Palmerston Ministries, the reading of
the European barometer remained at "stormy," and an attempt in 1858
to assassinate the Emperor Napoleon III., which was believed to have
had its origin in England, served as a prelude to the "blowing-off"
of a considerable volume of steam, especially when a year later, the
war between France and Austria having terminated and the kingdom of
Italy being created, the French people found themselves free to devote
their then bellicose attentions, as had so frequently been their
misguided and regrettable wont, to our insular selves. It is, however,
an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and the very fact that the
tone, particularly of the military party in France, was violent and
aggressive to a degree, had the salutary effect of serving as a mirror
in which was accurately reflected our own deplorable unpreparedness for

Commenting on the situation, the writer of a leading article in the
_Times_ of April 19th, 1859, openly deplores the fact that "the
Englishman of the present day has forgotten the use of arms"; not
merely this, but "the practice of football or of vying with the
toughest waterman on the Thames is of little service to young men when
their country is in danger."

Mercifully enough, perhaps, the pernicious sensationalism of the
cinema, and the vacant thrills afforded by the scenic railway, were
magic lures unknown in those mid-Victorian days, manly and open-air
forms of sport already being considered sufficiently derogatory to the
inculcation within the minds of the younger generation of that fitting
sense of duty, of self-sacrifice, and subservience to discipline.

The opinion was further expressed that "there can be only one true
defence of a nation like ours--a large and permanent volunteer force
supported by the spirit and patriotism of our young men, and gradually
indoctrinating the country with military knowledge," the article
concluding with this ominous reminder--"We are the only people in the
world who have not such a force in one form or another."

"Si vis pacem, para bellum" was the obvious corollary drawn by all
sober-minded people and seriously inclined members of the community,
and on the 13th of May, 1859, the _Times_ had "the high gratification
of announcing that this necessity (that of home defence) is now
recognised by the Government," for "in another portion of our columns
will be found a circular addressed by General Peel to the Queen's
Lieutenants of counties sanctioning the formation of Volunteer Rifle
Corps." At the same time the war in Italy was made to serve the
purpose of bringing out in full relief the importance of steam as a
novel factor in strategical operations, for we further read (cp. the
_Times_, May 13th, 1859) that "steam--an agency unknown in former
contests--renders all operations infinitely more practicable....
Railroads can bring troops to the frontier from all quarters of the
kingdom.... It is in steam transport, in fact, that we discover the
chief novelty of the war."

Thenceforward matters began to assume practical shape, and in the
following year 1860, on September 15th, we come across a reference to
the Volunteer movement "which has so signal a success as to produce
a costless disciplined army of 150,000 marksmen," springing from
"a unanimous feeling of the necessity of preparing for defence."
Conspicuous amongst this "costless disciplined army" figure the 1st
Middlesex (South Kensington) Engineer Volunteers, "numbering now,"
as we find, on October 23rd, 1860, "over 500 members," and "daily
increasing in strength is making rapid progress in its drills, etc."
The 1st Middlesex was evidently the original corps of Engineer
Volunteers to be formed, and thus became the precursor of other and
similar corps which sprang into being in other parts of the country; a
fine example of which (although entirely distinct in that it was the
sole Engineer Corps to embody railway engineers) was later to become
apparent in the 2nd Cheshire Engineers (Railway) Volunteers.

Formed in January, 1887, the battalion was recruited entirely from
amongst the employés of the London and North-Western Railway,
comprising firemen, cleaners, boilermakers and riveters, fitters,
smiths, platelayers, shunters, and pointsmen. The nominal strength of
the establishment was six companies of 100 men each, but in addition
245 men enlisted as a matter of form in the Royal Engineers for one day
and were placed in the First Class Army Reserve for six years, forming
the Royal Engineer Railway Reserve, and being liable for service at any
time. During the South African War 285 officers and men saw service at
the front, and the military authorities were not slow to appreciate the
invaluable aid rendered by this picked body of men. On the inception
of Lord Haldane's scheme of Territorials in 1908, the battalion was
embodied therein, and continued as such until March, 1912, when for
some inexplicable reason it was finally disbanded.

How valuable an asset from the professional point of view were deemed,
originally, these Engineer Corps, may be gathered from the _Times_ of
November 23rd, 1860, which congratulates the 1st Middlesex, as being
the parent corps, on having been "most successful in obtaining skilled
workmen of the class from which are drawn the Royal Engineers. Every
member of the corps goes through a course of military engineering in
field works, pontooning, etc.," with the result that the Volunteer
Engineers "will therefore form a valuable adjunct to the Royal
Engineers in the event of their being called into the field."

The ball once started rolling, it was not unnaturally deemed advisable
to form some central and representative body of control, and the
_Times_ of January 10th, 1865, gives an account of an "interesting
ceremony of presenting prizes to the successful competitors of rifle
practice of the Queen's Westminster (22nd Middlesex) Rifle Volunteers,"
when Colonel McMurdo, then Inspector-General of the Volunteer Forces,
"who was received with loud and long-continued applause," in the
course of a speech referred to the formation of a new corps, "a most
important one both for the Volunteer Force and the Regular Army. He
would tell the objects of this corps," which would consist of 30
Lieutenant-Colonels, and would enlist other members down to the rank
of sergeants:--"In order that the Volunteers and the Army of England
should be able to move in large masses from one part of the country
to another they would have to depend upon railways. In all the wars
of late years--as in the Italian war, the war in Denmark, and in the
American war--the railway had been brought into service, to move armies
rapidly from place to place, and this new corps, which at present
consisted of the most eminent railway engineers and general managers of
the great lines, had the task of bringing into a unity of action the
whole system of railways of Great Britain; so that if war should visit
England, which God forbid, this country would be placed on an equality
with countries whose Governments possessed the advantage--if advantage
it might be called--of carrying on the business of the railways. And
the importance of this they might estimate when he assured them that
with the finest army in the world, unless they had a system by which
200,000 men could move upon the railways with order, security, and
precision, efficiency and numbers would be of no avail upon the day of
battle; and that unless we had order, unless we had certainty in the
moving of large masses, the day of battle, which might come, would be
to us a day of disaster."

Accorded the title of "The Engineer and Railway Volunteer Staff
Corps," this select little group, combining some of the best brains
and ability to be found in the engineering and managerial departments
of the railways, acted in the capacity of consulting engineers to the
Government, from the time of its formation until the year 1896, when a
smaller body composed on similar lines and known as the "War Railway
Council" was introduced for the purpose of supplementing, and to some
extent relieving, the original Railway Staff Corps.

As has already been seen, although in accordance with the provisions
of the Act of 1871 the Government would assume control of the railways
in the event of "an emergency" arising, the directors, officers, and
servants of the different companies would nevertheless be required to
"carry on" as usual, and to maintain, each in their several spheres,
the actual working of the lines.

The final adjustment of any minor defects that may have been apparent
in the rapidly completing chain of organisation was speedily
accelerated by the Agadir crisis of 1911, resulting in the inception in
the following year of that unique and singularly thorough institution,
the Railway Executive Committee, which in turn superseded its immediate
predecessor, the War Railway Council.

On the outbreak of the world conflict in August, 1914, and following
on an official announcement by the War Office to the effect that
Government control would be exercised through this "Executive Committee
composed of General Managers of the Railways," Sir Herbert Walker,
K.C.B., General Manager of the London and South-Western Railway, who
was forthwith appointed Acting-Chairman of the Railway Executive
Committee, issued in concise form a further and confirmatory statement,
in which he drew attention to the fact that "the control of the
railways has been taken over by the Government for the purpose of
ensuring that the railways, locomotives, rolling-stock, and staff shall
be used as one complete unit in the best interests of the State for the
movement of troops, stores, and food supplies.... The staff on each
railway will remain under the same control as heretofore, and will
receive their instructions through the same channels as in the past."

Indelibly imprinted though the memory of those fateful August days
must remain in the minds of every living individual, days brimful of
wonderings alternating with doubt, expectancy, ill-foreboding, and
occasional delight, coupled with an all-pervading sense of mystery
completely enshrouding the movements of our own forces, few indeed were
aware of the extent of the task imposed upon the Railway Executive
Committee. Yet so swiftly, so silently, was the entire scheme of
mobilisation carried through, that it was with a sense bordering
on bewilderment and with something akin to a gulp that the public
found itself digesting the news of the safe transport and arrival
in France of the Expeditionary Force. On the occasion of his first
appearance in the House of Lords as Secretary of State for War, the
late Lord Kitchener referred in brief, but none the less eulogistic
terms, to the successful part played by the railway companies (cp.
the _Times_, August 26th, 1914): "I have to remark that when war was
declared mobilisation took place without any hitch whatever. The
railway companies in the all-important matter of railway transport
facilities have more than justified the complete confidence reposed
in them by the War Office, all grades of railway services having
laboured with untiring energy and patience. We know how deeply the
French people appreciate the prompt assistance we have been able to
afford them at the very outset of the war." Nor has Sir John French
neglected to record his own appreciation of so signal a performance,
for, in describing the events leading up to the concentration of
the British Army in France, he writes (cp. "1914," p. 40): "Their
reports (_i.e._ of the corps commanders and their staffs) as to the
transport of their troops from their mobilising stations to France were
highly satisfactory. The nation owes a deep debt of gratitude to the
naval transport service and to all concerned in the embarking of the
Expeditionary Force. Every move was carried out exactly to time."

So far so good, it will be opined. Certainly from the chief points of
disembarkation, Boulogne and le Havre, there were "roses, roses all the
way," surely never before in the annals of warfare have troops from an
alien shore been greeted with such galaxy of joy and enthusiasm, though
perhaps most touching tribute of all was that of a wayside impression,
the figure of an old peasant leaning heavily on his thickly gnarled
stick, with cap in hand outstretched, his wan smile and glistening
tear-dimmed eye indicating in measure unmistakable the depth and
sincerity of his silent gratitude.

"On Friday, August 21st, the British Expeditionary Force," Sir John
French tells us, "found itself awaiting its first great trial of
strength with the enemy," and the childish display of wrathful
indignation evinced by Wilhelm the (would-be) Conqueror, who is
credited with having slapped with his gauntlet the face of an all
too-zealous staff officer, bearer of so displeasing an item of
intelligence, is not devoid of humour. The nursery parallel is
complete--"Fe, fi, fo, fum," roared the giant, "I smell the blood of an
Englishmen." "Gott im himmel," snarled the Kaiser, "It is my Royal and
Imperial command that you concentrate your energies, for the immediate
present, upon one single purpose, and that is that you address all
your skill and all the valour of my soldiers to exterminate first the
treacherous English and walk over General French's contemptible little
army." Head-quarters, Aix-la-Chapelle, August 19th, 1914, (cp. the
_Times_, October 1st, 1914).

"Up to that time," however, as Sir John French asseverates in his
further reminiscences, "as far as the British forces were concerned,
the forwarding of offensive operations had complete possession of our
minds.... The highest spirit pervaded all ranks"; in fact "no idea of
retreat was in the minds of the leaders of the Allied Armies," who were
"full of hope and confidence." In this wise, then, did the Regulars,
the flower of the British Army, enter the fray, little dreaming that
the entire nation and Empire were to be trained in their wake, or that
upwards of four years, instead of so many months, involving sacrifices
untold, must elapse ere we were destined to emerge (or perhaps muddle)
successfully from out the wood.

For the moment, as it transpired, "nothing came to hand which led
us to foresee the crushing superiority of strength which actually
confronted us on Sunday, August 23rd"; neither had "Allenby's bold and
searching reconnaissance led me (Sir John French) to believe that we
were threatened by forces against which we could not make an effective
stand." How completely the strength and disposal of the enemy forces
had been veiled, no more than a few brief hours sufficed to disclose;
disillusion quickly supervened. "Our intelligence ... thought that
at least three German corps (roughly 150,000 men)[2] were advancing
upon us," and following on a severe engagement in the neighbourhood of
Charleroi in which the French 80th Corps on our left suffered heavily,
a general retirement commenced. Namur had fallen on August 25th, and
there was no blinking the truth, it was the Germans who were advancing,
not we! Thenceforward, the retreat, the now historic Retreat from Mons,
orderly throughout, set in along the whole line of the Allied Armies;
of respite there was none, day in day out, 'neath the burning rays of
an August sun the enemy pressure increased rather than relaxed.

[2] The German army corps of two divisions has 44,000 men, and a
combatant strength of 26,900 rifles, 48 machine guns, 1200 sabres, and
144 guns. The German army corps of three divisions is approximately
60,000 strong (cp. the _Times_, August 29th, 1914).

The following narrative set down by an eye-witness, temporarily _en
panne_ during the afternoon and evening of August 27th on the outskirts
of the little provincial town of Ham, depicts briefly but with some
degree of vividness the tragic nature of the scene that was being
enacted. After making some slight preliminary allusion to the pitiable
plight of refugees who everywhere helped to block the roads, "there
commenced," so the narrative runs, "this other spectacle of which I
speak; at first, as it were, a mere trickle, a solitary straggler here,
a stray cavalry horseman there, until the trickle grew, grew into a
strange and never-ending living stream; for, down the long straight
route nationale from Le Cateau, and so away beyond from Mons, they
came those 'broken British regiments' that had been 'battling against
odds'; men bare-headed, others coatless, gone the very tunic from their
backs; tattered, blood-stained, torn; now a small detachment, now a
little group; carts and wagons heaped with impedimenta galore, while
lying prone on top of all were worn-out men and footsore. And all the
time along the roadside fallen-out, limping, hobbling, stumbling, came
stragglers, twos and threes, men who for upwards of four days and
nights, without repose, had fought and marched and trekked, till sheer
exhaustion well-nigh dragged each fellow to the ground. Yet on they
kept thus battling 'gainst the numbness of fatigue, that mates more
broken than themselves should ease, in measure slight, their sufferings
in the bare comfort of thrice-laded carts. All but ashamed to poke the
crude curiosity of a camera in the grim path of war-worn warriors such
as these, from where I stood, as unobtrusive as could be, I snapped
three instantaneous glimpses of this gloriously pitiful review, stamped
though it was already ineradicably in the pages of my memory. Twilight
fell, and night, and still the stream flowed in and ever onward."

The news in London, heralded by a special Sunday afternoon edition
of the _Times_, came as a bolt from the blue, for not since the
announcement of the landing of the Expeditionary Force in France had
anything of an authentic nature been received as to its subsequent
doings or movements; in fact, as the _Times_ pointed out on August
19th, "the British Expeditionary Force has vanished from sight almost
as completely as the British Fleet"; further, as if to complete the
nightmare of uncertainty, "British newspaper correspondents are not
allowed at the front; ... the suspense thus imposed upon the nation
is almost the hardest demand yet made by the authorities,--with some
misgivings we hope it may be patiently borne."

The British public, however, in spite of occasional qualms and
momentary misgivings, ever confident of success and sure in its
inflexible belief that the British Army could hold its own against
almost any odds (the prevailing logic being that one Britisher was as
good as any three dirty Germans), had bidden Dame Rumour take a back
seat in the recesses of its mind.

Incredible then the news that broke the spell: "This is a pitiful story
I have to write," so read the message, dated Amiens, August 29th,
"and would to God it did not fall to me to write it. But the time for
secrecy is past. I write with the Germans advancing incessantly, while
all the rest of France believes they are still held near the frontier."
What had happened? How could it be true? Sir John French wastes no time
in mincing matters:--"The number of our aeroplanes was limited." "The
enormous numerical and artillery superiority of the Germans must be
remembered." "It (the machine gun) was an arm in which the Germans were
particularly well found. They must have had at least six or seven to
our one." "It was, moreover, very clear that the Germans had realised
that the war was to be one calling for colossal supplies of munitions,
supplies indeed upon such a stupendous scale as the world had never
before dreamed of, and they also realised the necessity for heavy

The time for secrecy was past; but how to stem the tide? The situation
was, and indeed remained, such that a year later Mr. Lloyd George (then
Secretary of State for War) was moved to make this astounding admission
in the House of Commons: "The House would be simply appalled to hear of
the dangers we had to run last year." And again at a subsequent date
when as Minister of Munitions he exclaimed in the House, "I wonder
whether it will not be too late. Ah! fatal words on this occasion! Too
late in moving here, too late in arriving there, too late in coming to
this decision, too late in starting enterprises, too late in preparing.
In this war the footsteps of the Allied forces have been dogged by the
mocking spectre of 'Too late.'"

In this connection it would be amusing, were it not so utterly tragic,
to compare a slightly previous and public utterance from the lips of
this same "Saviour of his Country":--"This is the most favourable
moment for twenty years to overhaul our expenditure on armaments" (Mr.
Lloyd George. _Daily Chronicle_, January 1st, 1914).

Happily however, "il n'est jamais trop tard pour bien faire," and this
good old adage as to it being never _too_ late to mend was perhaps
never better exemplified than when, the Army Ordnance authorities
having realised that the Government arsenals were in no position
to cope fully with the demands likely to be made by the military
authorities in the field, that other army of "Contemptibles," the
staffs and employés of the great engineering concerns of this country,
came forward in a manner unparalleled in the history of modern
industry, and forthwith commenced to adapt themselves and their entire
available plant to the process of manufacturing munitions of war.

Foremost amongst firms of world-wide repute must be mentioned the
great London and North-Western Railway Company, whose Chief Mechanical
Engineer, Mr. C. J. Bowen-Cooke, C.B.E., realising from the outset
the import of the late Lord Kitchener's forecast as to the probable
duration and extent of the war, and in spite of ever-increasing demands
on locomotive power which he found himself compelled to meet for
military as well as for ordinary civilian purposes, threw himself heart
and soul into the problem of adapting the then existing conditions and
plant in the Company's locomotive works at Crewe to the requirements of
the military authorities.

Forewarned as it was to some extent by the hurricane advance of the
Hun, the Government was also forearmed in that it was empowered by the
provisions of the Act of 1871 not merely to take over the railroads
of the United Kingdom, but, should it be deemed expedient to do so,
the plant thereof as well. The Government might even take possession
of the plant without the railroad; though how the railways could have
been maintained minus their plant, any more than the Fleet could have
remained in commission minus its dockyards, is doubtless a problem that
was duly considered by those who framed the wording of the Act in the
year of grace 1871.

However that may be, as soon as the really desperate nature of the
struggle began to dawn upon the Government, and it was seen to be a
case of "all or nothing," the then President of the Board of Trade,
Mr. Runciman, M.P., was not slow to espy the latent, yet none the less
patent, possibilities which surely existed within the practical domain
of railway workshops.

In certain circumstances it may be regarded as fortunate that not a few
of those happy-go-lucky individuals, whose leaning is towards politics,
are gifted with the convenient art of adapting themselves and their
views to that particular quarter whence the wind happens to be blowing.
"I must honestly confess," as this same Mr. Runciman had expressed
himself when in 1907 he was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, "that
when I see the armaments expanding it is gall and wormwood to my heart;
the huge amount of money spent on the Army is a sore point with every
one in the Treasury."

Particularly galling, therefore, must have seemed the rate at which
expenditure on armaments was increasing by leaps and bounds in 1914;
yet so ingenuous is the manner in which politicians are calmly capable
of effecting a complete _volte-face_, that on October 13th we find Mr.
Runciman positively engaged in seeking out the late Sir Guy Calthorp,
then General Manager of the London and North-Western Railway, and Mr.
Bowen-Cooke, for the purpose of eliciting their views as to the extent
to which the railway companies might be relied upon to assist the
Government in spending still more huge amounts of money (incidentally
thus adding a further dose of wormwood to his heart), especially in
regard to the output of artillery.

Without knowing for the moment what actually were the more immediate
and pressing requirements of the Government, Mr. Cooke suggested an
interview with the late Sir Frederick Donaldson, then Director of Army
Ordnance at Woolwich Arsenal, with whom he was personally acquainted;
the result being that Sir Frederick was able to point out in detail
the difficulties with which he was faced, handing over to Mr. Cooke
a number of drawings of gun-carriage chassis, etc., which he (Mr.
Cooke) went through, tabulating them in concise form, so that at a
forthcoming meeting which had been called at the Railway Clearing
House for Tuesday, October 20th, the Chief Mechanical Engineers of the
Midland, Great Western, North-Eastern, Great Northern, and Lancashire
and Yorkshire Railways who were present should have every facility for
noting and deciding what they could best undertake in their respective
railway workshops.

The rapid growth of this Government work necessitated arrangements
being made for orders to pass through some recognised channel, and
in November 1914, an offshoot of the previously-mentioned Railway
Executive Committee, consisting of the Chief Mechanical Engineers of
the principal railway companies, together with representatives from the
War Office, was created, to be called "the Railway War Manufacturers'

Briefly the duties of this sub-committee were to consider, to
co-ordinate, and to report upon various requests by or through the
War Office to the railway companies, to assist in the manufacture of
warlike stores and equipment. All applications for work to be done
in the railway workshops, either for the War Department or for War
Department contractors, were submitted to this committee by one of the
War Office members. On receipt of any request the railway members of
the committee decided whether the work was such as could be effectively
undertaken by the railway companies, and if their decision was
favourable, steps were taken to ascertain which companies could and
would participate in the work, the amount of work they could undertake
to turn out, and the approximate date of delivery. The War Office
members decided as to the priority of the various demands made upon the
railway companies. The actual order upon the railway companies to carry
out any manufacturing work was given to such companies by the Railway
Executive Committee.

To detail the manner in which the London and North-Western Railway
Company's locomotive Works at Crewe became, in great measure, as it
were, a private arsenal subsidiary to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich is
the aspiring theme of the succeeding pages of this narrative.



  "The armourers,
  With busy hammers closing rivets up,
  Give dreadful note of preparation."

Actually the first "job" to be undertaken in Crewe Works, with a view
to winning the war and kicking the Hun away back across the Rhine
whence rudely and ruthlessly he had pushed his unwelcome presence,
was the hurried overhaul of a L. & N.W.R. motor delivery van which,
destined for immediate service overseas and in conjunction with other
and similar vehicles volunteered by such well-known firms as the A. &
N. Stores, Bovril, Ltd., Carter Paterson, Harrod's Stores, Sunlight
Soap, etc., _ad lib._, formed the nondescript nucleus, unique and
picturesque, but none the less invaluable, of the mammoth columns of
W.D. lorries which eventuated in proportion as the Country got into her

Thereafter the "fun" became fast and furious; orders succeeded one
another in quick succession, and in ever-increasing numbers, with
the result that men who till then had been accustomed to living,
moving, and having their being solely and entirely in an atmosphere
of cylinders, motion rods, valves, and all the like paraphernalia of
locomotive structure, suddenly found themselves "switched over" on to
then unknown quantities, such as axle-trees, futchels, wheel-naves,
stop-plates, elevating arcs, trunnions, and other attributes of "war's
glorious art"; until from bolt shop to wheel shop, fitting and electric
shops to boiler shop, foundries to smithy and forge, one and all became
absorbed in the tremendous issue which threatened the ordered status,
the very vitals, of the civilised communities of the world.

One, if not indeed _the_, centre of wartime activity within the
extensive domain of Crewe Works may be said to have been the mill-shop;
for, although of necessity "fed" in respect to integral parts by
other--and for the time being subsidiary--shops throughout the Works,
it was here that were assembled and completed in readiness for dispatch
to that particular theatre of war for which they were destined numerous
"jobs" of anything but "Lilliputian" dimensions, and evincing
characteristics of exceptional interest and unmistakable merit.

So immersed in munition manufacture did the shop become that,
always--even in the everyday humdrum round of peace-time procedure--a
source of delight and information to the visitor, professional and
amateur alike, entry within its portals perforce assumed the nature of
a privilege which Mr. Cooke, bowing to the dictates of D.O.R.A., but
none the less regretfully, felt constrained to withhold from all save
the few legitimate bearers of either Government or other similar and
indisputably genuine credentials.

Employing none but men possessed of considerable technical knowledge
conjointly with the highest degree of mechanical skill and ability, the
mill shop might, not without reason, be termed a "seat of engineering";
a "siége," that is, not simply productive of new machinery, but
responsible for the repair and maintenance within the Works, as well
as for the repair throughout the Company's entire so-called "outdoor"
system, of a plant of infinite variety, embracing machinery evincing
qualities so diverse as are to be found in air-compressors, gas
engines, hydraulic capstans, lifts, presses, etc.

Fitly enough, however, in spite of these habitually peaceful
proclivities, the soul of the millwright from the very outset of
the war became infused with the spirit of Mars, and pride of place
should perhaps be accorded the two armoured trains which, during the
late autumn and early winter months of 1914-15, claimed the combined
energies and ingenuity of those who were called upon to construct them.

Invasion was a bogey which, rightly or wrongly, undoubtedly throughout
the whole period of the war never failed to exercise the minds, not
only of competent military and naval authorities, but of amateur
and would-be "Napoleon-Nelsons" as well, and right up to the spring
of 1918, when every available ounce of weight was flung across the
Channel to counter what was destined to prove the final and despairing
enemy offensive, large forces had been kept at home, if merely as a
precautionary measure.

True enough, a certain degree of material damage accompanied not
infrequently by a sufficiently heavy toll of human, and usually
civilian, life resulted from perennial air raids, and an occasional
_ballon d'essai_ smacking of "tip and run" on the part of some small
detachment or flying squadron of enemy ships might momentarily upset
the resident equilibrium of one or other of our East-coast seaside
resorts; but nothing approaching the semblance of any actual or serious
attempt at invasion was ever known to occur; in fact, Mr. Lloyd George,
when speaking at Bangor in February, 1915, went so far as to "lodge a
complaint against the British Navy," which, he reminded his hearers,
"does not enable us to realise that Britain is at the present moment
waging the most serious war it has ever been engaged in. We do not
understand it." There was no disputing the fact, those at home never
really understood the war; almost equally self-evident was the truism
that they seldom if ever really appreciated to the full the natural
beauty and charm of their native shores. It needed the grim reality
of the former, and the aching sense of void created by enforced and
prolonged absence from the latter, to bring home the unadulterated
meaning of each in its true perspective, as may be seen from that
poignant little plaint, pencilled from the hell of a front-line

  "The wind comes off the sea, and oh! the air,
  I never knew till now that life in old days was so fair,
  But now I know it in this filthy rat-infested ditch,
  When every shell must kill or spare, and God alone knows which."

Very similar, too, is the strain reflected by the French "poilu,"
who, drafted out to distant Macedonia, and languishing 'midst the
fever-stricken haunts of the mosquito, plagued everlastingly besides by
sickening swarms of flies, suddenly exclaims,--"Où est notre France?
la chère France, qu'on ne savait pas tant belle et si bonne avant de
l'avoir quittée?" From fighting men at the front and from them alone
could realistic portrayals of pent-up emotions such as these emanate;
they alone were capable of expounding the naked definition of the word
"War;" the people at home "do not understand it."

Whether it was by good luck or by good management that "this sweet land
of liberty" of ours, England, remained unmolested, immune from the
horrors that were being perpetrated just across the narrow dividing
line afforded by the waters, within sound of the guns, within range of
modern projectile, must be left to the realm of conjecture; although
some idea of "the dangers we had to run" may very well be obtained by a
perusal of a few of the several and extremely cogent observations which
no less an authority than Admiral Viscount Jellicoe has to make on the
subject in his notable work "The Grand Fleet, 1914-16."

In comparing the relative strength of Great Britain and Germany he
insists that "the lesson of vital importance to be drawn" is that
"if this country in the future decides to rely for safety against
raids or invasion on the Fleet alone, it is essential that we should
possess a considerably greater margin of superiority over a possible
enemy _in all classes of vessels_ than we did in August, 1914," and
one of the four cardinal points which he cites as being the _raison
d'être_ of the Navy is that of preventing "invasion of this country
and its overseas dominions." Conditions had, moreover, undergone such
a complete change since the Napoleonic era, that whereas one hundred
years ago "stress of bad weather was the only obstacle to closely
watching enemy ports, now the submarine destroyer and the mine render
such dispositions impossible," with the result that "throughout the war
the responsibility of the Fleet for the prevention of raids or invasion
was a factor which had considerable influence on naval strategy." Thus
although, as we learn, certain defined patrol areas in the North Sea
were watched on a regular organised plan by our cruiser squadrons, it
was not a difficult matter for enemy ships to slip through. For "the
North Sea, though small in contrast with the Atlantic, is a big water
area of 120,000 square miles in extent," and whilst the Fleet was
based at Scapa Flow it was not only impossible to intercept ships, but
equally impossible "to ensure that the enemy would be brought to action
after such an operation" as that of a raid.

[Illustration: ARMOURED TRAIN. [_To face p. 45._]

Bearing these considerations in mind, it is not altogether surprising
that the military authorities awoke to the fact that the policy of
having two strings to one's bow is not usually a bad one; and so,
rather than "rely for safety against raids or invasion on the Fleet
alone," they bethought themselves of the secondary line of defence
which would readily be afforded by armoured trains.

Any serious attempt at landing by the enemy was, in Viscount Jellicoe's
opinion, "not very likely in the earliest days of the war, the nights
were comparatively short, and the Expeditionary Force had not left the
country. It was also probable," so he thought, "that the enemy had few
troops to spare for the purpose." But in proportion as "we denuded
the country of men, and the conditions in other respects became more
favourable," so did the anxiety of the home authorities increase,
resulting in an urgent order being received at Crewe in October,
1914, for the first of the armoured trains. Even when so undoubted
an authority as Mr. Lloyd George affirms (cp. the _Times_, July 1st,
1915) that "those who think politicians are moved by sordid pecuniary
considerations know nothing either of politics or politicians," some
people there may be who require a grain of salt wherewith to swallow
so glib a declaration. Statesmen, possibly yes; but politicians--well,
the least said is often the soonest mended. But even our belief in
the sincerity of statesmen is apt to be a little shaken when we find
a former Prime Minister, none other then the revered Mr. Balfour,
devoting himself to the A.B.C. of the Little Navyites and solemnly
declaring in the House of Commons (cp. the _Times_, May 11th, 1905)
that the "serious invasion of these islands is not an eventuality which
we need seriously consider." One has only to contrast this expression
of a complacent and false sense of security with the dogma which
has ever imbued the soul of the insatiable Hun:--"The condition of
peaceableness is strength, and the old saying still holds good that the
weak will be the prey of the strong" (Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg in the
_Reichstag_, March 30th, 1911), and we can never feel too grateful for
the knowledge that in spite of politicians and statesmen, the problem
of home defence was never relegated to the dust-bin by those whose
obvious duty it is to preserve our shores inviolate. As evincing the
serious amount of attention devoted to the subject, a perusal within
the library of the Royal United Service Institution of a paper read
by--then 2nd-Lieutenant, now--Major-General Sir E. P. C. Girouard,
K.C.M.G., R.E., on "The Use of Railways for Coast and Harbour Defence"
as long ago as 1891, and published in the journal of the Institution,
is of exceptional interest, as the following few extracts reproduced
through the courtesy of the Librarian of that Institution tend to show.

Speaking from the point of view of the "gunner-engineer," Sir Percy
Girouard lays particular stress on the primary need for gun power. "Gun
power to ward off the raider from our unprotected towns and ports; gun
power to ward off any attack until the Navy reaches that point, and
gun power to prevent landings upon our shores." Alluding next to the
utter impossibility of extending "fixed fortifications of a modern type
for the defence of every exposed point of our coast" for the obvious
reason that "the cost of such an extension would be enormous," Sir
Percy goes on to draw attention to the systems of railways in Great
Britain and Ireland "which are the admiration of the world." These he
contends "suggest the truest and most economical basis for resistance
to any aggression or insult to our shores," for whereas "ships and
fortifications under modern conditions rapidly become obsolete, our
railways are always kept in excellent working order by the Companies
concerned without any expense to the Government"; in fact "such would
be the elasticity of the system that an enemy would have opposed to
him at any exposed point of the coast the armament of a first-class

Obviously a lapse of nearly twenty years cannot fail to witness the
introduction of new methods, novel ideas, and alterations in design,
and, just as the practical experience gained or bought at the expense
of a few weeks of actual warfare went to prove in August, 1914, the
worthlessness of modern forts and fortresses which literally crumbled
and crumpled under the weight of high-angle high explosives and were
quickly superseded by trenches and dug-outs, so, too, it would
appear that the engineer and gunner experts were led to rule out of
court anything of so cumbersome a nature as would be represented by
a "first-class fortress" on wheels, which, too heavy and unwieldy a
mass to travel at anything but a snail's pace, could not but afford a
first-class target to an approaching enemy warship. Armoured trains
were, to some extent, employed during the war in South Africa, chiefly
for purposes of reconnoitring, and it was from photographs of these
trains which they had in their possession that the military authorities
asked Mr. Cooke to evolve a train on similar, though improved, lines; a
train one might say more akin to a mobile "pill-box" than a fortress,
in that bristling with maxims and rifles it could be relied upon to
move at least with the speed of an express goods train, and be capable
of extending a "withering" welcome to any venturesome and aspiring
raiding-parties at whatever point of the coast they might select as
suitable for an attempt at landing.

Drawings were accordingly prepared, providing for a train which should
consist of two gun vehicles, two infantry vans, and a "side-tank"
locomotive; the latter a 0-6-2 type engine, with 18 inches by 26
inches inside cylinders, and 5 feet 8 inches diameter coupled wheels,
supplied by the Great Northern Railway Company, was placed in the
middle of the train. Both gun-vehicles and infantry vans were carried
on ordinary 30-ton wagons with steel underframes and 4-wheel bogies.
On each gun-vehicle at each end of the train was mounted a 12-pounder
quick-firing gun (having an approximate range of 3 miles) which
was fixed midway between the bogie wheels, thus ensuring an equal
distribution of weight on each axle.

Apart from the gun platform, which was protected by 1/2-inch steel
plate (rolled in the mills at Crewe) with loopholes for maxim gun and
rifle fire, the vehicle had two further partitions, one an ammunition
store, the other fitted up as officers' quarters.

The infantry vans were nothing less than luxuriously appointed caravans
on (flanged) wheels, fitted with folding tables, lockers, hammocks,
rifle racks, cooking stove and culinary apparatus complete, equipped
with acetylene lighting and an extensive telephone installation.
Loopholed with sliding doors near the top, these vans were also
protected by 1/2-inch steel plating.

Beneath the frames were four reserve water tanks, each of 200 gallons
capacity, feeding to the engine side-tanks, and in one of the two
infantry vans were two coal bunkers, holding each 1 ton of reserve coal
supply for the engine.

Access from one end of the train to the other was obtained by the
provision of a suitable platform alongside the engine, but protected by
armour plates, and by similarly protected connecting platforms from one
vehicle to another.

Formidable "fellows" as they were, cleverly camouflaged too with
grotesque daubs and streaks of dubiously tinted paint, these armoured
trains, although continually on the _qui vive_ within easy reach of the
East Coast, were fated to be denied all opportunity of showing their
mettle, and of giving the wily Hun "what for," for the very reason that
the Hun was seemingly too wily ever to risk exposing himself to the
sting likely to be forthcoming from such veritable hornets' nests.



  "I am more than grateful to you and your fellow-locomotive
  superintendents of the various railway companies for your readiness
  to help us in this time of pressure."

In these brief but none the less straightforward and sincere terms, did
the late Sir F. Donaldson, then superintendent of Woolwich Arsenal,
address himself to Mr. Cooke in the early part of November, 1914, terms
expressive, not merely of his own personal feelings of gratitude, but
also of Government appreciation of the assistance so spontaneously
proffered by the chief mechanical engineers of the great railway
concerns of the country.

Looking back over the four and a half years during which was fought out
that "stupendous and incessant struggle," not without reason perhaps
described as "a single continuous campaign," Sir Douglas Haig, in his
final Despatch, under date of March 21st, 1919, whilst reminding us
that we were at the outset "unprepared for war, or at any rate for a
war of such magnitude," lays especial stress on the fact that "we were
deficient both in trained men and military material, and, what was
more important, had no machinery ready by which either men or material
could be produced in anything approaching the requisite quantities."
In short, "the margin by which the German onrush in 1914 was stemmed
was so narrow, and the subsequent struggle so severe that the word
'miraculous' is hardly too strong a term to describe the recovery and
ultimate victory of the Allies."

There can be no gainsaying the fact that in spite of frequent and
bombastic assurances to the contrary emanating from the All-Highest,
the Almighty must indeed have been on our side, for surely never in the
history of mankind did a people "ask for trouble" in quite the same
barefaced manner as did the great British people in the early part of
the twentieth century of grace?

"Give peace in our time," might well be the prayer purred by the devout
lips, year in year out, of innumerable comfortably-respectable, smug,
and faithful citizens on each succeeding Sabbath day. Obviously, for
there was "none other that fighteth for us but only Thou." There
was never any attempt at denial; we were unprepared and well-nigh
negligible, "deficient in trained men and military material." It
will be argued, no doubt, that the practice of offering up prayer
and supplication is a very desirable and eminently estimable form of
procedure, but it is nevertheless a generally accepted theory that the
Almighty helps those only who help themselves. Miracles do not perform
themselves in these matter-of-fact work-a-day times, and we may pause
to reflect both upon the cost at which, and the means by which, the
miracle of our timely recovery and ultimate victory was performed.

"To our general unpreparedness," writes Sir Douglas Haig, "must be
attributed the loss of many thousands of brave men whose sacrifice
we deeply deplore, while we regard their splendid gallantry and
self-devotion with unstinted admiration and gratitude."

This then was the cost, "the loss of many thousands of brave men," this
the price in blood, the sacrifice upon the altar of unpreparedness.
"Can the lesson," despairingly asks the writer of a leading article
in the _Times_ of April 11, 1919, "of this great soldier's remarks
be missed by the most reckless of politicians, or the most fanatical
of 'pacifists'?" Can it be missed either, it may be asked, by those
congregations of the faithful, who, repeating as of yore the old, old
cry "Give peace," resemble rather the ostrich that buries its head in
the sand, making no active endeavour to combat the approaching storm?

Incredible that the lesson should be missed by any, and having marked
the undying tribute which Sir Douglas Haig has paid to those thousands
of brave men who for us paid the price, we may turn to that other
tribute which this same great soldier unhesitatingly pays to those who
supplied the means by which, miraculously enough, recovery was assured,
and ultimate victory achieved.

"The Army owes a great debt to science and to the distinguished
scientific men who placed their learning and their skill at the
disposal of their country." Such is the praise bestowed upon the
distinguished heads of industry and of science as representing
the vast mass of workers at the back, the backbone of the country,
and undoubtedly, as the great Field-Marshal goes on to explain, "a
remarkable feature of the present war has been the number and variety
of mechanical contrivances to which it has given birth, or has brought
to a higher state of perfection." But perhaps the most remarkable of
all these remarkable features was that particular one evinced by that
particular body of distinguished scientific men, to wit, the chief
mechanical engineers of the great railway companies, in that, by their
ingenuity and versatile ability, they succeeded in producing not the
quantities only, but the varieties also, of all those mechanical
contrivances which, as we know, added to the horrors of, as well as to
the interest in, modern warfare.

But just as is the case with a railway engine, of which the whole forms
so commonplace, if majestic, a feature of everyday affairs that seldom,
if ever, does one pause to consider the mass of detail and intricate
parts which go to compose it, so, too, is it the case with a gun, an
aeroplane, a ship, a road motor vehicle, or whatever other equally
familiar object that chances to catch the eye. Little does one realise
the extent of the detail requisite for the framing of each and every
such mechanical contrivance in its entirety. It was, nevertheless,
"the dauntless spirit of the people at home," as Sir Douglas Haig
openly avows, which "strengthened and sustained the invincible spirit
of the Army, the while their incessant toil on land and sea, in the
mine, factory, and shipyard, placed in our hands the means with which
to fight." Nowhere was this "dauntless spirit," the record of this
"incessant toil," better exemplified than by the staff and employés
of the London and North-Western Railway Company's Locomotive Works at
Crewe, that great "factory" in which were manufactured those countless
component parts essential to the whole: and without which the gun could
not be fired, the aeroplane could not soar, the ship could not swim:
without which, in short, the miracle of our recovery and ultimate
victory could not have been performed.

Let us take first the question of gun power; and we cannot do better
than digest the further comments of Sir Douglas Haig. He says:--"The
growth of our artillery was even more remarkable (than other remarkable
developments alluded to in his Despatch), its numbers and power
increasing out of all proportion to the experience of previous wars.
The 476 pieces of artillery with which we took the field in August,
1914, were represented at the date of the Armistice by 6437 guns and
howitzers of all natures." In order to stimulate this remarkable growth
of artillery Crewe concentrated her endeavours upon 8-inch, 4·5-inch,
and 6-inch howitzer guns; upon 12-pounder quick-firing guns, and in
due course upon high-angle anti-aircraft guns. In conjunction with
the guns themselves gun-carriages, carriage-limbers, wagon-limbers,
ammunition-bodies--all were required with feverish haste. "Kultur,"
as has been pithily observed, "was working overtime to crush
Civilisation;" Crewe Works responded by working twenty-four hours out
of the twenty-four to beat the Hun; the spirit was indeed "dauntless,"
the toil "incessant."

And what, it may be asked, were the countless component parts
essential, not only to the manufacture of these "attributes of war's
glorious art" when entirely new, but which were further turned out in
their tens, twenties, fifties, hundreds, nay, even in their thousands,
as "pièces de rechange," spares, all made to standard sizes and gauges,
ready to replace at a moment's notice existing parts worn out or
damaged in the field? Here, in motley assembly, are just a few: arcs,
axles, bands, bearings, chains, collars, connectors, crank-levers,
eyes, forks, futchels, guards, gussets, handles, hooks, keys, levers,
loops, plates, rings, rods, sockets, springs, stays, trails, trunnions,
tumblers, with a vast array of variously assorted bolts, nuts, pins,
screws, studs and washers, one and all claiming the combined skill and
energy of an army of smiths, forgemen, boiler-makers, fitters, turners,
and machinists.

Yet in spite of the "incessant toil" requisite for the supply of this
military material, such was the extent of our unpreparedness that "it
was not until the summer of 1916," as we read in Sir Douglas Haig's
Despatch, "that the artillery situation (as regards material) became
even approximately adequate to the conduct of major operations....
During the battles of 1917 ... the gun situation was a source of
constant anxiety. Only in 1918 was it possible to conduct artillery
operations independently of any limiting consideration other than that
of transport."

Once, however, the material was assured in sufficient quantity there
was never any looking back, and "from the commencement of our offensive
in August, 1918, to the conclusion of the Armistice, some 700,000
tons of artillery ammunition (equal to the weight approximately of
6,000 heavy express passenger engines) were expended by the British
Armies on the Western Front," this prodigious expenditure of metal
fully amplifying the opinion expressed by Napoleon, that "it is with
artillery that one makes war."

Before finally laying aside the question of guns, and turning our
attention elsewhere, a few reflections on that popular little weapon
known as the high-angle anti-aircraft gun may be not altogether lacking
in interest, more especially in view of the fact that the price of our
unpreparedness in this as in other respects was destined to be counted
in the number of lives sacrificed, of which the civilian proportion was
invariably very high.

The gentle art of dropping bombs upon open towns was commenced by
German airmen in the very early days of the war, and the French
capital, perhaps not unnaturally, soon became an object of their

Under the heading "German aeroplanes over Paris," the _Times'_
correspondent writing from Paris on September 2nd, 1914, records,
perhaps, the first air-raid of the war, although at the moment "no bomb
is reported to have been dropped." How irrepressible is the innate
and inimitable _gaité_ of Parisien and Parisienne alike, even during
the excruciating uncertainty of a raid, is delightfully brought out
in the remark so typically French, "Comme il est dangereux de sortir
sans parapluie." In this connection, too, one recalls the little ruse,
pre-arranged between host and butler, for speeding the departure of
guests, inclined to outstay their after-dinner welcome: "Messieurs,
mesdames," announces the butler, suddenly appearing at the salon door,
"on vient de signaler les Zeppelins."

In comparison with our own, the measures adopted by the French
authorities for defence against enemy aircraft were, from the outset,
on a considerable scale; in fact, prior to the time when Admiral Sir
Percy Scott took over the defence of London, in September, 1915,
there had been, to all intents and purposes, no defence at all; any
impartial observer might even have inferred that we were doing our
best to live up to the lofty notions of the writer in the _Manchester
Guardian_ of August 19th, 1915, who laconically decreed that we had "it
in our power to turn every air-raid into a failure, simply by taking
as little notice of it as possible." Whether this superior personage
remained for the duration of the war so providentially privileged as
to be able to take no notice of the air-raids that took place, history
does not narrate. Suffice it to say that if we select at random two
typical instances from the many which occurred--one on May 25th, 1917,
at Folkestone, when 76 persons were killed and 174 were injured; the
other on June 13th, 1917, in London, resulting in 157 deaths and 432
persons injured, without mentioning the amount of material damage
effected--it is open to argument whether the public in general, and
particularly those who were personally and in so tragic a fashion
affected, were capable, even if they felt so disposed, of taking little
or no notice of these attacks; it is also a moot point whether they
or the perpetrators of these outrages regarded this particular form
of "frightfulness" in the light of a failure, when attended by such
undeniably telling results.

Happily the boot was not always on the same foot, for, as we know,
the marauders on occasion paid the supreme penalty themselves in the
course of their aerial outings, and this, thanks in great measure to
the determined energy of the gallant admiral, to wit Sir Percy Scott,
who, far from taking no notice of air-raids, lost no time in organising
a vigorous system of defence against them.

But as he tells us in his reminiscences, "Fifty Years in the Royal
Navy," from the very outset of his endeavours he was hopelessly
handicapped; for, whereas "General Gallieni, who was in charge of the
defence of Paris, had for the protection of his forty-nine square miles
of city two hundred and fifteen guns, and was gradually increasing this
number to three hundred; whereas, too, he had plenty of men trained in
night flying, and well-lighted aerodromes, he (Sir Percy Scott) had
eight guns to defend our seven hundred square miles of the metropolitan
area, no trained airmen, and no lighted-up aerodromes."

The amazing part of the whole business was, as Sir Percy Scott
explains, and not without a touch of humour, the "War Office was as
certain that a Zeppelin could not come to London as the Admiralty was
that a submarine could not sink a ship"; hence the corollary that
"London's defence was a kind of 'extra turn.'"

Nothing daunted, however, and fully determined that London should be
made to wake up to the dangers she was running, he succeeded in spite
of all difficulties, and after procuring suitable ammunition, in
increasing the number of his guns from the initial eight to one hundred
and twelve.

Herein it was that the locomotive shops at Crewe were once again called
into requisition, for, as Sir Percy Scott tells us, "unfortunately
mountings had to be made for these (guns)," mountings such as base
rings, pedestals, pedestal pivots, as well as elevating arcs, sighting
arms, etc., the manufacture of which necessarily "took a considerable
time," but which were successfully evolved with a minimum of delay at

Then again, "the few guns we had for the defence of London were mounted
permanently in positions probably as well known to the Germans as to
ourselves. We had no efficient guns mounted on mobile carriages which
could be moved about and brought into action where necessary."

Being anxious to secure from the French authorities the loan, as a
model, of one of their 75-millimetre guns, which as he knew were
mounted on motor lorries, and in order to circumvent "Admiralty
red-tape methods," Sir Percy Scott promptly took the law into his own
hands, and very quickly obtained what he wanted. Owing, however, to the
impracticability of adapting the British 3-inch gun to the French lorry
mounting, a new design was got out, the gun platform being mounted on
a single pair of wheels, which, with the axle, was detachable when the
gun came into action, and of which component parts, such as plates,
pivots, blocks, covers, catches, limber connections, were forthcoming
from Crewe.

Thanks once again to the courtesy of General Gallieni, who agreed to
supply "thirty-four of the famous French 75-millimetre guns and twenty
thousand shells with fuses complete," Sir Percy Scott finally had at
his disposal a total of one hundred and fifty-two guns, which, although
admittedly "rather a mixed lot," combined to frustrate the designs of
those "airy devils" which so frequently were wont to--

  "hover in the sky and pour down mischief."

As time went on, however, and when, notwithstanding the constant
alertness of our gunners and the shoals of "archies" spat heavenwards
in search of these enemy marauders, the persistency of the latter
showed little if any sign of abatement, the idea of retaliation, or
the practice of paying the enemy back in his own coin, was mooted as
likely to prove the most effective method of clipping his wings, and
in spite of protests from that misguided section of the community,
aptly designated the "don't-hurt-poor-Germany-brigade," the clamour
for retaliation, emanating from an already-too-long-suffering public
became so insistent that orders were at length placed for a supply of
that special form of "mischief," or medicine, known as aerial bombs, in
the manufacture of which, both petrol-incendiary and high-explosive,
Crewe Works was requested to assist, and which our gallant airmen were
commissioned to "pour down" on fortified positions on the further side
of the Hindenburg Line.

How efficacious were deemed to be the ingredients of this medicine
may be gathered from the fact that in the autumn of 1917 the chief
mechanical engineers of the great railway companies assembled in
conclave at the request of the Air Board, and expressed their
willingness to co-operate in the manufacture of aeroplanes of the
bombing order. Owing, however, to the special conditions applying to
the aeroplane industry, and to the fact that those responsible for the
administration of our Air-policy decided, after mature consideration,
that the scope for producing these machines was actually sufficient
for dealing with every emergency, this additional strain was not
imposed on the already heavily taxed capacity of the various locomotive
workshops after all. Crewe, nevertheless, was not to be gainsaid the
privilege of undertaking at least some share in the production of our
heavier-than-air machines, and in the tinsmiths' and fitting shops
respectively were turned out hundreds of tiny metal pressings or discs,
and knuckle joints, essential for the piecing together of the wood
fuselage, and on the quality of which depended so largely the lives of
our pilots, to whose intrepid instinct undoubtedly "one crowded hour
of glorious life" seemed at all times "worth an age without a name,"
but who nevertheless had no particular wish to come to grief owing to
faulty material. The airman in common with the traveller--

  "Cheerful at morn, wakes from short repose,
  Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes;"

but unlike the latter, who moves in comparative safety on terra firma,
the former, throughout the length of his flying hours, literally
carried his life in his hands, illustrative of which fact may be taken
those vivid and realistic sketches penned by Major W. B. Bishop, V.C.,
who, in his little volume "Winged Warfare," jots down a few impressions
of his own breathless experiences. "In the air," for instance, he says,
"one did not altogether feel the human side of it. It was not like
killing a man so much as just bringing down a bird;" and yet in diving
after an enemy machine, "I had forgotten caution and everything else
in my wild and overwhelming desire to destroy this thing that for the
time being represented all Germany to me." Undeniably the heart of an
airman must be "a free and a fetterless thing" to brave the combination
of risks incidental to his magnetic calling, and Sir Douglas Haig
has not omitted to refer in brief but glowing terms to the "splendid
traditions of the British Air Service," the "development of which is a
matter of general knowledge," and the combining of whose "operations
with those of other arms ... has been the subject of constant study
and experiment, giving results of the very highest value." In every
direction "much thought had to be bestowed upon determining how new
devices could be combined in the best manner with the machinery already
working," and in laying stress upon this question of "effective
co-operation of the different arms and services," he alludes, for
instance, to "increase in the power and range of artillery," which
"made the maintenance of communications constantly more difficult." It
was in order to assist in the maintenance of a highly efficient system
of communications that Crewe was asked to supply quantities of cart
cable-drums, the several parts of which required forging, machining,
and accurately fitting, and by means of which, when completed as a
whole, wires could be run out at a speed of 100 yards per minute; in
fact, as Sir Douglas Haig points out, "something of the extent of
the constructional work required, in particular to meet the constant
changes of the battle-line and the movement of head-quarters, can be
gathered from the fact that as many as 6500 miles of cable-wire have
been issued in a single week. The average weekly issue of such cable
for the whole of 1918 was approximately 3300 miles."

Summing up his observations on mechanical contrivances in general, Sir
Douglas Haig urges that "immense as the influence of these may be,
they cannot by themselves decide a campaign. Their true _rôle_ is that
of assisting the infantryman, which they have done in a most admirable
manner. They cannot replace him. Only by the rifle and bayonet of the
infantryman can the decisive victory be won."

But surely the rifle itself, it may pardonably be contended, is nothing
if not a mechanical contrivance? Granted always that without the
pressure of the infantryman's finger on the trigger, the thrust of his
arm behind the bayonet, the rifle is incapable of deciding a campaign,
equally self-evident is the fact that the infantryman is helpless to
win the decisive victory without the aid of the rifle.

Side by side, too, with the rifle, and yet another mechanical
contrivance to receive "a mention," is the machine-gun, of which the
"immense influence" as an injunct indispensable to the infantryman may
be gauged from the statement that "from a proportion of one gun to
approximately 500 infantrymen in 1914, our establishment of machine
guns and Lewis guns had risen at the end of 1918 to one machine gun
or Lewis gun to approximately 20 infantrymen." It was in order to
bring about this enormous increase in the number of machine guns, that
millwrights were sent from Crewe in the summer of 1915 at the urgent
request of Mr. Lloyd George (then Minister of Munitions) to install
in some newly erected works in Birmingham the machinery necessary for
their manufacture. Crewe may therefore be permitted to claim a certain
degree of credit for the final issue; for, in addition to furthering
the output of Lewis guns which, as we know, assisted the infantryman
in so admirable a manner, she was also responsible for the various
extremely delicate gauges necessary for the manufacture of rifles,
which in turn enabled the infantryman to win the decisive victory.

Invaluable as mechanical contrivances have been in giving "a greater
driving power to war," their sinister aspect cannot in any way be
veiled; for, as has been only too apparent, "the greater strength of
modern field defences, and the power and precision of modern weapons,
the multiplication of machine guns, trench-mortars, and artillery of
all natures, the employment of gas, and the rapid development of the
aeroplane as a formidable agent of destruction against both men and
material, all combined to increase the price to be paid for victory."

Sir Douglas Haig estimates the total number of British casualties "in
all theatres of war, killed, wounded, missing and prisoners, including
native troops, as being approximately three millions (3,076,388)."

The killed, as Napoleon has said, "are the only loss that can never
be replaced." The missing--one invariably shudders when considering
what may have been their fate. Significant, for instance, is the
reproduction of a letter from an enemy officer who writes--(cp. the
_Times_, April 11th, 1917)--"I have been entrusted with a task of which
every good German should be proud. Eight days ago we left France with
400 British.... On arriving at Frankfurt we discovered that we had
lost on the journey 380." As to the lot of those who, taken prisoner,
were nevertheless permitted to exist, we have only to refer for
enlightenment to the report of the Government Committee on Wittenberg
Camp, dated April 6th, 1916. Two extracts only may be allowed to
suffice. "The state of the prisoners beggars description. Major
Priestley (one survivor of six sent to replace the German medical staff
who abandoned the camp on the outbreak of typhus) found them gaunt,
of a peculiar grey pallor, and verminous. Their condition, in his own
words, was deplorable." Ultimately the Committee were "forced to the
conclusion that the terrible sufferings and privations of the afflicted
prisoners during the period under review are directly chargeable to the
deliberate cruelty and neglect of the German officials."

[Illustration: VARIOUS TYPES OF ARTIFICIAL LIMBS. [_To face p. 68._]

Of the wounded, those who merit the largest share of commiseration are
undoubtedly the blind. But whatever the nature of the misfortune of
those afflicted, "in spite of the large numbers dealt with, there has
been," as Sir Douglas Haig reminds us, "no war in which the resources
of science have been utilised so generously and successfully for the
prevention of disease, or for the quick evacuation and careful tending
of the sick and wounded."

The experience acquired, over a period of 35 years in the joiners'
shop at Crewe Works, in the manufacture of artificial limbs, for the
use of the Company's own employés crippled as a result of accidents
sustained in the performance of their duties, was destined to become a
national asset of inestimable value during the war; models of the most
approved design being demonstrated to the War Office authorities, and
subsequently adopted for the use and benefit of men crippled in the
service of their country.

In the years preceding the war, while the common enemy was busily
engaged in sharpening the sword and toasting _Der Tag_, amongst the
few so-called cranks who, even as voices crying in the wilderness,
ventured to dispatiate upon self-defence, defence of country, invasion,
and other similar bogies in the cupboard, one may recall the theory of
"one of the most distinguished of that younger school of sea-officers
who kept urging in and out of season that we must get out of the idea
that naval defence is one thing and army defence another; for when
war comes, success will depend upon their perfect co-ordination and

If in only a minor degree--for those who go down to the sea in ships
are necessarily many in number, and the business which they do in great
waters is of an extremely varied nature--Crewe was nevertheless called
upon to put this theory into practice in the land and sea war that
burst upon us in 1914; and one of the mechanical contrivances which
was destined to play an inordinately important part in securing this
"perfect co-ordination and co-operation" as between the land and sea
forces of the country, and for various essential component parts of
which Crewe became responsible, was the "Paravane;" and the paravane,
being by nature something entirely novel, was _ipso facto_ one of those
devices which had to fight the War Office, or the Admiralty, as the
case might be, before it got a chance of fighting the enemy.

Primarily devised for the purpose of subverting the submarine peril,
the paravane (the invention of Acting-Commander Burney) was later
adapted for the protection of vessels against mines. An extremely
interesting and lucid account of this mechanical contrivance, from the
pen of Mr. R. F. McKay, is to be found in _Engineering_, under date of
September 19th, 1919.


Mr. McKay tells us that there were various types of paravanes, known
respectively as the explosive, the protector, and the mine-sweeping

Briefly, the device was a torpedo-shaped body, which, towed by a
suitable cable either from the bows or stern of a ship, maintained
its equilibrium in the water by means of a large steel plane near
its head, and horizontal and vertical fins near its tail, the thrust
of the water on the plane when the vessel is in motion carrying the
paravane away from the fore and aft centre line of the vessel. Depth
mechanism was fitted in the tail of the paravane, and consisted of a
horizontal rudder actuated by a hydrostatic valve, _i.e._ a valve which
is operated by difference in water pressure due to any change in depth.
The explosive paravane was towed from the stern, and the charge of
T.N.T. which it contained could be detonated either by impact, or by an
excessive load coming on to the cable, or by a current of electricity
controlled from the ship.

The protector or mine-sweeping paravanes were similar contrivances in
that they were towed, and maintained their position in the water by
similar means. They were, however, towed from the bows of the ship,
and instead of carrying an explosive charge, they were fitted with a
bracket resembling a pair of jaws, in which were fixed two saw-edged
steel blades; and it was in the manufacture of these brackets, which
were forged under the drop-hammer, that Crewe was engaged.

"Two paravanes," as Mr. McKay explains, "are towed, one on either side
of the vessel, ... and the action of the protector-gear is simple. The
paravane towing-wires foul the mooring-wire of any mine which might
strike the vessel, but misses any mine which is too deeply anchored.
The speed of the vessel causes the mine and its sinker to be deflected
down the 'wedge' and away from the vessel until the mine mooring-wire
reaches the paravane," which wire "passing into the cutter-jaws is
speedily severed; the sinker drops to the bottom of the sea, whilst the
mine floats to the surface well clear of the ship, where it can be seen
and destroyed by rifle fire."

The jerky sawing action of the mine mooring-cable, on reaching the
jaws of the paravane, was, perforce, extremely detrimental to the teeth
of the cutter-blades; consequently it was invariably the practice to
haul the paravane aboard the ship and examine the blades immediately
after a mine had been trapped and destroyed. The peril of pottering
about, unprotected, in a mine-field must be patent to all, particularly
to those who happen to be doing the pottering; hence it was absolutely
essential that brackets and blades should be so accurately machined
and fitted that the latter, on being removed, could be replaced in an
instant by "spares" and the paravane dropped straight back into the sea.

Speaking in the House of Commons (cp. the _Times_, March 21st, 1918),
Sir Eric Geddes, then First Lord of the Admiralty, said that for the
twelve months of unrestricted warfare from February 1st, 1917, to
January 31st, 1918, the actual figures of vessels sunk by submarine
action, including those damaged and ultimately abandoned, amounted
to roughly six million tons; that the (then) total world's shipping
tonnage (exclusive of enemy ships) was forty-two millions; and that the
percentage of net loss to British tonnage was 20 per cent.

Mr. McKay, too, in his article previously quoted, gives some
interesting figures which tend to recall the gloomy days of rationing
cards, and help us to realise how deeply we are indebted to Commander
Burney and his paravanes for assuring us to the bitter end our daily,
if slightly curtailed, means of subsistence. "It is computed," writes
Mr. McKay, "that the total loss in shipping due to submarine warfare
is about £1,000,000,000. Hence, working on the certainties, each
submarine destroyed was responsible for about £5,000,000 worth of
damage. Accepting this figure as a basis, it may be said that the
explosive paravanes saved further damage being inflicted on our
shipping to the extent of about £25,000,000." Reverting next to the
protector paravane, "there were," we are told, "about 180 British
warships fitted with the installation. Assuming that the value of
warship tonnage is placed at the very low average figure of £100 per
ton, the value of the ships saved was above £50,000,000;" and a further
point which cannot be ignored is that undoubtedly "the moral effect of
the loss of these vessels would have been stupendous."

Again, in regard to merchant ships, "if the ratio

   mines cut
  ships fitted

for these were only one quarter the ratio for warships, the saving to
the nation would be about £100,000,000 sterling's worth of merchant
ships and cargoes." Finally, "from all the records available, the
Allied countries are indebted to the paravane invention for saving
ships and cargoes to the value of approximately £200,000,000. In
addition, the number of lives saved must be a very large figure."

Few and far between are the prophets who have any honour in their own
country, and Admiral Sir Percy Scott proved no exception to the rule
when, prior to the war (cp. the _Times_, June 5th, 1914), he wrote
that "the introduction of vessels that swim under the water has, in my
opinion, entirely done away with the utility of the ships that swim on
the top of the water."

So comprehensive a contention was bound to come as something in the
nature of a shock to those who were accustomed to regard the Royal
Navy of England as "its greatest defence and ornament; its ancient and
natural strength; the floating bulwark of our island," and certainly
the attribute "entirely" must be considered as being of rather too
sweeping a nature, for, serious though the submarine menace became
during the world-war, the under-sea boat cannot claim to have swept
the face of the waters of anything approaching the total number of
ships that swam on the top. There is no doubt, however, but that, not
only from the German point of view, but from our own as well, the
submarine became an adjunct of the very first importance, and herein,
again, was the all-round practical ability of Crewe Works called upon
to assist. Bearings for submarine propeller-shafts (commonly known
as reaper-bearings) were urgently required, each shaft working in no
fewer than sixteen bearings, of which the caps were to be made not only
interchangeable, but reversible as well, so exacting were the demands
in the Admiralty specification.

Indisputably Crewe was "doing her bit," and by their "dauntless
spirit," by their "incessant toil," did the mass of employés engaged
within the Works enable Mr. Cooke to convince the world at large that
England, no longer "la Perfide Albion," was worthy rather to be named
"la Loyale Angleterre."



  "A world of startling possibilities."

Graze-fuses (so called from the fact that the very slightest touch
or shock imparted to the fuse or foremost part of the shell by any
intervening object, and against which the fuse grazes whilst in flight,
is sufficient to cause the spark necessary for igniting the explosive
charge) were first taken in hand at Crewe in March, 1915.

It was at this time that the late Earl Kitchener, then Minister of War,
first drew attention in the House of Lords to the alarming position,
generally, in regard to munitions of war, "I can only say (cp. the
_Times_, March 15th, 1915) that the supply of war material at the
present moment, and for the next two or three months, is causing me
very serious anxiety." The persistent inconsistency of the "talking
men" may here well be exemplified by the fact that in the following
month of April, Mr. Asquith promptly retorted in the House of Commons
that he had "seen a statement the other day that the operations, not
only of our Army, but of our Allies, were being crippled or at any rate
hampered, by our failure to provide the necessary ammunition. There
is not a word of truth in that statement." However, as if to give an
irrefutable _démenti_ to this assertion, it was only a month later
that there came the sensational _exposé_ from the pen of the _Times_
military correspondent at the front, who wrote to the effect that
"the want of unlimited supply of high-explosive was a fatal bar to our
success" in the offensive operations round Ypres. _Per contra_ it was
pointed out from the same source that "by dint of expenditure of 276
rounds of high explosive per gun in one day, the French levelled all
the enemy defences to the ground."

Hence it came about that, emanating from a modest little
side-show claiming the energies of one or two apprentices and a
few highly-skilled and highly-paid mechanics, the manufacture of
graze-fuses developed into quite an industrial main-offensive (destined
within the space of a few weeks from its inception to be entrusted
to a bevy of local beauty, which became augmented as time went on
in proportion as the seriousness of the military situation became
apparent), pushed forward with a zeal and enthusiasm worthy of the
highest praise, as the supply of shells and consequently of fuses fell
hundreds per cent. short of the demand.

Trim in their neat attire of light twill cap and overall, with a
not infrequent hint of black silk "open-work" veiled beneath, the
ladies (God bless 'em), no sooner enlisted, lost no time in adapting
themselves in a remarkable manner to the exigencies of their new
surroundings. In some respects, certainly--

  "Women's rum cattle to deal with, the first
      man found that to his cost;
  And I reckon it's just through a woman the
      last man on earth'll be lost,"

but however that may be, in respect at least of the manufacture of
munitions of war the girls in Crewe Works showed themselves, not only
amenable to reason and discipline, but became regular enthusiasts in
the work on which they were engaged. Idling and indifference were
qualities unknown, patience and perseverance became personified, and
thanks to a highly efficient and praiseworthy organisation, coupled
with a system of three consecutive eight-hour shifts, the output of
fuses rapidly rose from a mere 150 per week to as many as 4000, or
a steady weekly average of 3000, finally reaching a grand total of
250,000 on the cessation of hostilities.

A portion of the locomotive stores department, comprising an upper
storey of the old works' fitting shop, familiarly known as the top
shop--that one-time nursery of juvenile and maybe aspiring apprentices,
many of whom have blossomed forth into full-blown engineers occupying
positions of prominence in the four corners of the globe--was speedily
transformed. Overhead shafting was fixed; lathes, drilling and tapping
machines, and benches were lined up in positions convenient for the
quick transition of the fuses, and their tiny components, passing
in regular sequence through the many operations necessary for their


DESIGNED AT CREWE (_cp._ P. 81). [_To face p._ 78.]

The graze-fuse itself is an intricate and cleverly thought-out little
piece of mechanism, demanding a degree of accuracy in machining such as
one might reasonably have assumed would suffice to baffle even the most
knowing and perspicacious little minds attributable to the fair sex.
The requisite delicacy of touch may perhaps be exemplified by the fact
that the pellet plug flash-hole must be drilled dead-true to a depth of
almost an inch with a drill no bigger than ·062, or 1/16 of an inch.

Mr. Lloyd George, when addressing the House of Commons in June, 1915,
in his capacity of Minister of Munitions, held up a fuse for members
to see. "This," he said, "is one of the greatest difficulties of all
in the turning-out of shells. It is one of the most intricate and
beautiful pieces of machinery--before it explodes, (laughter). It
indeed is supposed to be simple, but it takes 100 different gauges to
turn it out."

It was not, however, quite so much a question of the number of gauges
required (considerable though the above-quoted figure may sound to
those uninitiated in the art of fuse-making) as of the minuteness of
the limits or tolerances allowed in the manufacture of these gauges.

Some reference to, or explanation of, gauge-making will be found on a
later page, so that it may perhaps here be sufficient to remark _en
passant_ that whereas in the case of shell-body gauging, tolerances
ran into fractions approximating 10/1000 parts of an inch, those of
fuse-gauging were of an infinitely more exacting nature, being measured
in fractions so minute as 3/1000 parts of an inch.

Since the ultimate success or failure of the entire shell depended to
a very great extent on the combined and unfailing action, or lightning
series of movements, of the tiny internal component parts of the fuse
(action which was initiated by the motion of the shell itself), the
_raison d'être_ of dimensions measured in infinitesimal fractions of an
inch becomes somewhat more apparent. The beauty of this little piece
of mechanism is illustrated to some extent by the fact that it can be
assembled or put together complete with its tiny internal components to
the number of 10 or 12 all told, in less than a minute.

Cast in bars of brass, sections of the length required for each fuse
body are cut off, and drop-forged, the probability of blow-holes being
by this method eliminated as far as possible.

For the various machining operations, such as turning, boring and
screwing, drilling, automatic and turret lathes played a prominent
part, whilst an eminently suitable machine known as a "Sipp
three-spindle drill" to which were fixed special jigs, designed for the
purpose, was extensively used for the numerous small holes required.

Grooves were turned on a turret lathe round the taper-nose, these
affording a grip for the fingers, when lifting the fuses out of the
boxes in which they were supplied.

[Illustration: THE GRAZE-FUSE, shewn in section. [_To face p._ 80.]

Briefly, the mechanical action of the graze-fuse is regulated on the
following lines: A central pellet which creates the igniting spark by
striking the percussion needle, is held in position by a tiny plug,
which in turn is secured by a ball-headed pin, called the detent, kept
in place by a spring. On the gun being fired the sudden forward impetus
of the shell causes the detent pin to exert a backward pressure of
8-1/2 lbs. on the spring, this being sufficient to enable the detent
pin to withdraw itself from the plug controlling the ignition pellet.

The motion of the shell once launched in flight is rotary or
centrifugal, with the result that the pellet-plug flies outward,
leaving the pellet itself free to strike the percussion needle the
moment the fuse-nose hits or grazes the first intervening object.

The fixing of the percussion needle securely in the fuse-cap was an
erstwhile stumbling-block in not a few machine shops, it being no
exaggeration to say that in numerous instances at least 50 per cent. of
the fuse-caps were rejected owing to the needle not being sufficiently
securely fixed in the seating.

At Crewe a simple method ensuring absolute rigidity was devised, the
fuse-cap being so turned in the lathe that a slightly outstanding lip
was formed, which after the needle had been inserted in the recess
was spun or pressed, whilst revolving in a turret lathe, round the
taper profile of the needle, the metal being in this way packed so
closely and tightly all round that the protruding end of the needle,
if subsequently gripped in a vice, would sooner break off than allow
itself to be extracted or even disturbed in the slightest degree
whatever within its metal bedding. "Solid as a rock" is the only
description applicable.

In spite of this, however, the Government either could not or would not
insist on the universal adoption of so sound and simple a practice,
preferring rather to standardise an entirely new method involving a
more complicated and so more costly fitting, both as regards the needle
itself and the fitting of it in the fuse-cap.

The cap was thenceforward drilled and tapped, and the needle which was
a longer one than hitherto was screwed into the hole and joined with
petman cement. Crewe, in compliance with Government specifications had
perforce to toe the line, but very quickly rose to the occasion by
devising an extremely neat and efficacious little tapping machine, belt
driven, and reversible through the medium of a couple of hand-actuated
friction clutches. The spindle of the machine ran through a guide-bush
bolted to the bed of the lathe, and screwed to the pitch of the needle
thread. The hole through the fuse-cap was by this means certain of
being tapped to the correct pitch, without any risk of stripped
or "drunken" threads ensuing. The tap itself was of a "floating"
disposition; that is to say, it was held in a socket which permitted a
slight amount of freedom in action, thereby ensuring perfect alignment
with the fuse-cap hole.

The final operation of lacquering (or varnishing with a mixture of
shellac and alcohol which imparted a saffron or orange colour to the
metal and acted as a preservative) was effected by mounting the fuse on
a metal disc, which, acting in conjunction with a second disc and an
intermediary ball-race, was kept spinning round by hand, the operator
applying the varnish with a brush the while the fuse was kept spinning.

It was noticed at one time that a fairly large percentage of shells
were "duds," that is to say they were failing to explode, and the
reason for this was attributed to the supposition that on being
released by the plug the pellet tended to creep towards the percussion
needle, thenceforward remaining closely adjacent to it, with the result
that it was no longer in a position to jerk forward and strike the
needle with sufficient impetus to cause a spark. An additional spring
called a "creep" spring was consequently inserted, of sufficient
tension to prevent the pellet from creeping forward, and yet not strong
enough to prevent the sudden contact of pellet and needle, on the shell
reaching its objective. This overcame the difficulty.



  "As long as war is regarded as wicked it will always have its
  fascinations. When it is looked upon as vulgar it will cease to

All good sportsmen know what is a cartridge, whether for gun or rifle;
they know too that the nice brightly-polished little disc on the end of
it contains the percussion cap by means of which the shot or bullet,
as the case may be, is fired. Beyond this they do not worry. They load
their gun or rifle; if the former, they are naturally pleased supposing
forthwith they wing their bird, a "right and left" raises themselves in
their own estimation no end of a great deal; if the latter, and they
succeed in laying low the quadruped object of their strenuous quest, a
haunch of venison, maybe, is their reward, their trophy a particularly
fine head, a "Royal" displaying no fewer than a dozen "points." In
either event, the little cartridge once having served its purpose is
in due course extracted from the breech and flung unceremoniously away
to be trodden with scant courtesy underfoot, carelessly consigned to

So too in war, or at any rate during the early phases of the Great
War, when questions of expense and of economy were seldom, if ever,
mooted, and when, during the great retreat and the subsequently
feverish advance to the Aisne heights, transport was more or less
improvisatory and problematical and every moment precious, ammunition
cartridge cases (turned and finished to thousandth parts of an inch
and beautifully polished), no sooner having served their immediate
purpose, were hastily extracted from the smoking breech of the gun and
inconsequently thrown aside.

Distorted and not infrequently cracked or split, of what further use
could they be? An occasional enthusiast would pick one up. At home, at
least, it would be regarded as an authentic relic of the battle-field.
Besides, any one with a spark of inventive genius could see quite a
number of uses to which a cartridge case could be put; articles of
domestic ornament and convenience could be evolved--anything, for
instance, from a flower-vase to a lady's powder-pot.

Those were early days however, and few there were, whether at home
or at the front, who realised the extent to which "the war could be
protracted" or "if its fortunes should be varied or adverse" were able
to grasp the import of the warning that "exertions and sacrifices
beyond any which had been demanded would be required from the whole
nation and empire" (Lord Kitchener, House of Lords, August 25th, 1914).

When, however, it became increasingly apparent that "the operations
not only of our Army but of our Allies were being crippled or at any
rate hampered by our failure to provide the necessary ammunition,"
and since the cartridge was one of those "particular components which
were essential" to the firing of the shell, the edict in due course
went forth to the effect that "all fired cases should be returned at
the first opportunity," for the very reason that with comparatively
little trouble and at a minimum of cost (especially when the railway
companies began devoting their attention to the task) these cases could
be repaired, and that not only once, but frequently as many as half
a dozen times before they were finally rejected as being totally and
permanently unfit for further military service, in fact dangerous.

Cartridge cases varied, of course, in depth and diameter according
to the type of shell, whether shrapnel or H.E., to which they were
destined to be fitted, and to the type of gun, whether field gun or
howitzer, within the breech of which they were to be fired. Thus the
field gun with its long range and well-nigh flat trajectory (_i.e._
the curve described by the shell on its flight) required a heavier
propellant charge with a high velocity than did the howitzer or
high-angle gun, which throws a shell at a shorter range and with a high

The "marks" of cartridge cases treated in Crewe Works were those
appertaining to the 18-pounder gun and the 4·5 howitzer, and it so
happened that just at the time of the formation of the Coalition
Government in May, 1915, when, under the auspices of Mr. Lloyd George
as Minister of Munitions, in the words of Sir J. French, "to organise
the nation's industrial resources upon a stupendous scale was the
only way if we were to continue with success the great struggle which
lay before us," cartridge cases, bruised, and mud-bespattered, first
commenced to make their appearance at Crewe. The earliest arrivals were
the 18-pounder long or shrapnel shell cartridge cases, and the 30,000
odd of these cases which were repaired may be regarded as a foretaste
of what was to follow, and were to some extent indicative of the
then prevailing position in regard to the supply of ammunition to the
B.E.F. in France. "As early as the 29th of October," writes Sir John
French in his remarkable production entitled "1914," "the War Office
were officially told that during the most desperate period of the first
battle of Ypres, when the average daily expenditure of 18-pounder
ammunition had amounted to 81 rounds per gun, and in some cases the
enormous total of 300 rounds, the state of the ammunition supply had
necessitated the issue of an order restricting expenditure to 20
rounds, and that a further restriction to 10 rounds would be necessary
if the supply did not improve."

Actually during the winter 1914-1915 the number of rounds per
18-pounder gun fell to less than five! Shrapnel (which it is
interesting to remember was first used in the Peninsular War of
1808-14, and of which the older form of shell was filled merely with
gunpowder as compared with the modern filling of bullets) was, however,
"ineffective against the occupants of trenches, breastworks, and
buildings," consequently guns required 50 per cent. of high-explosive
shell "to destroy many forms of fortified localities that the enemy
constructs, more particularly his machine-gun emplacements"; and
in a secret memorandum despatched by Sir John French to the War
Office in the spring of 1915 it was urged that "large quantities of
high-explosive shells for field guns have become essential owing to the
form of warfare in which the Army is engaged." Evidently the "Talking
Men" at the back were beginning to feel a little uncomfortable, if
nothing else, in face of the reports which the "Fighting Men" at the
front were sending home with a firm persistence, for in spite of "the
disinclination of the War Office prior to the war to take up seriously
the question of high explosives" due to the assumption that their true
nature and the correct particulars which govern their construction
were not properly understood, as they (the War Office) "had too little
experience of them," and perhaps because of the fact, for instance,
that "the battle (of Neuve Chapelle) had to be broken off after three
days' fighting because we were brought to a standstill through want
of ammunition," occasional consignments of 18-pounder long cases
at Crewe grew less and less until they finally ceased altogether,
being thereafter superseded by the shorter cases of the 4·5-inch
high-explosive shell, which, as time went on, were showered on the
Works in ever-increasing quantities; in fact, a total of close on two
million had been dealt with when the All-Highest finally "threw up the
sponge" and accomplished his memorable "bunk" into Holland.

To pick a cartridge case up and look at it, one would say that there
was literally nothing in it; yet on second thoughts it is surprising
what a number of features are embodied in its hollow and simple form.

It is solid drawn, of a substance the colour of brass called yellow
metal, which is composed of 60 per cent. electrolytic copper and 40 per
cent. zinc, and which costs actually £25 per ton less than brass. The
base is integral and thick, with an external rim, behind which a clip
automatically engages as the breech of the gun closes, for the purpose
of extracting the case after the gun is fired. Into a hole in the
centre of the base is screwed the percussion cap, which acts virtually
in the capacity of a "sparking plug" to the gun, differing only from
the familiar petrol-engine sparking plug, in that the spark which fires
the propellant charge inside the cartridge case is created, not by the
break of an electric current, but by the sudden shock or percussion of
a striker against a cap in which is contained a thin, albeit highly
explosive layer of fulminic acid and gunpowder.

The walls of the case are thin, thereby expanding against the walls
of the breech of the gun, and preventing any escape of the propellent
gases; and for the purpose of easy extraction they (the walls of the
case) are slightly tapered to within about 1/2 inch of the mouth which
fits parallel over the end of the shell.

[_To face p._ 89.]

Upon receiving a returned, or fired, cartridge case in the Works, the
primer is first of all removed, then the case is boiled in a solution
of caustic soda for the purpose of removing grease and dirt. What is
known as a "hardness" test follows next in order of sequence, this
to determine whether the metal of the case is still good for further
service, and is performed by a little instrument known as a sclerometer
(derived, as our classical contemporaries will tell us, from the
Greek word [Greek: sklêros], hard), consisting of a tube marked with
a graduated scale down which a tiny metal ball is dropped on to the
side of the case; the ball should rebound to a point on the scale
approximating a height of two inches, anything below this proving
that the metal has become too soft for further use, when the case
is accordingly scrapped. The cases which show a requisite degree of
hardness are then annealed or suitably tempered round the mouth, this
process ensuring a subsequent loose fit round the end of the shell.

Rolling the mouth to internal limit gauges is effected by means of
a specially improvised apparatus rigged up on the bed of an engine
lathe, consisting of two fixed housings inside which runs a belt-driven
sleeve bored to the correct taper of the cartridge case, and in which
the latter is carried. A duplex ball-bearing roller running on a
central spindle secured in a pad fixed to a cross-slide, and operated
transversely by a pedal, applies pressure against the walls of the
cartridge case, the dents and bruises being thus gently removed and an
even surface obtained.

It should be borne in mind that the entire process of repairing these
cartridge cases (with the exception of brazing by coppersmiths with an
acetylene flame any cracks or splits which already existed or became
apparent in the repairing operations) was carried out by female labour
working three eight-hour shifts, and one of the neatest of the diverse
mechanical requisites which the girls were called upon to operate
and which was the immediate outcome of managerial forethought and
ingenuity was an adaptation of an hydraulic press for the purpose of
correctly reforming the taper walls of the cartridge case to the true
form of the gun chamber or breech. A cast-iron block with recesses
cored in (in which are fitted a rocking lever pivoted in the centre,
and two hardened cast-steel dies, one on either side) repose on rolling
bearings arranged on the bed of the press.

At each end of the rocking lever is attached an adjustable ejector ram
acting centrally inside the cast-steel dies, which latter are bored
taper to the required shape of the cartridge case. Upon inserting a
cartridge case in each die, the cast-iron block is pushed transversely
by hand across the bed of the press, bringing one of the cases central
with the ram, which, when applied, forces the case home into the die,
thereby pressing and reforming the walls to their true and original
shape. The ram being withdrawn, the cast-iron block is pulled back so
that the second cartridge case in its turn comes central with the ram
and the effect of pressing it home in its own particular die is to push
back the pivoted arm, the other end of which, advancing automatically,
expels the previous and finished case; cartridge cases being inserted
and ejected in this manner _ad infinitum_.

The cast-steel dies naturally become affected by constant use, more
especially on the protruding shoulder against which the thickest part
of the case (_viz._ where the walls rounded into the base) is pressed,
this necessitating the shoulder being re-radiused perhaps every
fortnight, and a slight readjustment of the die in the block.

To allow for expansion of the walls of the case when being ejected
after compression, the dies are turned slightly smaller (say 3/1000
parts of an inch) than the required finished size.

After being pressed, the primer holes of the cartridge case (known
as the plain and platform holes respectively) are rectified by a
double-reamer, the case revolving in a sleeve bored to correct taper of
the outside diameter of the case, this assuring concentricity of the
two holes, and ensuring that the primer face and percussion cap lie
flush with the base of the case. A forming tool, having a non-cutting
face which acts as a depth guide against the base, corrects the outer
rim and shoulder.

A hand-tapping machine clamped centrally to a suitable fixture on a
bench was devised for re-tapping primer-holes. This consists of a
floating bracket which accurately guides the tap into the existing
thread, at the end of the tap being fixed a hand-operated capstan
wheel, and on the tap a stop to regulate the depth of the screw.

A similar apparatus fitted with a sliding screw-driver removes the
primers; the cartridge case in either event being securely held and
easily fixed or released in a central clamp.

Finally, after being immersed for a couple of minutes in a solution of
sulphuric acid, the cartridge case is polished with sand and sawdust
on a wooden pad covered with tapestry and revolving in a lathe at 300
or 400 revolutions per minute.

The result of garnering in and renovating these cartridge cases instead
of turning them adrift in the battle area, reckoned in figures of
pounds, shillings, and pence, was undoubtedly very considerable; for
apart altogether from the saving effected in the cost of labour when
repairing old cartridge cases as compared with the manufacture of new
ones, the weight of metal alone contained in a couple of million cases
may be taken at approximately 1500 tons; and with yellow metal costing
£82 12s. 0d. per ton, the saving in metal alone amounts to no less than




  "The Prussian was born a brute, and civilisation will make him

The apposite nature of this moral dictum could have been exemplified
in no degree more accurately, nor indeed remarkably, than in the light
of events which transpired during the forty odd years intervening
between the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the present-day world
conflict; events which may, perhaps, best be summarised as comprising
a persistent policy of unremittant and so-called peaceful penetration,
intense warlike preparation, and provocative "braggadocio," or
diplomatic bluff. Born in an atmosphere of arrogance and lust, imbued
with a spirit of savagery, the Hun stood forth at last in the blood-red
dawn of "Der Tag," naked, stripped of his pharisaical veneer of social

"Vous ne devez laisser," wrote Bismarck in 1870, "aux populations que
vous traversez que leurs yeux pour pleurer," and clearly a decade of
"Civilisation" had sufficed to make his countrymen indeed ferocious,
to prove them obedient, albeit enthusiastic, disciples of the bestial
doctrine which he had expounded. No longer was the soldier alone to
be called upon to pass "half his time on the field of battle, and
half of it on a bed of pain"; civilian populations too, innocent old
men, defenceless women, young girls, and little children, all were to
be drawn alike, pitilessly, into the vortex; naught but their eyes
wherewith to weep remaining to them.

One has but to refer again to that arresting little volume
"Enseignements Psychologiques de la Guerre Européenne" (M. Gustave
le Bon) to be reminded of the pre-determined methods that were to be
adopted. "Notre principe directeur," Bismarck goes on to declare, "est
de rendre la guerre si terrible aux populations civiles, qu'elles-mêmes
supplient en faveur de la paix."

Four years of uncivilised warfare, of barbarity unprecedented in
the annals of modern history, have since taught us how terrible was
the meaning of these words, and if the possibility is conceded that
tragedy and comedy may, on occasion, run riot hand in hand together,
the climax was perhaps never more nearly approached that when in
August, 1914, the arch-criminal himself, Wilhelm II, that "born actor
and master of mis-statement,"[3] indited an agonising epistle to his
doddering confederate the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria: "My soul
is torn," so ran this apostolic lamentation--"my soul is torn, but
everything must be put to fire and sword. Men, women, children, and
old men must be slaughtered, and not a tree or house left standing.
With these methods of terrorism which alone are capable of affecting
a people as degenerate as are the French, the war will be over in two
months, whereas if I admit humanitarian considerations it will last
years. In spite of my repugnance, I have been obliged to recommend the
former system."

[3] A comment of King Edward's on the German Emperor, 1906.

"In spite of my repugnance," however, or perhaps because of it, in
spite of or because of this recommended system of terrorism, the more
difficult it became to affect, to demoralise the "degenerate" French
people, the more seemingly impossible became the task of breaking
"those proud English hearts"; the war was not over in two months, in
fact, contrary to the prognostications of the "All Highest," it lasted
several years!

The nation, as it so happened, was never in more determined "bull-dog"
frame of mind; this determination moreover to "see things through"
"coûte que coûte" was amply voiced by Mr. Asquith, then Prime Minister,
at the Guildhall on November 9th, 1914--"We will never sheath the
sword until the military domination of Prussia is wholly and finally
destroyed," and floating back on the breeze away from the stricken
fields of France came echoing the refrain:--

  "When the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
  Steals on the ear the distant triumph-song,
  And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong."

Dimly distant though the final victory might seem, fierce and
protracted though the strife, England continued unflinchingly pouring
forth her bravest and her best, while she herself, with a determination
grim and set, was of a truth turning "to swords her ploughshares," for
experience had taught her that the Prussian was born not only a brute
but a bully, and that the only way to deal with bullies was to hit them
back, to keep on hitting until they were down, and once down to keep
them there and prevent them from getting on their feet again.

But the maxim that "hesitation and half-measures ruin everything in
war" had never been lost upon the "Great General Staff of (German)
Imperial Supermen," who it might be opined had probably forgotten more
in the gentle art of preparation for war than we ever set ourselves
to learn. Gas shells, incendiary shells, tear shells, liquid fire,
clouds of poison gas, aerial torpedoes, floating mines, submarines,
mystery long-range guns, such were a few of the more obvious and less
humanly unspeakable horrors in which the common enemy had specialised.
Taken unawares, the question consequentially arose "How to hit them
back?" Man for man, fist for fist, we were sure of giving as good as we
received, and better.

"In bravery the French and English soldiers are the only ones to be
compared with the Russians," was the verdict of Napoleon. Bravery,
however, whilst being undoubtedly magnificent, is, on the other hand,
in modern warfare liable to become a constraining source of suicide
unless backed by commensurate means both of offence and of defence.
"The machine," as Mr. Lloyd George pointed out, when reviewing on
December 20th, 1915, the progress of events of the preceding months,
"the machine is essential to defend positions of peril, and it saves
life, because the more machinery you have for defence, the more
thinly you can hold the line. On the other hand it means fewer losses
in attacking positions of peril, because it demolishes machine-gun
emplacements, tears up barbed wire, destroys trenches." Again, "What we
stint in material we squander in life."

How criminal had been the lack both of prevision and of provision in
regard to meeting possible contingencies may be gathered from the fact
that on March 15th, 1906, Major Seely, M.P., in the House of Commons,
in moving a reduction in the Army Estimates (estimates which at that
time did not exceed the modest sum of sixty millions per annum), said,
"We could not afford to continue the present establishment, for the
House would not grant the money, and the country would not provide the

The folly of it all was coming home to us with a vengeance.
Proportionate to the former mean and niggardly "cheese-paring" was
the resultant appalling rate at which life was now being squandered.
"We were short of all kinds of military weapons," Mr. Lloyd George
was forced to confess, "but the lack of high-explosive shell was
paralysing"; then as if in condonation of all former sins of omission,
"we believe that what is being done now to provide a supply of
munitions equal to all possible requirements will astonish the world
when it becomes known."

In this respect, therefore, it is, perhaps, not unnatural that interest
of a widespread nature should centre round Crewe, in virtue of the
quota of munitions which she, albeit unobtrusively, contributed to
the "world's astonishment"; indeed a certain sense of bewilderment
not untinged with pride cannot fail to supervene in the minds of that
vast section of the community, to wit the travelling public, and in
particular the great North-Western-loving public, when, the official
veil of secrecy being drawn aside, the mental faculty is free to note
and to assimilate the degree of resourcefulness, the versatility of the
locomotive engineer.

There is no concealing the fact that "the place acquired by machinery
in the arts of peace in the nineteenth century has been won by
machinery in the grim art of war in the twentieth century," but the
anomaly was strange indeed when Crewe, essentially the cradle of what
may perhaps be termed the _haute noblesse_ of locomotive progeny,
bowing to the dictates of stern necessity, extensively adapted her
domain to the novel effort of high-explosive shell production.

Manifold and great as are the instances which may be cited as evidence
of the strides made during the last decade in engineering science, no
other branch of that science has surely ever made appeal more alluring
alike to schoolboy as to popular imagination, than that embodied in the
modern British locomotive. Who in the course of his travel experience
has not happened at that "Mecca" of railway bustle and romance,
"Euston," the epic terminus of Britain's premier line, and focussing
with his eye the hazy limit of a far-receding platform, has not traced
the tapering profile of some distant-bound express, marvelling the
while that, harnessed on ahead, should be pent up a force eager,
impatient, yet withal so mighty that of a sudden, subservient to its
call, this elongated span of motionless inertia laden with living
freight should smoothly glide away, and gathering momentum on its path
with ceaseless rhythm, ever along, along and along, sweep towards the
far elusive line of the horizon? Yet this, in plain prosaic English,
was the ennobling vista opened through peaceful years of patient toil
and perseverance to the public ken, and dull must be the mind which
contemplates unmoved that splendid emblem of the locomotive world, the
awe-inspiring "Claughton" of that ilk, noble of mien and black of tint,
with breast-plate red, toying with trains the equal of 400 tons and
more, ticking aside the minutes and the miles alike.

[_To face p. 99._]

Figuratively speaking, Crewe may perhaps be referred to as the "spill"
on which the face of the London and North-Western compass pivots; the
four points, north, south, east, and west, extending respectively to
Carlisle, London, Leeds and Holyhead; but familiar as are the scenes
of everyday activity throughout the entire length and breadth of the
Company's system, foggy, for the most part, are the notions as to the
phenomenal whirl of industrial enterprise daily in progress within the
precincts of Crewe Works.

Yet in these great engine Works (so menacing and unprecedented were the
exigencies created by this voracious war), 'midst all the multifarious
machinery and up-to-date appliances whereby is fashioned and evolved
in all its amazing detail that complex piece of mechanism, the very
essence of railroad itinerancy, the modern locomotive, was improvised
with a speed approximating that of the mushroom which springs up in the
night, a model and comprehensive plant, correlative with the multiform
processes involved in the manufacture of that swift harbinger of death,
the high-explosive shell, and its complement of grim appurtenances.
How paralysing was the lack of these shells may be gathered from the
fact that[4] "in the month of May (1915), when the Germans were turning
out 250,000 shells a day, most of them high-explosive, we were turning
out 2500 a day in high explosive and 13,000 in shrapnel." This gentle
reminder to a lethargic House did actually (so we are told) evoke
cries of "Oh," which latent degree of enthusiasm cannot be considered
exactly vulgar or ultra ebullient, when side by side with so depressing
a situation at home we endeavour to grasp the staggering figures as
set forth in the following French official statement:--"Our artillery
to the north of Arras fired in twenty-four consecutive hours 300,000
shells, that is to say, very nearly as many shells as were fired by
the entire French artillery in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. The
weight of these 300,000 shells can be put at 4,500,000 kilos; or nearly
4435 tons. In other words, more than 300 large trucks were required for
carrying them by rail, or roughly half a dozen complete goods trains;
by road this would have meant 4000 waggons, each with a team of six
horses. The monetary value of these projectiles may be put at something
like £374,800."

[4] Mr. Lloyd George, House of Commons, Dec. 15th, 1915.

Prior to the summer of 1914, a shell, if not exactly an unknown
quantity, was at any rate one of these obvious, even if somewhat
curious things that might conceivably (in fact probably did) claim a
certain amount of attention from that rather spoilt and very exclusive
little clique, the professional army people. One read in the papers,
too, from time to time, that the Navy (that immensely popular though
slightly enigmatic asset of the Empire) was indulging in a little
target practice somewhere out at sea; this would mean the firing of
a few projectiles; but that was as it should be; we all liked the
comfortable assurance that we could "sleep quietly in our beds;"[5]
with an innate and justifiable sense of pride we liked, when occasion
permitted, solemnly to stand up and join in the refrain "Britannia,
rule the waves."

[5] The late Lord Fisher, Nov. 9, 1907.

Latterly, however, the "shell" has acquired so widespread a degree of
prominence, proportionate to the toll of human life and of material
damage that it has exacted, it has become in effect so commonplace
an object, hackneyed as the very chimney-pots of a jerry-built row
of houses, that a word of apology should perhaps be prefaced to any
additional allusion to a subject already so often cited, which might
otherwise and pardonably be regarded as superfluous.

Before diving, however, into any details as to the methods of
manufacture, it may be interesting to pause for a few moments and to
inquire into the nature of the mysterious movements of the shell when,
deposited by the artilleryman with tender and loving care safely and
securely within the breech of his gun, it flies away, the unerring
intermediary between him and the hated foe of an argument deadly and

Our gunner experts (armchair no doubt as well as professional) will, of
course, tell us that the flight of a shell is gyroscopic, this possibly
in lucid contradistinction from that of the convex-shaped boomerang,
which, according to reliable information, is gifted with the graceful,
albeit inconvenient, art of returning to its original point of
departure. The shell, however, ere it quits the muzzle of the gun,
thanks to what is known as the rifling or grooving of the bore of the
gun, thanks, too, to the action of that indispensable little adjunct
familiarly known as the copper band, is imparted with the vigorous
twist, and once launched in mid-air spins round its longitudinal axis,
undeterred, like the gyroscope, either by force of gravity or by
atmospheric pressure.

This longitudinal spin is rendered eminently desirable, in fact
imperative, for various reasons, of which length and explosive capacity
of the projectile, accuracy in flight, diminished air-resistance in
proportion to weight, and finally range, may be quoted as the more
obvious desiderata.

The old ancestral cannon-ball, fired as it was from a smooth-bore
gun, had no means of acquiring this sudden longitudinal twist, and no
sooner clear of the muzzle, it found itself involved in the performance
of antics whimsical and capricious, turning over and over on its
transverse axis, head over heels, side slipping, looping the loop.

Again, the cannon-ball, being round, was limited in size to the bore
of the gun, so that in addition to the disadvantage just mentioned
of possessing no definite material degree of accuracy whilst on its
headlong course through the air, it offered the further disadvantage
of containing but a comparatively small explosive charge, and the
air-resistance it afforded in proportion to its weight affected
adversely, and in marked degree as compared with the modern
longitudinal shell, its range and potential destructive energy.

Reverting then to the modern projectile, and taking as a suitably
illustrative example the 6-inch high-explosive shell (for it was on
this particular type that Crewe was asked to concentrate), bearing
always in mind, too, that the modern gun is rifled or grooved and that
the effect of this grooving is to impart a vigorous longitudinal twist
or spin to the shell as it flies away, making it gyroscopic and almost
uniformly accurate, we notice that the length of this shell is eighteen
inches, thus exceeding the diameter in the proportion of three to one,
whence it becomes obvious that the capacity available for explosive
charge is proportionately greater than that of a cannon-ball of the
same diameter.

We next find that in place of the rounded wind-resisting surface of
the cannon-ball, the front end of the modern shell is pointed like
a pencil, the atmospheric resistance being in this way reduced to a
minimum. Decrease of wind-resistance naturally spells increase of
range, and in this connection tests have in the past been carried out
with shells having their bases as well as their noses pointed with a
view to obviating the vacuum which is necessarily created by the usual
flat base. A cigar-shaped shell, however, never proved satisfactory,
for like the Rugby football it was decidedly wobbly in mid-air.

How requisite was a superlative degree of accuracy and consequently of
skill in the manufacture of the modern high-explosive projectile may,
to some extent, be gathered from these briefly stated considerations,
and will become more apparent still when we come to glance at the
series of component parts of which the whole is built up.

Premature explosions, involving loss of life amongst the gun-crew,
the wrecking of the gun itself, not to mention resultant immunity from
dismemberment of those previously destined to be the recipients of
this unique form of greeting, are _primâ facie_ contingencies to be
guarded against; thus, owing to the sudden stresses to which a shell
is subjected on the firing of the propellent charge whereby inertia
becomes transmuted into velocity both forward and rotary, the steel of
which the shell is made must be of such tensile strength that not only
will the base-end withstand this transmutation, but the walls of the
shell must be capable of overcoming the inertia of the front end of
the shell, otherwise they will collapse, and a "premature" will be the
immediate outcome.

An output of steel adequate for all munition purposes was already a
problem sufficiently acute, and there were genuinely orthodox reasons
why the home output, in particular, should be maintained at as high
a level as possible. For one thing, it was eminently desirable that
America should keep supplied our Allies who were less well equipped
in "industrial and engineering resources than ourselves." "By home
manufacture," too, "we had saved in the course of a single year
something which is equal to 6_d._ or 7_d._ in the pound of income tax
in the metal market alone." Besides "when you order a very considerable
quantity of war material abroad, there is always a difficulty which
arises with regard to the exchanges and the gold supply." There was
also "the difficulty that you have not the same control over the
manufacturers of material abroad as you have got here" [Mr. Lloyd
George, House of Commons, December 20th, 1915].

Influenced by considerations such as these, Mr. Cooke undertook not
merely to machine _in toto_ a given quantity per month of rough shell
forgings, but proffered the extensive steel-making plant in Crewe
Works, comprising several furnaces of 20 and 30-ton capacity, both for
the supply of steel requisite for the initial manufacture of these
rough forgings, and if desired, for a further output of steel wherewith
to supply forgings to other firms engaged exclusively in shell

The output of 6-inch high-explosive shells from Crewe Works had, at
the time of the Armistice, reached, approximately, a total of 100,000,
and the corresponding weight of steel forgings may be estimated,
approximately, at 6500 tons. Government specifications in regard
to tensile strength and cold fracture tests were not unnaturally
exacting in the extreme, and the casts obtained at Crewe came fully
in these respects up to the standard ordained. But amazing though it
may seem (so tightly can the reel of official red tape be wound),
notwithstanding Mr. Cook's offer and ability to furnish this supply
of special high-grade steel, further Government regulations to the
number of seventeen and covering three pages of foolscap demanded the
observance of formalities, petty and extraneous, designed solely for
the purpose of securing the right of incursion within Crewe Works of
every Smith, Jones, and Robinson who under the pseudonym of "Government
Inspector," and as units of a hugely overstaffed officialdom, sought
by hook and by crook any and every means wherewith to justify their
overpaid existence.

"Nobody but managerial and supervising engineers can quite realise what
a handicap these people have been upon efficient production," writes
a student of bureaucracy in the _Morning Post_, April 21st, 1919.
"How the engineering industry has survived in spite of it is almost
a miracle; how it has produced in spite of it is quite a miracle.
At one time the Ministry of Munitions could boast of no fewer than
27,000 officials, nearly all of whose positions might be reasonably
defined as "jobs." There were inspectors and inspectors of inspectors,
super-inspectors, and inspector-generals, munition area dilution
officers, munition area recruiting officers, recruitment complaints
officers, and committees, directors, sub-directors, information
bureaux, with all the usual paraphernalia; officials with and without
designation, priority officials whose duties were as nebulous as their
qualifications, besides an unnumbered crowd of arrogant but grossly
inexpert experts. It is a splendid tribute to the industry that it
triumphed over this deadly deterrent and redeemed its obligation to the
nation under so cruel and undeserved a burden."

How Crewe Works survived in spite of this "handicap," this "deadly
deterrent," is explained by the fact that Mr. Cooke would have none
of these things; in fact, sooner than conform to the caprice and
tyranny of these "inexpert experts" from without, he very promptly
withdrew his offer of steel manufacture, politely but firmly consigning
"Major MacMarkfour" and "Captain Fitzgrazefuse" elsewhere, their
correspondence to the nearest wastepaper basket; a friendly chat with
the late Sir F. Donaldson, then Director of Army Ordnance at Woolwich,
sufficing to make it clear that at Crewe everything was strictly "above
board," and that the little entourage of professional experts within
justified the full and complete confidence which he, their chief,
reposed in them.

Not a few of the smaller engineering firms up and down the country,
faced with previously unconsidered problems created by the unlooked-for
transition from peace to war conditions, welcomed the call for shells
and yet more shells, as a ray of sunshine peeping from out the lowering
clouds of commercial stagnation. Hardly appreciating the fact that a
shell's a shell for a' that, and approaching the task with a flippant
disdain, akin to that of "selling seashells upon the seashore," some
of these good people, ostensibly patriotic and avowedly disinterested,
were soon asking themselves whether after all they had not bitten off
as much as, if not actually more than, they could reasonably chew.
The requisite degree of perfection in material, and of accuracy in
machining, was at the outset a sore puzzle to the many who had never
seen a field-battery in action, who had never inquired as to the
why and wherefore of the flight of a shell, who, by virtue of their
exemption from military service, never had occasion to congratulate
themselves personally on the subtle and unfailing precision of a
creeping "barrage"; and great was the vexation of spirit, many the
hours thrown away, legion the shells definitely consigned to the
scrap-heap (or perhaps at best set aside pending some seemingly
trifling rectification), ere aspirants to this novel and exacting
sphere of machine-shop art attained anything approaching the acmé of

"It is better," wrote Napoleon, "to have no artillery at all than a
bad artillery that endangers the lives of men and the honour of the
nation," and selecting this fundamental principle as a basis on which
to build the fabric of his excursion into the then untravelled paths
of shell manufacture, Mr. Cooke made arrangements at the very outset
for his leading representative of the machine-tool department to visit
Woolwich, for the purpose, not only of acquiring first-hand knowledge
as to the most approved Government methods of producing shells, but of
making detailed dimensioned sketches from which to manufacture, in the
Company's own tool department at Crewe, the multifarious gauges, or
instruments, designed to verify in the most minute manner imaginable
the diverse form of the shell.

The consecutive operations through which the shell passes number some
thirty all told, and for each separate operation separate gauges are

As emphasising not merely the delicacy of these all-important little
instruments, but the delicate proposition "up against" which he found
himself in his endeavour to discover firms who were capable of their
manufacture, Mr. Lloyd George confessed that "we found that some of the
shortage (of shells), if not a good deal of it, was due to the fact
that, although you turn out shell bodies in very considerable numbers,
you were short of some particular component which was essential before
you could complete the shell. It might be a fuse, it might be a gauge.
There was always some one thing of which you had a shortage!" Evidently
gauges were a source of considerable anxiety because "we therefore had
to set up two or three national factories in order to increase the
supply of these components."

By already possessing the necessary machinery for, as well as
considerable experience in, the art of gauge-making, Crewe was in
a position to ease very materially the burden of those Government
departments, those newly created "national factories" directly
responsible for the manufacture and the issue of gauges in quantities
sufficient to meet all demands, having merely to submit on completion
any inspecting gauges to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington
for testing and stamping, prior to putting them into commission in
the Works. Further, Mr. Cooke, as a member of a "strong committee of
machine-tool makers" who were then "sitting constantly at Armament
Buildings in London," was specially qualified, in view of his inside
technical knowledge and practical experience, to assist in "directing
the operations of the whole of the machine-tool manufacturers of the
kingdom"; and finally, as Mr. Lloyd George went on to say, "the result
of all this" was "to increase very considerably not merely the output
of shells, but also the power at the disposal of the nation at short
notice to turn out even more than we have ordered if the emergency
demands" (The _Times_, July 29th, 1915).

The rough forging of a shell body, rolled and pressed to suitable
dimensions from a steel billet, is an uncouth-looking object,
resembling as much as anything one of those upright earthenware
umbrella-stands to be found in any cheap furnishing store; and with a
view to licking it into shape, to turning it as quickly as possible
into the smoothly finished article it was destined to become, Mr.
Cooke's representative, on his return from Woolwich, having, as a
preliminary, set in motion the machinery necessary for a supply of
gauges, forthwith proceeded to improvise a further series of machines
and tools, calculating the nature and number required for a given
output of shells per month, and mapping out a plan whereby the
various operations should follow one another from start to finish in
correct and regular sequence. How important is the strict adherence
to a regular sequence of operations is borne out by the fact that
a shell might easily be ruined in the event of any operation being
performed out of its turn. A convenient and suitable _locale_ in
which to lay out this shell-manufacturing plant was found available
in a previously unoccupied extension of the new fitting shop; and as
in the case of fuse manufacture at the old works fitting shop, so in
the present instance, members of the fair sex were destined to figure
prominently--a little band of neatly attired novices, some 150 strong,
speedily responding to the call, and ranging themselves under the
immediate supervision of a suitable quorum of expert mechanics of the
sterner sex.

WORKS. [_To face p. 112._]

A multiple cutter-milling machine, formerly habituated to the
peace-time art of facing locomotive cylinders, suddenly found itself
saddled with a row of a dozen shell forgings, the open ends of which it
faced to a correct distance from the inside of the base. Thenceforward,
engine and turret-lathes deftly manipulated by our little friends of
the fair element bore the onus of the succeeding operations.

Ordinary engine lathes were eminently suitable for operations such as
centring, rough and finished turning, grooving and external blending
and turning copper bands. Then, thanks to the facility with which the
various tools can be swung round in the lathe-turret and brought to
bear on the work, turret-lathes were employed on operations such as
rough and finished boring, internal blending, recessing and facing.

Rough turning on a fluted mandrel, rough and finished boring, and
internal blending, in a concentric chuck secured to the face-plate of
the lathe, are operations quickly disposed of.

"Blending," needless to say, produces in the mind an impression of
smoothness and of harmony: smoothness unscored, that is, of the walls
and base; harmony complete between the two, and indispensable.

Into the finished and concentric bore of our projectile is now forced
a cleverly and home-designed expanding mandrel, a taper mandrel in
fact, which expands a hollow (and again concentric) bush, and on this
the base is centred. Transferred to an adjacent engine-lathe the shell
is fixed on a shorter three-bush expanding mandrel, and turned to the
correct and finished diameter. Removed to a turret-lathe, a slight
operation of counter-boring the mouth is performed; this is necessary,
as medical practitioners may be astonished to learn, for the purpose of
receiving the nose. The mouth is also faced, and screwed, but screwing
is effected on another instrument of torture, styled a thread-milling
machine; so prior to lifting the shell from the turret-lathe a recess
is cut in the far cavity of the mouth, this forming a clearance for
the thread-milling tool. The turret of the lathe having no transverse
travel, an ingenious little tool was designed and fixed into the
turret-head by means of which a transverse travel, actuated by a
hand-rachet and sufficient for the required depth of the recess, was

Anything which is at all conducive towards the saving of time,
especially in war, is _ipso facto_ a device of the utmost strategic
and economic value. "Ask anything of me but time," once said Napoleon,
"it is the one thing I cannot give you." So, in the case of our
thread-milling machine, the saving of time effected is considerable.
The shell is as incomplete without the screw-thread in its mouth, as
it is without its nose; the thread has to be cut somehow; and by the
employment of a milling-machine and thread-cutter the job can be done
in about ten minutes as against an hour or more if done in an ordinary
screw-cutting lathe.

Having recourse once again to an engine-lathe, we attach a "form" (or
guide) plate to the slide-rest, to the profile of which the nose and
shell-body together are blended externally. As we are now nearing
completion, the next item on the programme is to see how we stand for
weight, and in the event of the shell being a trifle on the heavy
side, we either take a light cut off, reducing ever so slightly the
diameter, or else we shorten the base. There remain now the base-plate
and the copper band to complete the whole; the former is either
screwed or slipped with a plain circumference into a recess in the
base, riveted over with a compressed air riveter, and faced to the
required thickness; the latter is pressed hydraulically into a groove,
then turned and grooved to the required diameter. A kind of miniature
Turkish bath now awaits the long-suffering object of our commiseration,
in which it is steamed and cleaned, then placed nose downwards over a
tank. In this unenviable position a stream of varnish is generously
sprayed with a hand pump up its inside. Thereafter it reposes in an
adjacent chamber or stove until the varnish is thoroughly dried and
baked; whence emerging, a pneumatic tapping machine is waiting to
clear the varnish from the thread of its nose. It is then "boarded"
both in regard to weight and overall dimensions, and if passed "A1" by
the inspector proceeds into bond, where it remains until "called up,"
"reporting" at a filling factory, and in due course being "drafted

Prior to quitting the workshop's busy hum and reverting with our
mind's eye to the "battle's magnificently stern array," where we may
compare to further, if superficial, purpose the projectile and its
mathematically proportioned features with the somewhat violent form of
gymnastic exercise in which it is about to delight, a word or two in
reference to the evolution of the copper band may not be held amiss,
in view of the important _rôle_ it plays relatively to the shell as a
whole. The process by which these copper bands or discs were evolved
was unique, and inasmuch as it was possible to effect a considerable
economy by the evolution of three separate and distinct bands from one
original sheet or square of copper, Crewe became responsible not only
for the bands components of the 6-inch shell, on the manufacture of
which she was exclusively concentrating her endeavours, but was able
concurrently to produce for other firms further bands components of
both 8-inch and 4·5-inch projectiles.

Equally with the fuse or gauge, the copper band ranks as one of those
"particular components which are essential before you can complete the
shell," and in order to preclude in so far as lay in his power to do
so the possibility of any shortage of this particular component, Mr.
Cooke put in hand and had completed within a fortnight from the date
of commencement an entirely new hydraulic press having a capacity of
130 tons and a working pressure of 2000 lbs per square inch, by means
of which copper cups were pressed out to approximately 700 per day,
and from these cups were cut and turned bands of different diameters
according to the size of shell for which they were required; the total
number of copper bands thus manufactured at Crewe at the time of the
Armistice being upwards of 700,000.

The method was simple when once evolved. The 8-inch band being of the
largest diameter of the three was the first to be dealt with, then the
6-inch and finally the 4·5-inch. A piece of flat, square copper plate
was first dished in the press by means of a solid punch, to the shape
of a shallow bowl; annealed, it was pressed a little deeper; annealed
again, the process was repeated a third time, but deeper still, the
dish becoming a cup; and in order to obviate the drawback of the walls
of the cup clinging to the circumference of the solid punch, a cleverly
contrived split and collapsible punch was introduced, that is to say
a punch which, on being pressed downwards, was expanded by a taper
wedge to the full diameter required, and which, on being withdrawn,
collapsed or shrank inwardly in proportion as the taper wedge preceded
and automatically withdrew the expanded and circular sides, the latter
disengaging simultaneously from the walls of the cup.

Transferred to the fitting shop, a band or disc 8-inch diameter
was turned and cut off from the cup, the latter returning to the
press, where through the medium of similar punches of requisite and
correspondingly smaller diameters further operations resulted in the
evolution of cups from which were turned 6-inch and 4·5-inch bands
respectively and in sequence.

The proportionate number of bands cut from the three sizes of cups
were, as a general rule, three from the smallest or 4·5-inch, eight
from the intermediate or 6-inch, and one only from the largest or
8-inch, and it was in some measure due to these circumstances, due, no
doubt, too, to a certain difficulty in obtaining delivery of copper
sheets in sufficient quantities, that for the purpose of increasing the
output of 8-inch bands and of maintaining this output on a level with
that of the two smaller sizes, recourse was had to the brass foundry,
where it was considered practicable to cast the bands, especially in
view of the amount of copper scrap of both shearings and turnings that
was available for melting-down purposes.

A certain amount of preliminary experimental work was perforce
entailed, both for ensuring that the band, when cast, should exhibit
an estimated degree of shrinkage (for the greater the shrinkage the
sounder the casting, a shrinkage of 1/4 inch being usually accepted
as a minimum), and that the metal should be capable of withstanding
certain specified Government tests, the one condition, of course,
being contingent on the other. Tests which were actually made proved
wholly satisfactory, the average results being an elastic limit of 7·5
tons per square inch, an elongation of 45 per cent. on two inches, and
finally a breaking stress of 14·5 tons.

De-oxidisation, that is to say the process of removing oxygen from
the metal for the purpose of obtaining castings that were sound, free
of blow-holes and of oxide of copper, was effected by mixing a small
percentage of phosphor-copper with the molten copper in the crucible.

Boron-copper was also tried as a de-oxidiser, but no real advantage
was noticeable. Comparative tests, too, were made for the purpose of
ascertaining the percentage of loss of copper when melted in crucibles
and again in a reverberatory furnace. The former process resulted
in a loss not exceeding 3/4 or 75 per cent.; whereas the latter was
responsible for a 7 per cent. loss. Any saving which came within the
meaning of the word "economy" as completely removed and distinct from
that of "parsimony" was a precept not merely preached but extensively
practised throughout the locomotive department at Crewe, and as an
illustrative instance of this praiseworthy, and therefore patriotic,
policy the casting of copper bands may be cited.

Although cheaper and possibly less reliable methods of producing copper
bands may have conceivably come into being during the final stages of
the war, it was obvious to even the least well-informed in such matters
that, provided a mixture could be obtained whereby the metal could be
relied upon to pass the Government tests, the process of pouring molten
copper from a crucible into a sand-cored cast-iron chill was likely to
be at any rate cheaper than that involving the employment of presses,
rolls, shears, and punches.

On comparing the estimated cost of manufacturing copper bands by the
pressing and casting processes respectively, a difference of one
shilling per finished band was shown in favour of the latter system;
and although it may seem a mere bagatelle, a drop in the ocean of
squandered millions, to those who not merely are encouraged, but who
encourage others, in the art of reckless and profligate extravagance
when handling the public purse, this modest shilling per copper band
saved represented an aggregate of £1750, a sum not altogether to be
sneezed at when we consider that the value of the 35,000 bands cast in
Crewe Works was but an infinitesimal fraction of the total munition
expenditure during the war.

We are told that "the use of travelling is to regulate imagination by
reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as
they are." Hence it has been, we may confidently aver, for the purpose
of seeing things as they are that we have availed ourselves of this
opportunity to fathom in some measure for ourselves the abstruse art of
shell-manufacture as practised in Crewe Works. The imagination, however
morbid and obtuse, can hardly fail to be stirred when pondering the
rotund and rudimentary profile of the rough shell-forging lying with
all its latent possibilities, recumbent in the lathe; ultimately in
its finished form _c'est cela_,[6] the shell we meditate, _qui va nous
débarrasser des Prussiens_; thanks now to that generous impulse which
prompts our gallant gunner-men, good fellows all, possessed of "mildest
manners with the bravest mind," to unravel for us the all-absorbing
mysteries of that sphere of "war's glorious art" in which they
themselves excel, reality will regulate our questioning imagination
as we follow them to the dim seclusion of some cleverly camouflaged

[6] _C'est celui-la_, etc., said of the Tsar, Nicholas II., when
visiting Paris in 1896.

We have already seen that the motion of a shell is rotary as well
as forward, this rotary motion being brought about by the joint
instrumentality of the grooving of the bore of the gun and of the
copper band on the shell.

Another and very important function performed by the copper band
approximates to that of the piston-ring of a locomotive cylinder, which
prevents the passage of steam from one side of the piston to the other.
Concomitantly, the copper band, turned a fit in the bore of the gun
and jammed into the rifling, is designed to obstruct the passage of
the propellent gases beyond the base-end of the shell; these gases are
naturally imbued with a habit or hobby of gnawing away, or eroding,
any metal surfaces with which they can come into contact, so that the
further they can penetrate up the bore of the gun, the more material
damage that will ensue, and the rifling becomes proportionately erased
or eaten away. Further, owing to the fact that the degree of heat
generated by the ignition of the propellent charge is obviously most
intense in the area most adjacent to the base of the shell, erosion
becomes patently more pronounced here than in other directions;
consequently as the area in which the propellant gases are exploded
increases, so the pressure exerted by these gases decreases, the net
results of these considerations being loss of accuracy and of velocity.

Different civilised communities favour different kinds of explosives
as a gentle means of attaining their ambitions, and these explosives
may be solids, liquids, or gases. In this country picric acid (or,
tri-nitro-phenol), and tri-nitro-toluene (or in its abbreviated
and more easily pronounced form "T.N.T.") are the two kinds most
extensively adopted for the filling of high-explosive shells. Owing,
however, to certain unexplained caprices in which it is known to
indulge, owing, too, to the fact that persons employed on its
manipulation have died from the effects of trotyl poisoning, T.N.T.
is less extensively employed, in spite of certain known and obvious
advantages which it possesses over picric acid.

Picric acid solidifies after being run in a molten condition into the
shell, and every precaution has to be taken in order to prevent, during
solidification, the formation of cavities, because the least tendency
to friction that might occur due to the "setting back" of this hard
explosive mass resultant on the sudden forward movement of the shell
might easily give rise to a "premature." Herein we recognise the vital
importance of wholly harmonious internal blending, absence of which
might prove a further source of friction entailing imminent peril
to ourselves as we stand beside the gun. Again, picric acid is ever
seeking opportunities for combining with metal, whereby compounds of
a nature most sensitive, and styled "picrates," are created, and of
which the most sensitive is the lead-picrate. Hence we breathe a silent
prayer that not only has the shell's inside been sprayed in the most
efficacious and thorough manner possible, but that the composition of
the varnish itself is entirely lead free.

Our wives, our families, our friends, we fain would turn to them as of
a sudden a fresh suggestion, fraught with peril dire, creeps from out
some hidden corner of our timorous mind.

On the firing of the propellent charge, the expanding gases, we are
told, cause expansion of the gun, thereby simultaneously allowing
proportionate expansion of the shell. We know already that erosion
is most pronounced round the area within which the propellent charge
is fired, that is to say, just at the commencement of the rifling of
the bore; hence we see that in all probability the bore decreases
gradually, even if imperceptibly, in the direction of the muzzle.
We have, however, had experience of these varying and imperceptible
degrees of graduation at Crewe, measuring them with our plus and minus
gauges. What, therefore, if the shell, expanded in the commencement of
the rifling, jams, or is momentarily checked, in its passage up the
bore? A "premature"; for the pellet in the fuse is probably already
free to jump forward against the detonating needle. These nightmare
prematures! Thank goodness, after all, in one direction, at least,
assurance has been rendered doubly sure; we used to wonder why all this
fuss and trouble about a base-plate? Now we understand. Imperceptible
must be our attribute again; metals are porous, imperceptibly so. Now
imagine a sieve trellised with wires finely drawn as the threads of a
spider's web, threads so closely woven and interlaced that only the
most minute "teeny weeny" holes remain, a sieve in fact which though
porous is not even transparent. Figuratively speaking this is the base
of a shell-forging; a porous partition, the sole dividing line between
the ignited propellent gases behind, and the high explosive bursting
charge within the shell; in other words, between ourselves and "kingdom
come"; hence our supplementary or protecting plate, the grains of whose
metal run crosswise to those of the shell-forging base. By this method
of reinforcing the shell-base, the odds in favour of a "premature" due
to the penetration of the propellent gases to the explosive charge are
reduced to a further irreducible minimum.

The gun is, of course, designed to withstand the pressure within the
breech and behind the shell, exerted by the firing of the propellent
gases; this pressure naturally varies according to the size of the gun,
and decreases proportionately as the shell shoots forward towards the
muzzle with rapidly increasing velocity.

When, however, we come to consider the pressure exerted by the
detonation of the high-explosive charge within the shell itself, and
the velocity acquired by the resultant explosive gases, we are apt to
fidget about a trifle uneasily in spite of our efforts to remain at
least outwardly cool and nonchalant.

All the same, a matter of 300 tons per square inch, which is the
pressure liable to be exerted by the detonation of an average charge
contained within the high-explosive shell, can only be explained as
"splitting"; and when our genial gunner-friends further assure us
that 7000 metres or 21,000 feet per second is the velocity resulting
from the detonation of "Trotyl," "staggering" is perhaps the most
fitting epithet, and an American "Gee whiz" the only coherent sign of
comprehension of which we are capable at the moment. For supposing a
"premature" did chance to occur; well...! Mercifully enough perhaps
for them and for their peace of mind, these intrepid individuals the
gunners have little or no time, as a rule, to reflect upon the naked
meaning of these figures and their attendant possibilities; for as
Kipling has sung--

  "The moril of this story, it is plainly to be seen,
  You 'avn't got no families when serving of the Queen--
  You 'avn't got no brothers, fathers, sisters, wives or sons--
  If you want to win your battles take an' work your bloomin' guns."

The success emanating from the working of our "bloomin' guns" has been,
it may be fairly argued, in no small measure due to the excellent
qualities of the high-explosive shell, and some interesting figures in
this respect may be usefully quoted from the _Daily Mail_ of May 16th,

"Remarkable comparative tests," runs the briefly worded paragraph in
question, "have been carried out by British gunnery experts with the
high-explosive shells used by both sides in the war. The shells from
captured and Allied dumps were fired from the guns for which they
were made at specially prepared targets. The official record of 'duds'
(shells which failed to explode) was--

  United States      50 per cent.
  German (1918)      38  "   "
  French             32  "   "
  Italian            25  "   "
  Austrian           25  "   "
  British             8  "   "   "

The remarkable results obtained from the British standpoint as compared
with that of other and competing nationalities confirm once again the
service rendered by our modest little friend the shell "gauge"; and
without in any way disparaging the imperturbable _sang froid_ of our
gunners, or the indomitable courage and the unquenchable _flair_ of our
splendid infantry, it is no exaggeration to say that the superlative
degree in the art of shell manufacture attained by British exponents
has been largely instrumental in enabling us to fulfil the pledge that
"however long the war might be, however great the strain upon our
resources, this country intended to stand by her gallant Ally, France,
until she redeemed her oppressed children from the degradation of a
foreign yoke" (Mr. Lloyd George, October, 1917).



  "We often discover what will do by finding out what will not
  do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a

A year or two prior to the war, the present writer remembers one
occasion, in particular, on which he was discussing with a friend,
possessing considerable knowledge and experience, the well-worn subject
relating to the merits and demerits of the various leading "makes"
of motor-cars. To a direct question as to what particular "make" he
considered as being _the_ best _par excellence_ came the somewhat
startling reply, "The Rolls-Royce and the Ford." Whether at the
period referred to, and with expense no object, the average intending
purchaser would have "dumped" for a Ford with the same enthusiasm as
for a Rolls-Royce must remain an open question; suffice it to say that,
comparisons remaining, as they always have been, distinctly odious,
the two examples of automobile science just mentioned have, during the
Great War, each in their respective spheres, performed prodigies of
prowess, the Rolls-Royce more particularly in the matter of important
Staff work, as well as in armoured car activity, the Ford in a variety
of rôles, embracing the functions of anything from a compact and speedy
little motor-ambulance to a water-carrier in the wilderness.

One _rôle_ allotted to the Ford, however, although of necessity
accorded little or no prominence in the public Press at the time,
proved far-reaching in its effects in regard to practical utility from
the strictly military point of view.

Without in any way paralysing its _fons et origo_ as a road vehicle,
but embodying all the potentialities of a light-railway engine, there
was evolved from a simple Ford chassis an entirely novel and mechanical
species of animal, which one might almost say combined the respective
physiologies of the proverbial hare and tortoise, and which in due
course was christened the "Crewe Tractor."

The brain-wave to which this cunning little contrivance owes its
existence is directly attributable to the inventive genius of one of
Mr. Bowen-Cooke's talented daughters, and the incidence of the project
almost whispers of romance, in that a chance encounter, a _rendezvous_
continental and cosmopolitan, a cup of coffee, and an exchange of
confidences, duly culminated in a conception which had as its outcome
a very perceptible reduction in casualties, the percentage of which,
at least in one particular respect, had tended to reach a figure
lamentably high.

On the occasion in question, towards the end of 1916, having as her
_vis-à-vis_ a British officer (on leave in Paris at the time), Miss
Cooke was digesting a dissertation on the inherent difficulties,
dangers and fatigues to which men were incessantly subjected when
relieving one another in the trenches; by day, an open and exposed
target to alert enemy marksmanship; by night a prey to pitfalls,
victims to unnumbered and water-logged shell-craters, in which,
encumbered with personal impedimenta, they were often engulfed, never
to appear again.

Obviously the easiest solution would be a means of transit, a tiny
metal track, ubiquitous, traceable under cover of darkness across the
trackless waste, with diminutive rolling-stock available at any point.
But how to achieve this end? No one could deny but that the need was
both immediate and pressing.

Seemingly happy inspirations, as all the world knows, succeed more
often than not in theory rather than in practice, and for this reason
all credit is due to Miss Cooke in that the happy notion of utilising
a Ford car, pure and simple, and of converting it into a light railway
tractor materialised in as short a space of time as is humanly possible
to convert thought into being, to fashion fact from fancy.

Moreover, the advantages accruing from the idea were not limited to
this one extent only, for quick to perceive the essential, Miss Cooke
further devised a scheme whereby the vehicle, remaining entirely
self-contained, was both convertible and re-convertible; that is to
say, like the hare it could speed along the high-road to any given
point or locality, where quickly transformed it would, like the
tortoise, commence its slower and uneven progress on a diminutive line
of rails, laid haphazard across some devastated area, unballasted,
lop-sided, up and down, this way and that way. _Per contra_, its
immediate task accomplished, and in proportion as the exigencies of
modern strategy demanded further changes of _venue_, off would come the
little tractor from its erst-while _voie-ferrée_, and shodding itself
anew with road wheels and rubber tyres, away along the high-road once
again to its ensuing sphere of tortuous rail-activity.


SERVICE. [_To face p. 130._]

At first sight the casual observer might reasonably have been excused
for puzzling his brain as to the exact nature of the contrivance,
curious if compact, and neatly secured on the familiar Ford chassis.
But on closer inspection, the salient features would resolve themselves
into a fairly obvious entity; nor should a due meed of praise be
withheld from the draughtsmen and engineers responsible for the
successful evolution of the tractors on a sound and practical basis.

At the outset, considerations such as height of centre of gravity
contingent upon the loads likely to be carried over an uneven, narrow
and diminutive track measuring but 1 foot 11-5/8 inches wide, length of
wheel-base and corresponding ability to safely negotiate sharp curves,
available tractive effort depending upon a coefficient of sliding
friction between tyre and rail, all these appeared as obstacles not
altogether easily surmountable.

Official cynicism, too, coupled with an amount of adverse criticism,
had, perhaps not unnaturally, to be faced and met. How for instance
could a "flimsy" Ford chassis be expected to withstand loads and
stresses for which evidently it had never been designed? Unlike that
Government, however, which "foresaw nothing and only discovered
difficulties when brought to a standstill by them," Mr. Cooke, with a
quiet assurance bred of innate knowledge and experience, could well
afford to go ahead "on his own"; official disdain should wait and
see. Probably but few were aware for example that, whereas in regular
locomotive practice a tensile strength of twenty-eight tons per square
inch is considered ample margin for special axle steel, the "flimsy"
Ford is built up of Vanadium steel, having a tensile or breaking
strength of no less than seventy-five tons per square inch!

The somewhat undue height of a Ford chassis for light railway purposes
was a preliminary problem to be tackled, and it was decided to
substitute the driving road wheels with sprockets and perforated steel
rail-wheels, drop-forged with flanges. The question of a suitably short
wheel-base was quickly determined by the introduction of a pressed
channel steel underframe of 5/32 inch plate on which the Ford chassis
was secured; the leading and driving rail-wheels and axles being so
arranged that a rail wheel-base of 4 feet 5 inches was obtained, as
against the 8 feet 4 inches wheel-base of the road-chassis.

Radius rods ensured a nice adjustment of the driving chains, and as
a measure of precaution against any possible failure of the Ford
back-axle supplementary band brakes of generous dimensions were fitted
to the driving rail axles, these being additional to the standard
Ford brakes. A "skefko" type of ball-bearing fitted to the original
tractors, had perforce to be superseded by brass floating bushes
owing to ever-increasing demands in connection with the manufacture
of aeroplanes. These bushes were merely a temporary rather than a
permanent substitute, for very speedily there was introduced an
approved type of roller bearing, which, thanks once again to the
ever-ready adaptability of the fair sex element in Crewe Works, was
duly forthcoming in all-sufficient quantities, and of a quality leaving
nothing to be desired.

Numerous experiments were carried out with a view to determining a
rail-wheel diameter calculated to give the most satisfactory results.
It was assumed that the average Ford car attained a maximum degree of
efficiency when running at a speed of 25 m.p.h. with the engine turning
over at 1500 r.p.m. With a diameter of 2 feet 6 inches at the tread of
the tyres, the road wheels and back axle would be revolving at the rate
of 280 r.p.m. A further calculation went to show that with sprockets
having a gear ratio of 30 to 40, and with the rail-wheels having a
diameter of 18 inches, the latter would revolve at the rate of 210
r.p.m. as against the 280 r.p.m. of the Ford back axle, this resulting
in the tractor averaging a speed of 987 feet per minute, or 11 to 12
m.p.h. which was considered adequate and suitable for the varying
conditions to which it was likely to be subjected.

In addition to ensuring a systematic means of transport for men
proceeding to and from the trenches, the Crewe tractor was further
requisitioned for taking supplies of ammunition to artillery
emplacements in the forward areas. Suitable trolleys were attached,
and the little tractor, prior to going into commission, was required
to prove itself capable of hauling a dead-weight minimum load of 5
tons, not only on the level, but on an upward gradient of 1 in 20,
halfway up which gradient it was further required to stop and re-start,
there being in Crewe Works a track specially laid for the purpose
of subjecting every tractor to this crucial test. It was found, by
experiment, that by doubling the diameter of the trolley wheels, from
7 inches to 14 inches in diameter, double the load could be hauled.
"Slipping," an inherent difficulty due to greasy rails, had to be
reckoned with, and was in no small measure counteracted by the addition
of a central driving chain, coupling rear and front axles through the
medium of sprockets. The frictional resistance (_i.e._ the force at the
rails when the wheels are on the point of slipping) was found to be 448
lbs. with a load of 1 ton on the carriage of the tractor, this being
sufficient to enable the tractors to pass the required test. The Ford
transverse rear spring was supplemented by two helical springs placed
vertically between the Ford and tractor frames.

To obviate the necessity of turning at the various termini of the
track, and to enable the tractor to always proceed in forward gear,
an ingenious method was devised, whereby, with the aid of a screw and
ratchet, working on a transverse beam and socket laid across the rails,
the tractor was raised bodily clear of the rails, and swung round,
ready to proceed in the opposite direction.

Fitted with a high gear, several tractors were specially adapted for
inspection purposes; in short, the extent of the ubiquitous utility,
and of the universal popularity of these remarkable little machines,
may be gauged by the fact that their appearance was welcomed on fronts
as divergent as were those of France, Macedonia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.



  "A world where nothing is had for nothing."

In the summer of 1917, at the urgent request of the Railway Executive
Committee, Mr. Cooke, in conjunction with Sir Francis Dent and Mr. A.
J. Hill, chief mechanical engineer G.E.R., undertook, personally, a
"mission" to the Government of the U.S. of America, as representing
the unprecedented straits to which the leading railway companies of
Great Britain had become reduced, and for the purpose of enlisting the
practical sympathy of the great republic of the Western hemisphere, at
that time but recently united to the allied cause.

Doubts were indeed entertained originally as to whether America
could in fact supply material to England in view of her own entry
into the arena of European conflict, and so in view of her own
requirements; consequently, as will be seen from the following briefly
stated remarks, the outcome of the "mission" proved to be eminently
satisfactory, and this in no small measure due to the friendly
intervention of the U.S. Advisory Committee, acting throughout,
primarily, in the interests of the British as opposed to those of
individual American railway companies.

A few cogent reasons may plausibly be advanced to account for the
_impasse_ to which the British railways had been brought.

One cannot fail, for instance, to recall the stigma which, in the
pre-war and piping times of peace, invariably attached to the despised
1s. a day man of the British fighting forces; but although, as in
Kipling's immortal stanza, it was--

  "Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an'
    Chuck him out, the brute,"

all this sort of antiquated "flap-doodle" very shortly underwent a
complete "right-about-turn," when the great ordeal came to be faced,
and very speedily it became a case of--

  "Please to step in front, Sir,
    When the guns began to shoot."

Consequently it is eminently satisfactory to remember that within
the first 365 days of the outbreak of hostilities, British railways
had contributed more men to the fighting forces of the Empire than
either French or German railways had done in their respective spheres.
Further, prior to the introduction of universal compulsory service in
Great Britain, employés of the L. & N. W. R. locomotive department
had voluntarily enrolled to the number of 4,002; Crewe Works being
responsible for 1,142 names on the Roll of Honour.[7] Depletion of
staff, plus a steadily increasing volume of traffic, could only spell
"maintenance un-maintained." In addition, it was found necessary to
adapt rolling stock for use overseas, and prior to the inauguration of
the Ministry of Munitions British locomotive works and plant had been
depended upon very largely for supplementing the undeniable shortage
of munitions of war, which may literally be described as "legion" in
quantity as well as in variety.

[7] The total number of employés in all departments of the L. & N.W.R.
who joined the colours during the war was 37,742, or 34 per cent. of
the entire staff. Of these, three won the V.C., and numerous others
were awarded various British and foreign decorations.

Worse was to follow, for upon the tardy inauguration of munition
factories throughout the country, the long-suffering railway companies
of the United Kingdom not only found their own supplies of material
very considerably curtailed, but they were called upon to perform
the seemingly impossible, viz. that of maintaining a regular and
ever-increasing supply of munitions in addition to contributing a novel
"expeditionary force" in the shape of locomotives and tenders, wagons,
and complete up-to-date workshop machinery for overseas service.

In response to the call "Hullo! America," castings, forgings, steel,
and copper plates, tubes, blooms, billets, springs, etc., were
spontaneously forthcoming, in all a grand total of some 15,000 tons
(tyres alone accounting for 2,848 tons), involving an approximate
expenditure of 3,847,042 dollars, or £800,000.

It was admitted that the prices ruling the contracts for this material
were abnormally high, but at the same time it was conceded that the
national urgency of British claims far outweighed in the then existing
circumstances those of American railway companies, who, it should be
added in fairness, would have found themselves "up against" identical
prices, had they been purchasing the same material themselves.

Finally, it only remains to be noted that no sooner had the financial
details of this truly vast transaction been determined (a transaction
that may frankly be said to have saved the situation in so far as
British railways were concerned in contributing towards the winning of
the war), than Mr. Cooke promptly evolved and set in motion a system
of delivery at Liverpool, or any other port of discharge, whereby
consignments of material on arrival were distributed carriage free by
the various railway companies to their respective works.

The subsequent success of this intricate scheme of distribution may
fairly be attributed to the unfailing measure of tact and resource
available in the person of Mrs. Harris, M.B.E., (_née_ Miss Faith
Bowen-Cooke), a lady on whom devolved the exceptional and delicate task
of receiving and allotting these 15,000 tons of railway equipment, and
who previously, as secretary to the "mission," as much by her business
acumen and practical ability as by her own personal charm, won a sure
place for herself in the admiration and esteem of many of the leading
personalities in the railway world of the United States of America.



  "Who made the law that men should die in meadows,
  Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes,
  Who gave it forth that gardens should be boneyards,
  Who spread the hills with flesh and blood and brains?
  Who made the law?"

Seldom, perhaps, does a plain question receive so plain an answer as
that coming direct from so qualified an authority as Prince Lichnowsky,
former German Ambassador to the Court of St. James, who, in the course
of his confessions, which he entitles "My Mission to London," says,
simply and quite candidly, "We insisted on war." Herr Harden, too,
writing in _Die Zukunft_ in November, 1914, even if a trifle more
impetuous, more brutal, is none the less frankly outspoken: "Let
us drop," he protests, "our miserable attempts to excuse Germany's
action.... Not against our will, nor as a nation taken by surprise, did
we hurl ourselves into this gigantic venture. We willed it ... it is
Germany that strikes."

And having fixed the blame, the moral responsibility, equally
plain-sailing is it to establish the blood-stained guilt; evidence of
it fairly "stinks" no matter where one turns to look; from emperor to
general, from statesman to author, exudes the _credo_ of Teuton Kultur;
no more lurid interpretation of which can perhaps be found than in
the words of Herr Hartmann, a native of Berlin, who, after serving as
an artillery officer, turned his attention to matters literary, being
_inter alia_ a believer in evolutionary progress. "The enemy country,"
he insists, "should not be spared the devastation, the profound
misery engendered by war. The burden should be and remain crushing.
Immediately war is declared, terrorism becomes a primary essential
absolutely imperative from the military standpoint."

There is, however, all the difference in the world between the
transitive and intransitive senses of a verb, and if we take the verb
to "terrorise" as an apposite example, the transition from the former
sense to the latter, _i.e._ from terrorising to being terrorised, is
apt to be very noticeable, indeed unpleasant. Granted that British and
Boche ideas on the particular subject in no way harmonise, the British
method ultimately of diffusing an unlimited supply of high explosive
over the Boche lines nevertheless had the desired effect of "putting
the fear of God" into the right individuals, at the right time, and
in the right place. One employs the prefix "ultimately" of necessity,
for obviously the diffusion of metal prior to the latter phases of the
war was, except upon certain occasions which were few and far between,
anything but unlimited; it was, in fact, at one particular period of
the war of so limited a nature as to infuse into the mind of the late
Lord Kitchener a fear of stalemate on the Western Front, sufficient
to impel his acquiescence in that diversion, so ardently advocated by
"amateur strategists" but destined to prove nothing but a prodigious
and costly failure, to wit the Dardanelles expedition.

Thanks, however, to the staying powers of the workers, to the
inflexible will to win by which they were animated throughout, the
crushing superiority, early attributable to the enemy, gradually became
less and less apparent; in fact, after hanging for a time evenly in the
balance, the scales indeed tipped the other way, eventually dipping to
such an extent in Entente favour as to become a source, at first of no
little astonishment, then of concern, to the German "Imperial Staff
of Supermen." General Ludendorff in his memoirs ["My War Memories,"
1914-1918, Vols. I. & II., Hutchinson & Co. 39s.] makes no attempt to
conceal his surprise, if not indeed his dismay, at the awkward trend
of events. "Whereas we had hitherto been able to conduct our great war
of defence" (_sic_), so he writes (cp. page 240, Vol. I.), "by that
best means of waging war--the offensive--we were now (by the autumn
of 1916) reduced to a policy of pure defence.... The equipment of
the Entente armies with war material had been carried out on a scale
hitherto unknown"; the boot was plainly on the other leg, for (cp. page
242, Vol. I.) "the Battle of the Somme showed us every day how great
was the advantage of the enemy in this respect." Evidently the one
and only Ludendorff no longer had any doubt in his own mind as to the
"writing on the wall," its lettering was clear, its meaning ominous
and unmistakable; from the German point of view things were going from
bad to worse; "At the beginning of June (1917)," he continues (cp.
pages 428, 429, Vol. II.), "the straightening of this (the Wytschaete)
salient really ushered in the great Flanders battle.... The heights of
Wytschaete and Messines had been the site of active mine warfare," and
ultimately, "The moral effect of the explosions was simply staggering."
Again in August of the same year (cp. page 480, Vol. II.), "In spite
of all the concrete protection, they (the Germans) seemed more or
less powerless under the enormous weight of the enemy's artillery,"
and "With the opening of the fifth act of the great drama in Flanders
on the 22nd October (cp. page 491, Vol. II.) enormous masses of
ammunition, such as the human mind had never imagined before the war,
were hurled upon the bodies of men who passed a miserable existence
scattered about in mud-filled shell-holes. The horror of the shell-hole
area of Verdun was surpassed. It was no longer life at all. It was mere
unspeakable suffering. And through this world of mud the attackers
dragged themselves, slowly, but steadily, and in dense masses.... Rifle
and machine-gun jammed with mud. Man fought against man, and only too
often the mass was successful." The long and the short of it, in a
word, amounted just to this, the Hun had "insisted on war," and now he
was "getting it in the neck."

Napoleon is credited with the opinion that "Good infantry is beyond
question the soul of an army, but"--and no doubt it is a big "but,"
as will be seen from the way in which he goes on to qualify his
opinion--"but if it has to fight any considerable time against a very
superior artillery, it becomes demoralised and is destroyed." In
order to determine how completely has been justified this view in the
light of modern warfare, one has but to turn again for the space of
a brief instant to the memoirs of Ludendorff--Ludendorff who "lived
only for the war," whose life had been one of work for his "Country,
the Emperor, and the Army,"--the note of bitter chagrin cannot be
mistaken. "Against the weight of the enemy's material" (cp. page 542,
Vol. II.) "the troops no longer displayed their old stubbornness of
defence; they thought with horror of fresh defensive battles."

Such in effect, then, was the net result obtained by an intense
application by the Entente Armies of "a very superior artillery,"
rendered possible by the untiring efforts of the workers, by the plant
at their disposal, and by the brains which created and controlled.
There can be no parallel in the whole history of international warfare
to compare even approximately with the abnormally severe conditions
imposed upon pieces of artillery during the present-day conflict,
conditions which perforce had a considerable bearing not only on the
design of integral parts, but also on the nature of the material
employed in the manufacture of those parts.

One of the most remarkable features in this latter respect was the
frequent necessity to substitute a steel forging where a casting
had previously been considered "the last word," and if we take as a
convenient and typical example so ordinary and obvious a part as is
the trunnion bracket of a howitzer gun, this will afford a very good
idea of the difficulties which present themselves when in compliance
with Government specifications recourse must needs be had to the
hammer as opposed to the mould, difficulties, in fact, which could
only be overcome by the employment of what is commonly known as the

If proof positive were ever needed in support of the argument that
bread may be found again which has been cast upon the waters, not
merely many days previously, but weeks, months, and years, the
money sunk by the London and North-Western Railway Company in their
drop-hammer plant at Crewe affords the proof; for, thanks to the
existence of this plant, thanks too to the invaluable experience gained
during the years following upon its installation, not only were the
staff engaged in operating the hammers able, figuratively speaking
to forge right ahead, literally speaking to commence drop-forging,
directly they were required to do so, those sorely needed "sinews
of war" which a pre-war generation of feeble-gutted politicians had
neglected to provide against the evil day of reckoning, but Mr. Cooke
found himself in the unique position of being able to undertake
forgings which were admittedly altogether beyond the scope of firms
whose speciality was none other than that of drop-forging, and of which
the Directors of Army Ordnance were well-nigh at their wits' end to
secure an adequate, if indeed any, supply at all.


[_To face p. 145._]

Significant, and sufficiently expressive of appreciation, if not of
actual open-mouthed astonishment, is the following letter received by
Mr. Cooke from a well-known Government Department: "I have to thank you
and your staff on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions for the excellent
work you have done in producing stampings of trunnion brackets. The
part in question has hitherto been considered almost impossible to
produce as a stamping, and the work you have now produced will add
materially to the efficiency of this important equipment. I should be
glad if this letter could be brought to the notice of your subordinate
staff who carried out the work." From the same source, but at a
later date, came this further little note of esteem: "Your previous
production of the trunnion bracket has been the means of great saving
to the State, and it is with great satisfaction that I am able to again
congratulate your operating staff on a renewed success in your stamping

For the benefit of those uninitiated in the fascinating art of
drop-stamping or forging, it may not be considered superfluous if a
brief explanation is given of the principles embodied in the system,
and for this purpose one cannot do better than read and inwardly digest
the opinion which has been advanced by Mr. Brett, founder of the Brett
Patent Lifter Company of Coventry and inventor and patentee of the
hammer in question.[8] "Having in mind," he says, "that the plastic or
forgeable condition of wrought-iron or steel, when obtained, cannot be
retained beyond limited periods, especially in the case of articles
having thin or light parts, when its duration is very brief," it rests
with the engineer "to provide for the forger a suitable form of power
for actuating the dies or tools by means of which properly-formed
forgings may be obtained." Further, "this power must be capable
of instantaneous application," similar in all essentials to that
produced by the smith "with hand hammer or sledge; that is to say, a
perfectly elastic blow of sufficient force to produce an immediate and
substantial effect upon the material."

[8] [Extract from Paper read by Mr. Brett before the Engineering
Conference of the Institution of Civil Engineers, June, 1899, and
published in _Engineering_, June 30th, 1899.]

The secret of providing this particular form of power lies obviously in
the Brett drop-hammer, and in it alone, and the method evolved consists
in the raising of the hammer-head or "tup" between a pair of parallel
and vertical guides to a certain height by pressure of steam exerted
within an overhead cylinder; no sooner is this pressure shut off than
the "tup" automatically descends by force of gravity, delivering
the hammer-blow simply with the weight of its falling mass, and
rebounding, is lifted once again by re-admission of the steam into the
cylinder, preparatory to the next descent and the delivery of a further
succession of blows. It is largely thanks to a flexible cord and strap
connection between the "tup" and the piston and piston-arm working in
the overhead cylinder that the blow delivered is not only "smashing"
in effect, but altogether resilient, in direct contrast to that of a
steam-hammer, the blow of which is more in the nature of a dull thud or
a rigid push.

It is obvious, as Mr. Brett goes on to point out, that "the vibrations
from blows of sufficient power and elasticity (or sharpness) to cause
metal at a moderate heat to flow completely into the impressions of
the dies," _i.e._ the blocks in which are cut the impression of the
required forging, "and to make clean work, are calculated to destroy
any rigidly built machine." Hence the fact, which a cursory glance at
the hammers cannot fail to establish, that nothing has been overlooked
or omitted in regard to detail in design, "not any of the parts
affected by the work are bolted together or in any wise rigidly fixed;
the guides are held and the dies set in position by flexible means,
_i.e._ the lower end of each guide fits into a recess into the base
block, the top end passes up into a socket having sufficient clearance
for wood packing, the wood is intended to absorb the vibrations which
pass up the guide-rod."

The plant at Crewe as originally installed in 1899, by the late Mr.
F. W. Webb, of "compound" fame, consisted merely of one "battery"
of hammers, comprising two 7-cwt. stamping hammers, and one 5-cwt.
"dummying" or roughing-out hammer, and although the production of small
stampings for signal apparatus etc., was all that was attempted in
those early days, little by little the variety of work became extended,
embracing, ere long, locomotive parts of small dimensions such as
brake-rod ends, joints, levers, handles, etc., with the result that
as time went on and as ever-increasing experience with confidence
proportionate accrued to the staff employed, jobs of still greater
variety were successfully tackled.

[Illustration: THE 4-TON DROP HAMMER. [_To face p. 148._]

There are at the present time no fewer than eight "batteries" of
hammers "in action" at Crewe, the actual number of hammers being
twenty-two, and some idea of the extent of the progress made may be
gauged by the fact that the yearly tonnage output of stampings rose
from 400 tons in 1902 to 1450 tons in 1917, a time when the plant
was largely devoted to the manufacture of a regular "pot-pourri" of
essential munitions of war.

It was primarily due to the urgent demands of the Ministry of Munitions
for a supply of trunnion brackets, which, cast in steel, were proving
defective, and which had "been considered almost impossible to produce
as stampings," that Mr. Cooke determined on the course of laying down
an additional hammer, having a "tup" weighing no less than four solid

Complete with gas-producers, stationary boiler, gas reheating furnaces
and cranes, the estimated cost of installation was £15,100. The hammer
foundations necessitated a cavity being dug to a depth of 18 feet,
which was filled in with 321 tons of granite and cement, and upon which
repose the base blocks, cast in steel and weighing a further 58 tons.
This veritable monster commenced operations during the critical days of
the early spring of 1918, and no sooner had the seemingly impossible
been shown to be possible and the successful production of trunnion
brackets had become "the means of great saving to the State," than
there followed in quick succession orders for other and indispensable
gun-mountings, such as front stiffening bands, upper sight brackets,
trunnion-seatings, etc., etc.

"Peace," as we know, "hath her victories no less renowned than war,"
and no sooner was the mantle of munition manufacture laid aside than
efforts were once again concentrated on the production of locomotive
parts, the whole of the Walschaerte valve gear appertaining to Mr.
Cooke's latest express passenger engines, the well-known "Claughton"
class, being now produced under the 4-ton drop-hammer.

Standing in the immediate vicinity of the hammers ranged in convenient
positions in regard to gas furnaces, "dummying" hammers, and "finning"
or "trimming" presses, the average and intelligent visitor never
fails to be impressed as he witnesses the operations in process, and
notes the lightning rapidity with which, as if by the magic of a
magician's wand, a bar or billet of gleaming, glistening whiteness
is battered and transformed into some previously determined shape,
curiously contorted, maybe, with corners, elbows, and recesses, ere
the dazzling brilliance dims and fades, paling imperceptibly to lemon
tint and orange hue, till finally the blood-red flush of angry sunset
supervenes, and nothing remains but that the finished stamping should
be trimmed and laid aside, gradually to resume the slate-grey cool of

How natural it all seems, how almost childish in simplicity! And yet
on second thoughts, how come these various shapes and forms, these
corners, elbows, and recesses, these well-nigh perfect surfaces,
pure and clean, free from blow-holes, dirt and scale? True, we know
the crashing and resilient hammer blow is there, and then a little
closer acquaintance with, or examination of, the hammer is all that is
necessary, for this will reveal the fact that it is the effect of the
blow on a pair of "dies," one of which is held rigidly in the "tup,"
the other on the base-block, that causes the metal at a moderate heat
to "flow" completely into the impressions which are in the dies, and
which ensure the fashioning of the article required.

To cut an impression in a pair of "dies," to put the "dies" in the
hammer, and to obtain a forging, sounds the simplest thing in the
world. Yet in actual practice, so many are the problems which present
themselves, so diverse are the obstacles to be overcome, that a volume
might be written on the craft of the die-designer, whose efforts
result in work of so great beauty, and whose "dies" must be capable
of withstanding the punishment, and of enduring the wear, which the
crashing blows of the "tup" inflict and are ever striving to induce.

What is the most suitable metal to employ in the manufacture of
the dies? and having found that metal, what is the best process of
hardening? are two of the first questions to be decided. Will the
forgeman bestow every care in the use of his "dies," and will he set
them accurately in the hammer? Much depends on answers being in the
affirmative. Whether to cast the impressions in the die-blocks, or to
machine them out _in toto_, and if machined out how to do so, are
further knotty propositions. Correct taper on the walls of holes,
bosses, and recesses; egress for imprisoned air; size of bar or billet
to be stamped, after making suitable allowance for contraction and
waste; control of waste metal or "fin"; method of duplex stamping. Such
are the more potent problems with which the die-designer is faced, and
whilst lack of insight will assuredly foreshadow failure, ability to
grasp their import cannot fail to spell success. Obviously the mind
of the die-designer must ever be planning, plotting, scheming how
best to make his metal "flow;" and concentrated attention, and study
extending over years, are the only means of approaching that degree of
perfection which in the art of drop-stamping, as in all other branches
of mechanical science, the engineer is ever striving to attain.

Incredible, then, that public money should have been continuously
lavished on that legion of "inexpert experts," more than one of which
worthless clan, gloriously clad in khaki, was known to claim admission
to Crewe Works for the avowed purpose of "satisfying himself" (_sic_)
that the engineers of the London and North-Western Railway locomotive
department were "making the best use of the drop-hammer plant."

Even if we generously assume that these gentlemen were the exception
rather than the rule, such glaring exhibitions of ignorance and
impudence combined could not but tend to bring out in full relief
the anomalies which, although possibly unavoidable, existed none the
less in a system of universal and compulsory service; and with every
apology to the talented soldier poet, author of the initial stanza
introducing this chapter, one may be pardoned if, in conclusion, one
feels constrained to put this further little conundrum:--

  "Who made the law that nincompoops and asses
  Should 'cushy' jobs, immune from risk, infest,
  While other 'blokes,' undaunted--aye in masses,--
  Naught asking, bit the dust, and so--'went west'?
  Who made the law?"



 "Unless we had order, unless we had certainty, in the moving of large
 masses, the day of battle, which might come, would be to us a day of
 disaster."--Colonel McMurdo, late Inspector-General of the Volunteer
 Forces, January 9th, 1865.

_Der Tag_, which came on August 4th, 1914, was not fated after all,
as we know, to be a day of disaster. That it was not so is perhaps
attributable in the main to two causes. "Miraculous" is the manner
in which escape from disaster has been described; but as we have
already seen (and of this fact we cannot remind ourselves too often),
the miracle was performed primarily and essentially by the loss of
those "many thousands of brave men whose sacrifice we deplore, while
we regard their splendid gallantry and self-devotion with unstinted
admiration and gratitude." A secondary, but by no means inconsiderable,
cause contributory to the successful working of the miracle lay in the
fact that we did possess the "order," the "certainty," in regard to the
moving--not exactly of "large masses" in the more recently accepted
meaning of the term, but at any rate--of that part of the Army which
was detailed for home defence, and of the six divisions of which the
original Expeditionary Force was composed, and which were flung across
the Channel to assist in stemming the initial German onrush. And it
is with regard to this "order," this "certainty," and the attendant
successful working of the railways that the ensuing pages are concerned.

We have already traced in some degree of detail the antecedents of
the Railway Executive Committee, that body of distinguished civilian
railway experts, who, from the time that the Government assumed,
under provisions of the Act of 1871, nominal control of the railways,
became, and throughout the war remained, responsible to the Government
for the maintenance and the efficient working of the entire railway
systems of the British Isles; and in order to acquire some insight into
the amazing and complex detail involved in this efficient working,
we cannot very well do better than probe a few of the more salient
facts concerning the London and North-Western Railway, which, on the
outbreak of hostilities, and appropriately enough, was deputed to
act as the "Secretary" Company to the Western and Eastern Commands
and afterwards to the Central Force, that is to say, the Company
specified by the Army Command Headquarters, for the purpose of making
arrangements with the other railway companies concerned in the Commands
named for the main troop movements during the first two months of the

In an extremely interesting report, dated October 1st, 1914, Mr. L. W.
Horne, who, prior to his appointment as secretary to the "Secretary"
Company to the Commands previously mentioned, was acting secretary
to the Railway Executive Committee, describes the measures that were
adopted both prior to and during mobilisation, in conformity with the
War Office programme.

A Communications' Board "consisting of representatives of all
Government departments and also the Railway Executive Committee,"
was instituted to consider Government "recommendations to meet their
various requirements so far as the railways were concerned." Owing
to the "very drastic alterations in the mobilisation time tables"
made by the War Office, a staff was specially appointed to deal with
the matter, and as a result of herculean efforts on the part of this
devoted body of enthusiasts, involving many hours of overtime, "on
mobilisation being ordered, not only was our scheme complete, but time
tables and sheets numbering many thousands were ready for immediate

Existing accommodation at certain stations on the line, where large
concentrations of troops were foreshadowed, was totally inadequate,
so that plans and estimates were at once prepared for the necessary
extensions, and the Company arranged to carry out the work with all
possible speed.

Special troop trains, of which 1465 (exclusive of "empties" to and
from entraining and detraining stations respectively) were run between
August 4th and September 30th, 1914, were "signalled by a special
code of 4-4-4 beats," this code signifying "precedence over all other
trains," the ordinary passenger service being curtailed as occasion
demanded. Seven hundred and fifty-one was the total of special trains
required for the "large quantities of stores, equipment, etc.," and "in
order to ensure that such consignments should be worked forward without
delay," it was agreed that "they should be given 'Perishable transit.'"

As will doubtless be within the memory of most of us, already on August
3rd, 1914, Sir Edward Grey was in a position to inform the House that
"the mobilisation of the Fleet has taken place," the credit for the
promptitude of this precautionary measure being in due course claimed
by Mr. Winston Churchill, and resulting shortly afterwards in the
resignation from his post as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty of
Prince Louis of Battenberg, eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse;
and "at this grave moment in our national history," so ran the message
spontaneously addressed by His Majesty the King to Admiral Sir John
Jellicoe, "I send you, and through you to the officers and men of
the Fleets of which you have assumed command, the assurance of my
confidence that under your direction they will revive and renew the
old glories of the Royal Navy, and prove once again the sure shield of
Britain and of her Empire in the hour of trial." To enable officers
and men to "revive and renew the old glories of the Royal Navy,"
coal, not canvas, was needed, this entailing the provision forthwith
of six hundred and fifty-one special trains for the conveyance of
approximately 150,000 tons of Admiralty coal from the South Wales
collieries to certain points on the East Coast.

Various difficulties presented themselves in regard to the "supply of
rolling stock, and the making-up of the troop trains of the required
composition"; in regard to the working of Westinghouse and Vacuum
stock, as the case might be; in regard to congestion of traffic,
necessitating the diversion of trains by alternative routes; and in
regard to the requisitioning by the Government of certain steamers,
goods-vans, horses, motors, etc., belonging to the Company.

But, as Mr. Horne points out, "no hitch whatever occurred so far as
the London and North-Western Company was concerned in carrying out,
not only the pre-arranged programme, but also the additional movements
which have been arranged at short notice. The time-keeping of the
trains has been excellent both from a traffic department and locomotive
department standpoint, and the entraining and detraining at the various
stations on the London and North-Western line were successfully carried
out in every case."

Apropos of all of which data, one cannot but call to mind once again
the ungrudging acknowledgment which the late Lord Kitchener saw fit
to make on the occasion of his first appearance in the House of Lords
as Secretary of State for War: "I have to remark that when war was
declared, mobilisation took place without any hitch whatever.... We
know how deeply the French people appreciate the prompt assistance
we have been able to afford them at the very outset of the war." The
official announcement, too, issued by the Press Bureau on Tuesday,
August 18th, 1914, itself remains a landmark in the epic chapter of
events: "The Expeditionary Force as detailed for foreign service has
been landed in France ... and without a single casualty."

It is a matter of common knowledge that during the initial stages of
the war the French authorities undertook the whole of the transport by
rail of the British Army in France, basing their decision and ability
to do so largely, no doubt, upon the opinion prevalent at the time,
which was to the effect that for various seemingly obvious reasons--of
which perhaps the most palpable was the unprecedented and unparalleled
strain necessarily imposed upon the human and material resources of the
belligerent nations--the war could not continue for a period exceeding
a few weeks, or months, at the outside. We even find it stated in the
_Times_ of August 20th, 1914, under the heading "Peace Insurance Rate,"
that "for a premium of 25 per cent., underwriters yesterday undertook
to pay a total loss claim should Germany ask for peace on or before
September 30th next."

When, however, it began to dawn upon the parties engaged that the
struggle, far from diminishing in intensity, was becoming increasingly
bitter and severe, the advisability of, or perhaps rather the necessity
for, easing the onus devolving upon the French railways was obvious to
all. In the early part of 1915, therefore, rolling stock on a small
scale was sent over from England; but in proportion as the numerical
strength of the British overseas forces rose, so did the requirements
in respect of means of transport increase, until towards the winter of
1916, a period synchronising with the British offensive on the Somme,
matters reached such a pitch that the only solution to the difficulty
seemed to lie in the appointment of a "mission" of home railway
experts for the purpose of investigating the situation on the spot.
With this end in view the more prominent of the two world-renowned
"Geddes-Goddesses," to wit, Sir Eric, was nominated the responsible
head, and as a result of his inquiry and subsequent report, there came
into being the office of "Director-General of Transportation," the
sound principle underlying this new departure being that of employing
"individuals in war, on work which they have been accustomed to perform
in peace," the immediate outcome, too, being that the important
position was filled _au début_ by none other than Sir Eric Geddes
himself, who, as the Earl of Derby was at some pains to impress upon
his noble confrères in the House of Lords (cp. the _Times_, November
30th, 1916), undertook the work only "from purely patriotic reasons."

In the issue dated September 6th, 1919, of that practical and
very-much-up-to-date weekly journal, _Modern Transport_, is to be found
tabulated in full and comprehensive form the "pedigree stock" emanating
from the Director-General of Transportation; numerous personalities,
bearing awe-inspiring affixes such as D.G.M.R., I.G.T., A.D.G.M.R.,
D.D.R.T., etc., _ad lib._; appearing on the scenes as representing
the direct lineal descent of the great D.G.T. himself. And subsidiary
to these personalities, or heads of sections and sub-sections, was
enrolled a galaxy of assistants, engineers furnished in part by the
British railway companies on recommendation from the Railway Executive
Committee, in part by colonial or foreign railways, and under whom,
in turn, there served a numerous personnel, whose name was "legion,"
recruited mostly from the home railways.

And the reason for this gigantic scheme of organisation cannot be
explained in any manner more convincing than in the words of Sir
Douglas Haig, who, dealing in his final despatch with the "Rearward
Services," insists that "the immense expansion of the Army from 6 to
over 60 infantry divisions, combined with the constant multiplication
of auxiliary arms, called inevitably for a large increase in the size
and scope of the services concerned in the supply and maintenance of
our fighting forces."

Some staggering statistics now stare us in the face. "By the end of
November, 1918," for instance, we learn that "the number of individual
landings in France at the various ports managed by us exceeded 10-1/4
million persons," and "during the eleven months, January to November,
1918, the tonnage landed at these ports averaged some 175,000 tons per

One can easily imagine the resultant effect upon these different
ports situated on the northern coast of France. Let us take Boulogne,
as being, perhaps, one of the most familiar of all, and any one who
has chanced upon a little volume, bearing as its title "An Airman's
Outings," cannot fail to recall the distinctly happy vein in which
the author, writing under the _nom-de-plume_ of "Contact," describes
the inevitable change which came over the place during the war. "It
(Boulogne)," so he tells us, "has become almost a new town. Formerly
a head-quarters of pleasure, a fishing centre, and a principal port of
call for Anglo-Continental travel, it has been transformed into an
important military base.... The multitude of visitors from across the
Channel is larger than ever; but instead of Paris, the Mediterranean,
and the East, they are bound for less attractive destinations--the
muddy battle area and Kingdom Come."

Small wonder, then, that the strain of supplying the means of transit,
not only for these multitudes of visitors but for their personal
impedimenta and food supplies as well, became too great for the
French camel's back. The whole business, if such it may be termed,
was assuming a degree of which the proportions were verging on the
prodigious. Thus, "for the maintenance of a single division for one
day, nearly 200 tons dead-weight of supplies and stores are needed,"
and "for an army of 2,700,000 men (the total feeding strength of our
forces in France) the addition of one ounce to each man's daily rations
involves the carrying of an extra 75 tons of goods."

Again, "in the six months May to October, 1918, a weekly average of
1,800 trains were run for British Army traffic, carrying a weekly
average load of approximately 400,000 tons, while a further 130,000
tons were carried weekly by our light railways." Kolossal, indeed, with
a capital K, are the figures which the Field-Marshal asks us to digest.

And in order to cope with this vast volume of traffic, in order that it
might move freely and speedily to the various points of distribution on
the British Front, "the number of locomotives imported ... rose from
62 in 1916 to 1200 by the end of 1918; while the number of trucks rose
from 3,840 to 52,600," and in addition to the already-existing mileage
of permanent way available in the rearward areas, during 1918 "were
built or reconstructed 2,340 miles of narrow-gauge railway."

As was reasonably to be expected, "the introduction of new weapons and
methods of war" accounted largely for the "huge bulk of the supplies to
be handled," and another factor further responsible for the gigantic
nature of the task imposed was to be found in "the establishment of
a higher standard of comfort for the troops." The force of the logic
in regard to "feeding the brute" may be said to apply equally to the
soldier as to the husband; "_Une bataille ne se perd matériellement_,"
in fact, Napoleon is said to have expressed the view that "the moral
is to the material in war as three to one." Consequently "great
installations were set up," not merely for the repair of damaged
material, but "installations of all kinds," embracing "hutments, camps,
and hospitals," and "the Expeditionary Force canteens made it possible
to obtain additional comforts close up to the Front."

Without any shadow of doubt "no war has been fought with such ample
means of quick transportation as were available during the recent
struggle.... It was possible to effect great concentrations of troops
with a speed which, having regard to the numbers of men and bulk of
material moved, has never before been equalled."

Having noted, therefore, the more salient facts and figures, set out
in so lucid a manner by Sir Douglas Haig, it is only natural, perhaps,
that there should follow in direct sequence a desire to fathom, in some
respect, the influences which rendered animate this gigantic scheme
or organisation, this mammoth conglomeration of machinery, admirably
planned no doubt, then set and kept in motion; to trace the sources
whence flowed these "ample means of quick transportation"; and to
become acquainted with the responsible practicians by whom they were

The influences at work--as a brief reflective glance through the pages
of our mind will suffice to recall--are surely to be found in that
"dauntless spirit of the people at home," and in "their incessant
toil." The sources are clearly indicated by the "mine, the factory,
the shipyard." The responsible practicians are personified by those
"distinguished scientific men" who "placed their learning and their
skill at the disposal of their country."

Briefly, the position amounted to this; the fighting line could not be
held without the support and replenishment afforded by the rearward
services; the rearward services could not perform their part unaided
by the people at home, and, as was only to be expected, the London and
North-Western Railway Company was second to none in stepping forward
and rendering that aid which was vital to the continued sustenance of
the rearward services.

But charity, as we know, begins at home, and even though no effort was
spared in regard to supplying the wants of the overseas forces, the
Company obviously could not afford so to denude itself of its available
working resources as to court the risk of failure to "carry on," to
carry out the task imposed upon it by the State at home.

A further report issued from the office of the Superintendent of
the Line, dated July 8th, 1919, and retrospective of the strenuous
times experienced by the Company during the war, describes how "the
ramifications of the London and North-Western Railway system were
quickly appreciated by the naval and military authorities," for being,
as it was, "the main trunk line, the direct route to and from London
and the west of England (viâ Crewe) with the west, north and north-east
of Scotland," it also afforded every facility to passengers travelling
"between the north-east of England and the west and south-west of
England." But apart from this it is an incontrovertible fact that the
Company did absolutely "lay itself out," and in a manner unparalleled
in any other quarter, to study the convenience, and to relieve the
anxieties, of the military from the lordly "Brass Hat" to the humble
Tommy with his tin helmet; with the result that, instinctively as
it were, Euston became the quest of all, a haven of refuge to many
thousands of war-worn warriors, home for a few days' leave.

As evidence of this, we may note that a total of 7,300,000 officers
and men "on leave" were conveyed in "special trains"; that a further
2,864,000 specified as "small units of troops and pre-arranged by
ordinary services," were accommodated in the ordinary trains; and that,
in addition to these figures, there were many thousands of troops
conveyed "every week in small units by the ordinary existing services,
of which actual figures are not available," but of which most of us,
retaining vivid recollections of overcrowded compartments and the crush
of corridors, will no doubt be able to form some vague if inadequate

Luggage evidently was not in the habit of getting lost or left behind,
as the figure "89,745 tons of baggage conveyed" will go to prove;
45,517 cycles received careful handling in transit, and the necessary
accommodation was provided for the safe journeying of 500,000 horses,
plus the rolling-stock necessary for the conveyance of 5,476 guns.

Then, in spite of a number of the vessels comprising the London and
North-Western fleet being commandeered by the Admiralty, "a fairly
regular service both for passengers and cargo" was maintained viâ
Holyhead and Dublin, "the principal route between England and Ireland";
the two other sea routes viâ Fleetwood and Belfast, and Larne and
Stranraer, respectively, assisting materially in the working of this
"very heavy passenger and cargo traffic."

Turning next to "the requirements of the Fleet on the east and
north-east coast of Scotland, there was a continuous coming and
going of personnel, and movement of supplies, between the depôts
in Scotland and those in the south and west of England, and the
Admiralty concentrated the whole of this traffic on the west coast
route." In this connection (and incidentally we may note the strict
observance by the naval authorities of the Fourth Commandment) for two
consecutive years, and on every day of the week except the seventh,
which is the Sabbath, a special train provided exclusively for the
use of the Admiralty, was run "between Euston and Thurso (serving the
Rosyth depôt), the total number of men so conveyed being 500,000 and
the mileage incurred over the L. & N. W. system alone being 388,700
miles." Then, "owing to the position of the Fleet, rail-borne coal was
conveyed from the South Wales coalfields to such points as Newcastle,
Grangemouth, Burntisland, etc., entailing an average of about twenty
trains per day, in each direction, of loaded and empty wagons."

A further, and by no means inconsiderable, call to be made upon, as it
was gladly accepted by, the Company, was that of tending the wounded
on arrival in "Blighty." Special ambulance trains of the most approved
design were supplied, and run with unfailing precision and regularity.
Refugees were catered for; and in direct contrast to the treatment
meted out by the enemy to our own men, enemy prisoners and captives in
our own hands were shown such pity that special trains were actually
provided for their conveyance by rail. When all is said and done,

  "Be England what she will,
  With all her faults she is my country still."

Fresh still in the minds of most of us must be Mr. Lloyd George's
memorable "for-God's-sake-hurry-up" message, calling upon the United
States of America, at the time when the hammer blow of the final and
despairing German offensive fell with full force upon the British Army
in France, "to send American reinforcements across the Atlantic in the
shortest possible space of time," and whatever may be the opinion held
"pace" Mr. Wilson and his famous "too-proud-to-fight" utterance, there
is no doubt but that at long last the great American people realised
to the full the nature of the menace which threatened from the German
aspiration to world-domination.

Speaking at Spartanburg (cp. the _Times_, March 26th, 1918), General
O'Ryan declared that "the only distressing feature of the news (of the
German offensive) was the fact that the British had been obliged to
make such enormous sacrifices because American assistance was not yet
fully at hand. We have been galvanised now," he said, "into realising
the immensity of our obligations."

Telegraphing to Sir Douglas Haig on the same date, President Wilson
deigned to express "to you my warm admiration for the splendid
steadfastness and valour with which your troops have withstood the
German onset." And in the meantime, the complicated problem of
transportation was occupying the keenest brains on the other side of
the Herring-pond, for as the _New York World_ (cp. the _Times_, March
30th, 1918) pointed out, "it (transportation) certainly cannot be
solved by the kind of people who for ever wring their hands crying,
'For God's sake do something.' Godsaking will not drive a single rivet
in a ship, or transport a solitary soldier across the Atlantic."

Having realised, then, the menace, "the Yanks" without doubt set to
work and responded with a will, and the effect of their coming was
felt, not only by the enemy, but--even though in a different manner--by
the London & North-Western Railway Company as well, for "the majority
of American troops which passed through England," as Mr. Home goes on
to narrate, "were dealt with through the Port of Liverpool, the whole
of the arrangements being in our hands," these necessitating "the
running of 2,333 special trains (of which 1,684 were provided by the
London & North-Western Railway) which conveyed a total of 1,182,505
officers and men, and 25,978 tons of baggage"; the record or heaviest
day, August 28th, 1918, witnessing the dispatch of no fewer than 35
special trains with 17,274 officers and men, with 245 tons of baggage.

The conclusion drawn by the majority of level-headed Americans may
perhaps best be summed up in the words of Mr. Taft, who, writing in
the _Public Ledger_ (cp. the _Times_, March 30th, 1918), says:--"We
have been living in a fool's paradise.... This drive has been a rude
awakening. We are rubbing our eyes and asking if they (the Germans)
break through, then what the answer is. We shall be left naked to our

Reference has previously been made to Crewe being, figuratively
speaking, the pivot of the London and North-Western Railway compass:
and the Company's system being, as Mr. Horne points out in his report,
"the main artery running through the centre of England, and serving so
many of the important centres of industry in the country," necessarily
"carried an immense amount of traffic of varying character."


In this respect the two accompanying diagrams are of no little
interest, showing as they do in manner unmistakable how, in
proportion as the volume of passenger traffic decreased, as a result
of the abolition of excursion trains and cheap tickets, the general
curtailment of services, and the increase of ordinary fares, so, owing
to the exigencies of the war, did the amount of goods traffic show in
direct contrast an enormous increase.

Increase of mileage obviously implies a corresponding increase of
tonnage carried, and in this connection we may select at random a few
out of many "interesting facts and figures," which have been compiled
in regard to the "new traffic created, which passed in goods trains
over the L. & N. W. system," facts and figures, in short, which clearly
speak for themselves.

[Illustration: GOODS TRAIN MILEAGE--L.N.W.R.]

Over 100,000 tons of timber and sawdust were put on rail at Penrith by
the Canadian Forestry Corps. Leeds, Huddersfield, and Manchester were
responsible for the delivery of immense quantities of raw material, in
addition to manufactured articles, such as army clothing and blankets,
and other kinds of munitions. From Warrington were sent 323,188 miles
of wire, barbed, telegraph, and telephone. Runcorn supplied 630,000
vessels containing poison and weeping gas; also 384,000 cylinders
containing 150 million feet of compressed hydrogen gas, used both for
the inflation of airships and for a new process of metal-plate cutting.
At Liverpool, in addition to the traffic entailed by the arrival of
American troops, and the receipt of railway material from America,
there was the question of "the allocation of Military Meat Traffic,"
which during a period of nine months alone meant the ordering and
disposal of 21,989 refrigerator cars.

A Government factory near Chester, engaged in the manufacture of
gun-cotton and T.N.T., handed over for transit a tonnage of 1,513,000
tons. At Crewe, a great part of the locomotive paint shop, and of the
carriage sheds, devoted to the storing of shells, resulted in traffic
being created to the extent of 330,000 tons, in addition to the
output from the Works of the many mechanical contrivances previously
mentioned. In the Birmingham district, one firm alone turned out 965
large tanks, each "over gauge" and approximately 30 tons in weight.
Another firm being responsible for an output of about 1800 sea mines.

Sheffield was busy with the supply--_inter alia_--of 2000 tons of
knives, forks, and spoons.

[Illustration: Naval Gun weighing 68 tons. A Typical Instance of
War-time Traffic. [_To face p. 173._]

The Coventry Ordnance Works dispatched 40,000 tons by the London and
North-Western route, and the town of Coventry, being the centre of
sixty-two Government owned and controlled establishments, sent out
300,000 tons of war munitions and Government stores.

Northampton forwarded an aggregate of 11,641,920 pairs of boots,
weighing 36,881 tons.

In the London area "practically every firm of any size was engaged upon
the manufacture of war stores of various descriptions, involving in
most cases enlarged premises and increased output; and herein the North
London Line--an offspring of the London and North-Western Railway--was
destined to fulfil a _rôle_ of no mean importance"; it was, in fact,
"throughout the whole of the war an exceptionally busy section of the
railway systems of the country," being "the main artery between the
northern trunk lines and the railway system south of the Thames, in
addition to forming the connecting link between the Great Eastern and
the Great Western Companies."

Speaking generally, amongst "exceptional articles of national
importance" which were conveyed by the London and North-Western Railway
may be said to figure heavy guns; large cases of aeroplanes; ships'
boats, propellers, frames, rudders, booms; armour plates; boilers;
tanks; tractors; girders; etc., etc., and a vague idea of the truly
enormous amount of goods traffic dealt with may perhaps be had when it
is stated that the "approximate number of munition works, Government
factories, aeroplane depôts, and camps," situated on the London and
North-Western system was 1269, in addition to which there were a
further "1237 factories, quarries, shipbuilding yards, etc., opened or
extended during the war."

Such in brief outline was the task performed at home by the London and
North-Western Railway Company during the world struggle, and in face of
everything the marvel perhaps was that the indefatigable staff never
ran the danger of "ruining all, by trying to do too much."

The force of the argument, however, that "a wise man can ask more
questions in a minute than a fool can answer in a year," becomes
apparent when we reflect that, although nominally under State control,
the staff on each railway remained during the war under the same
control as prior to the war, and received their instructions as
previously also; the result being that, undisturbed by an "unnumbered
number of inexpert experts," and free from any such "deadly deterrent,"
unmolested, too, as they were by any kind of official bureaucracy, the
railway companies were able to, and did, carry through the stupendous
programme apportioned to them by the State.

In the knowledge of this happy circumstance, the country may indeed
congratulate itself, for not only did the London and North-Western
Railway perform its allotted task at home, but, as will now be seen,
the staff of the Company's locomotive department at Crewe further
succeeded by their "incessant toil" in rendering a very large
proportion of that material aid, without which the "rearward services"
of our overseas forces could never, in their turn, have enabled the
fighting men at the front to bring the war to a successful conclusion.



  "With the rearward services rests victory or defeat."

In the preceding chapter we have been able to digest a few of the more
interesting facts and figures gleaned, in the one case from Sir Douglas
Haig's final dispatch, and having reference to the task performed by
the rearward services of the British Army in France; in the other, from
the two reports issued by Mr. L. W. Horne, and dealing with the working
of the London and North-Western Railway in the interests of the State,
at home.

Most of us will probably retain some recollection of the scriptural
parable of the virgins, five of whom were wise, and five foolish.
Whilst hardly being perhaps quite fair to liken the rearward services
of the Army to the latter five, who, lacking oil in their lamps, begged
the necessary illuminant from the former, the London and North-Western
Railway Company's locomotive department may nevertheless be said to
resemble the wise virgins, in that, figuratively speaking, lamps were
kept trimmed and full of oil, ready for any emergency; not only this,
however, but going one better than the wise virgins, who, seemingly a
trifle selfish and stony-hearted, turned a deaf ear to their foolish
sisters in distress, the London and North-Western Railway locomotive
department never hesitated to extend a helping hand to the rearward
services of the Army, rendering possible in part that "wonderful
development of all methods of transportation," which, as Sir Douglas
Haig avers, "had an important influence upon the course of events."

We have noted the extent of the goods traffic which was dealt with
at home during the fateful years of the world war, and of which the
mileage rose from eighteen and a half millions in 1914 to no less a
figure than twenty and a half millions in 1917, and it was during this
period, when Mr. Bowen-Cooke, in his capacity as chief mechanical
engineer of the premier British railway company, was concentrating
his endeavours on the maintenance of a supply of locomotive power
sufficient to cope with this ever-increasing figure, that he was called
upon to assist in that other and extraneous supply of similar power,
by means of which the rearward services of our overseas forces were
enabled to solve the immense problem of transportation by rail in the
various theatres of war in which we were engaged, a problem which as
we know, ultimately involved on the Western Front in France alone the
running of "a weekly average of 1,800 trains, carrying a weekly average
load of approximately 400,000 tons."


face p. 178._]

Obviously the only method by which locomotive power could be made
available for the rearward services lay in the transference of engines
overseas, in other words, depletion of available stock at home,
depletion which was effected in compliance with Government demands,
and in spite of the many difficulties which presented themselves and
were contingent upon so unprecedented a situation.

The first batch of recruits to be "called up" at Crewe was selected
from that very stable little group, or "class," known as the "4 feet
3 inch, six wheels coupled coal engine"; these engines were specially
fitted with tenders having a water-tank capacity of 2500 gallons,
and nine were sent originally to serve on the Western Front, further
recruits of this "class," numbering seventy-six altogether, seeing
overseas service in Egypt, Salonica, and Mesopotamia respectively.
These hard-working little engines, which in ordinary practice do not
refuse a load of fifty-five wagons or approximately 600 tons, were
nevertheless deemed incapable of contributing sufficient power in
proportion as the size, or "feeding strength," of our overseas forces
increased; the result being that the "power" limit was raised, and a
sturdier form of recruit, found available in the well-known "G" class,
or "4 feet 3 inch, eight wheels coupled coal engine," was summoned
to the colours. These engines, of which a total of twenty-six found
their way across the water, were fitted with tenders of 3000 gallons
capacity, in addition to having (as was the case with the smaller
engines) a special form of water lifter whereby water could be obtained
from wayside streams or other occasional sources of supply. Capable of
"walking away" with a load of eighty wagons, or approximately 900 tons,
these powerful goods engines proved themselves a valuable asset, and so
a determining factor in influencing the course of events.

Hand in hand with "running" goes the question of maintenance and
repairs, and in this connection installations on a large scale were
set up in France as elsewhere, Audricq, Berguette, and Borre, situated
in the Pas-de-Calais and Nord districts, being the main depôts for
the repair of carriages and wagons, light railway engines, and
locomotives, respectively; and in this connection Crewe once again
was well to the fore in the provision of the requisite machinery and
plant incidental to the fitting out of the modern railway repair shop.
Briefly, a few of the outstanding features of this plant may be said
to have comprised mechanical contrivances such as hydraulic pumps and
accumulators, stationary boilers, electric motors, overhead travelling
cranes, Goliath cranes, an hydraulic wheel-drop, a wheel turntable, a
case-hardening furnace, a boiling bosh, levelling blocks, and a great
variety of machine tools, details of all of which would in themselves
suffice to complete an entire volume.

It was entirely thanks to the provision and installation of this
machinery and plant that during the year 1917, for instance--as we
learn from statistics published in the issue of _Modern Transport_ of
September 20th, 1919--143 heavy and 675 light repairs were carried out
on locomotives; and in the following year, 1918, these figures were
increased to 246 and 809 respectively; while the number of ordinary
shed, or "running," repairs amounted to no less a figure than 5,487.


The complex and duplex task of maintaining simultaneously both the home
and the overseas rail services was further augmented by the acceptance
within Crewe Works, for general repairs, of numerous engines doing duty
in the various military camps which sprang up in different parts of the
country, namely those situated at Kimmel Park, Oswestry, Prees Heath,
Cannock Chase, Milford and Brocton, etc., etc.

Heavy repairs were also effected in the case of two massive Belgian
engines, which were sent to England, and in addition to this
superabundance of work which was undertaken conjointly with the repair
programme incidental to the London and North-Western Railway Company's
own requirements, there was a continuous demand for the supply of
locomotive spare parts incidental to the working of the overseas

In yet another respect was Crewe in a position to hold out a helping
hand to that friend in need, the overseas rearward services. Enemy
aircraft activity necessitated special precautions being taken to
ensure the maintenance of communications, precautions which involved
the construction of certain "deviation" lines of railway. Further,
additional permanent way was required for sidings, and for double and
quadruple tracking: and during the final Allied offensive many miles
of new line were laid for the purpose of following up the enemy, and
of bringing relief to the civilian populations left destitute in the
districts which the enemy had evacuated.

The London and North-Western Railway Company claims, and is renowned
for, the finest permanent way in the world, and the rails are for the
most part rolled in, and supplied from, Crewe Works.

During the war the customary relaying of track was considerably
curtailed, as may be gathered from the fact that, whereas during
a normal year an average of 32,500 tons of rails are supplied,
approximately half that tonnage only was supplied per annum while the
war lasted. Consequently the average relaying of track during a normal
year was reduced from roughly 140 to about 54 miles per annum. At the
same time, rails sufficient for 56 miles of track were taken from stock
and sent for use overseas.

The rail-mill in Crewe Works was, however, kept busy in other
directions as well, turning out in the four years 1914-1918, partly for
British railway companies, partly for use overseas, 38,844 tons of
rails, equal to a length of 260 miles, besides which were supplied a
considerable number of points and crossings complete.

Certain crises of the war will surely never fade from the memory of
living man or woman, crises during which it may be said that--

  "There was silence deep as death,
  And the boldest held his breath,
  For a time,"

the while the fate of the Empire, of the whole civilised world, hung in
the balance.

Such a crisis, and one that had far-reaching effects upon the
organisation of the rearward services, occurred in the spring of 1918,
consequent upon the collapse of Russia. Dwelling on the issues at
stake, devolving the necessity on the German people to give "all it
had," General Ludendorff claims [cp. "My War Memories," 1914-1918,
page 600, Vol. II.] that their (the German) offensive was a brilliant
feat, and will "ever be so regarded in history." Such it may have been,
"for a time," backed as it was [cp. page 577, Vol. II.] by "twenty to
thirty batteries, about 100 guns, to each kilometre (eleven hundred
yards) of front to be attacked," which were "figures such as no man
had ever credited before." But "the battle was so vast that even
these quantities of steel," which the German guns discharged, "did
not destroy all life" and although the effect on the Borre locomotive
repair Works in the end was crushing to a degree, there as elsewhere,
as Ludendorff finds himself forced to confess, "the infantry always
found far too much to do," the result being that, thanks to the heroic
resistance put up by our own men, and in spite of the fact that the
Boche was within 1,500 yards of the place before the evacuation of
the shops was commenced, nearly the entire plant and machinery were
safely got away, and forthwith installed in some newly erected shops at
Rang-du-Fliers, a tiny hamlet situated on the main Paris-Boulogne line,
a few miles south of Étaples.

It was about this time that the warrior War Lord, flushed with
momentary success, saw fit to dispatch what was probably destined to
be the final of his many "victory" telegrams. "My victorious troops,"
so he wired to the Empress at Berlin (cp. the _Times_, March 26th,
1918), "are pressing forward from Bapaume westwards.... The spirit of
the troops is as fresh as on the first day. Over 45,000 prisoners, over
60 guns, 1000 machine-guns, and enormous quantities of ammunition and
provisions, have been taken. May God be with us!" (signed Wilhelm).

Whether this royal and auspicious message, when published officially,
had the desired effect upon a war-weary and demoralised people, it is
hard to say; but even Wilhelm, the would-be Conqueror, must surely have
begun to realise at long last that even if "you can fool some of the
people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, you
cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

Getting down to solid facts then, the battle, in Ludendorff's opinion,
"was over by April 4th," and although "thereafter there was bitter
fighting ... our (the German) war machine was no longer efficient" [cp.
page 684, Vol. II.].... "The Entente began the great offensive, the
final battle of the world war, and carried it through with increasing
vigour as our decline became more apparent."

It is not uninteresting to note the second-in-command, or, as some
believe him to have been, the actual commander-in-chief, of the
great German fighting machine paying a tribute to the energy of the
foe, the one foe hated and feared of all others by the entire German
people, namely England; and this energy was at the time in question
very properly brought to the notice of a representative gathering of
Colonial, American, and English journalists by Mr. Winston Churchill,
who, speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions (cp. the _Times_,
March 27th, 1918), told these gentlemen of the Press that they must
"recognise that the strength of the British armies rests not only on
the superb courage of the soldiers, but on the gigantic output which
their countrymen at home are contributing from week to week, and from
hour to hour, after all these years of strain, never at such a pitch of
efficiency and energy as at the present time."

Few people there are, probably, who have ever realised what "the years
of strain" have meant to the workers in mine, factory, and shipyard;
it is in fact the exception rather than the rule to find in public
utterances reference to the drudgery, the monotony, involved in the
manufacture, frequently of a repetition nature, hour after hour, week
after week, month after month, of all those countless mechanical
contrivances of which the diverse component parts are essential to the
whole. The tendency has been rather to decry these people as shirkers,
money-grubbers, worthy only to be labelled with epithets unsavoury to
the palate. In every branch of a profession or trade, in every walk
in life, there are of course bound to be exceptions, but in common
fairness to those innumerable and genuine "indispensables" who perforce
remained at home, let us not forget that to the many of these who
would gladly have gone was denied the experience, the excitement, the
novelty, attaching to the open-air life of movement incidental to an
overseas campaign.

Obviously enough, closely allied to, in fact interwoven with,
production is the question of cost, a question which in war as in peace
could not fail to afford a loophole for difficulties and disputes,
either of a minor character, or aggravated perhaps by the continued
years of strain and monotony.

Mr. Churchill, however, was undoubtedly on the right tack when he went
on to insist that we should "not assume that because from time to time
they (the workmen) put forth their sectional aims, these aims were the
only things they care about. They have a sort of feeling," he declared,
"that they have to push forward their class interests, and I am not
blaming them for it, but in the main our strength rests upon their
loyal, resolute support, and we can count on that."

As a single instance of the reliance which could be placed in the
work-people's resolute support, we have only to note the loyal
adherence by the men in Crewe Works, which they maintained to the
bitter end, to a resolution which they passed themselves, to the
effect that "We, the working men of Crewe, will do all that is humanly
possible to increase the output of munitions, and stand by our comrades
in the trenches"; and this resolution was the outcome of a series of
meetings organised and held in the summer of 1915, in the various shops
within the Works, when Mr. Cooke, having emphasised the paramount
importance of keeping up the great railways, "which have to deal with
the transport of soldiers and munitions, that keep together the life of
the country," went on to remind his hearers that "it is to those who
produce the material for the making and repairing of locomotives who
have this all-important matter in their hands."

COMRADES IN THE TRENCHES." [_To face p. 186._]

Appropriately enough, Mr. Craig, M.P. for the constituency, having
already wired the terms of the resolution to Mr. Lloyd George, was able
on behalf of the latter to "thank you, the men of Crewe Works, for the
splendid efforts you have put forward in the past;" adding, that he had
peculiar satisfaction in so doing, for "never either in the House of
Commons or out of it have I heard a word of reproach levelled against
the men of Crewe. Their patriotism has never been impeached."

That this outspoken tribute contained nothing from which could possibly
be construed anything in the nature of what is commonly known as
"gush" is easily apparent from the fact that Mr. Craig had only just
previously appealed to the men to "allow nothing to interfere with
the production of munitions of war. You are asked," he said to them
point-blank, "to relax for the time being all trades union rules and
regulations, and to compete with one another in order to produce the
largest possible amount of munitions."

With the exception, then, of an insignificantly small minority of
juvenile and inexperienced would-be firebrands, who in nine cases out
of ten could not boast of ever having ventured beyond their native
shores, if indeed beyond reach of their mothers' apron-strings, the
attitude of the men of Crewe was, throughout the protracted struggle,
loyal to the core, and that this was so must ever redound to their
undying credit.

Let us compare for a moment the condition of things prevailing at the
time in Germany, for although "other countries possessed an army, in
Prussia," as we know, "the army possessed the country," and probably
because of this inflexible régime, possibly in spite of it, everything
was not exactly "couleur de rose." In order to sustain the rearward
services of this ruthless "juggernaut," Ludendorff "went nap" for
universal conscription, industrial as well as military, for all persons
between the ages of fifteen and sixty. Another point he was always
striving to enforce was the raising of the pay of the fighting man, and
a corresponding reduction in the pay of the workman. "The enthusiasm
of the moment passes," so Ludendorff argues (cp. page 331, Vol. I.),
"it must be replaced by discipline and understanding." But the law
which the German Government resolved to introduce in November, 1916,
for conscripting auxiliary labour was in his opinion, (cp. pages 332,
333, Vol. I.) "neither fish nor fowl. We wanted something wholesale.
The bill departed, too, from the principle of universal liability to
service, and gave no security that the labour power obtained would
be so employed as to produce the maximum results. It was not merely
insufficient, but positively harmful in operation. It had a bad effect
on the soldiers;" for "troops withdrawn from the heavy fighting at
the Front saw auxiliary workers and women workers working in peace
and safety for wages far higher than their own pay. This was bound
to embitter the men who had to risk their lives day by day, and to
endure the greatest hardships, and of necessity increased their
dissatisfaction with their pay." In the circumstances, can anyone
marvel that:--

  "Reason frowns on war's unequal game,
  Where thousands fall to raise a single name"?

The war-profiteer, too, was "a repulsive phenomenon," who (cp. page
342, Vol. I.) with the "corruption of his influence has done us
incalculable harm."

That our own Government of the day adopted and pursued a policy, if
not exactly of killing, at least of spoiling, the goose that laid
the golden egg--a policy, moreover, which could not fail, here as
in Germany, to have the effect of discrediting the fighting man in
the eyes of his mate privileged to remain at home--was certainly no
fault of the railway companies or of their own employés; in fact one
branch at least of the railway service, the staff of which had no
particular reason to bless the Government, or indeed the war at all,
was the locomotive accountants' department at Crewe; for those who were
employed in this particular department, that is to say those of them
who were left at home--and the fact should never be overlooked that the
percentage of clerks who joined the Forces was not surpassed by that
of any other grade of employés on the railways--were involved in the
few years of the war in hard work, changes, and readjustments of one
kind and another, such as ordinarily would not have been their lot to
experience, in the whole course of a lifetime.

It is true that at the commencement of the war efforts were undoubtedly
made to curtail office work as far as possible, the Board of Trade
assisting in this direction by suspending Statistical Return 12 of the
Railway Companies' Accounts and Returns Act. Statistics, too, relating
to shunting, extraction of mileage in districts for rating purposes,
and certain sub-divisions of mileage, were discontinued.

Then again, the Government having guaranteed the nett receipts of the
railways, although charges affecting capital and stock still operated,
the Railway Executive Committee decided to put in abeyance the practice
of rendering accounts as between one railway company and another, for
work or services rendered on revenue account, whether on personal
account or at joint stations, junctions, etc.

As against all this, however, obligations commenced, increased, and
multiplied in other and different directions. At the very outset of the
war, for example, in order to separate the Government control period
from the pre-control period, extensive stock-taking was necessary, as
well as a complete making-up of accounts as from midnight August 4th,

Then, as can easily be imagined, no sooner did the Government issue
their appeal to the railway companies for assistance in the manufacture
of munitions of war, than an immense amount of clerical work followed
suit, the clerks responsible having immediately to conform with
Government requirements. Again, owing to scarcity of raw materials,
which were placed under Government control, numerous statistics had
to be prepared in regard to actual requirements; reports, too, had
to be sent in periodically as to scrap metal, especially copper, and
particulars furnished in regard to the output of iron and steel.

On the top of all this came the introduction of the war-wage with its
periodical increase to meet the increasing cost of living; and the
subsequent inauguration of the District rate of wages, accompanied
as it was by the regrading, according to their duties, of every
single workman, skilled or semi-skilled, entailed an enormous amount
of clerical work; the timekeepers were almost incessantly occupied
in dealing with arrears of payment under the National awards, this
necessitating many hours of overtime, Saturdays and Sundays not
excepted. In fact, so great did the pressure of work become throughout
the department that, in order to counterbalance the depletion of staff
occasioned by so many clerks joining the colours, recourse was had
to the employment of females, who, to the number of 162, assisted
materially in easing the burden which devolved upon that section of
the permanent male staff who remained in harness and without whose
expert knowledge and experience an interregnum of complete chaos must
inevitably have supervened.

Sir Douglas Haig in his final dispatch does not neglect to extend his
thanks, which were "especially due," to those "responsible for the
efficient work of the various rearward services, and administrative
services and departments" of the British Army in France, amongst whom
may be noted "my Financial Adviser," and "my Pay master-in-Chief";
and in direct proportion as the nation at large owes a debt of
gratitude to those prominent personalities, incidentally, too, to the
members of their subordinate, but none the less loyal and devoted,
staffs who gave their services, and in some instances their lives
for their King and Country--so, too, must the public in general ever
remain indebted to the heads of the administrative departments of
the great British railway companies--the Financial Advisers, the
Paymasters-in-Chief--amongst whom may be cited the Chief of the
Accountants' department of the London and North-Western Railway
Company's locomotive department, Mr. T. Ormand, together with the
members of his subordinate, but none the less indefatigable, staff at

The studied opinion of Sir Douglas Haig, when he comes to summarise his
views in general, certainly compels our attention. "It is hardly too
much to assert," so he writes, "that, however, seemingly extravagant in
men and money, no system of supply except the most perfect should ever
be contemplated."

Perfection, it may reasonably be argued however, need not necessarily
entail extravagance; and certainly the system of supply in operation at
Crewe, efficient as it undoubtedly was, was productive of saving rather
than of waste. The fact that the cost of labour, on the cessation of
hostilities, showed an increase of 135 per cent. over and above that
which was prevalent at the commencement of the war, cannot by any
manner of means be laid at the door of the railway directorates, who,
in regard to questions of wages and discipline, were controlled by the
national agreements which from time to time came into being. Neither
could the railway companies be classified even in a minimum degree
amongst those "repulsive phenomena," the war-profiteers; for, the
railways having become, as it were, part and parcel of the Government,
it resulted as a natural corollary that work carried out in railway
workshops whether for railway or munitions-of-war purposes became _ipso
facto_ Government work, and the bill for all such work when presented
was made up simply and solely of the actual cost of materials, wages,
and workshop expenses, plus 12-1/2 per cent. for supervision and
establishment charges. The only profit with which the coffers of
the railway companies were replenished in return for their war-time
energies was in respect of munitions manufactured for private firms,
and even then the profit never exceeded 10 per cent. over and above the
actual cost of production.

Those were indeed "the times that try men's souls," and it was the
Government policy throughout--a policy which, as happened to be the
case in Germany, was "neither fish nor fowl," in that whilst inflicting
untold hardship, loss, and suffering on some, it relieved others,
saddling them with a minimum of inconvenience, and removing from
them all "conception of the duty of universal service"--to which was
attributable that extravagance "in men and money" referred to by Sir
Douglas Haig.

On the occasion of the introduction of the first post-war Budget, when
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Chamberlain, suggested (cp. the
_Times_, May 1st, 1919) that it would be of "interest to divide the
year into the period before the armistice and the period since the
armistice was signed, and to see what the average daily expenditure was
in each of those two periods," Mr. Adamson (Fife W. Lab.) expressed
a desire to temper his criticism with sincere commiseration for the
Chancellor, whose task was to find the first instalment of the terrific
obligations imposed upon the country by the extravagance, and in some
respects the incredible folly, of spending departments during the war
period, which had resulted in a daily average expenditure during the
earlier of the two periods mentioned by Mr. Chamberlain, namely from
April 1st to November 9th, 1918, of £7,443,000; in the later period,
namely from November 10th, 1918 to March 31st, 1919, of £6,476,000.

It is doubtful whether the explanation adduced by the Chancellor, in
regard to this extravagance, this incredible folly, afforded any real
degree of solace to Mr. Adamson or to any other honourable members, who
inclined to view the financial outlook with such marked concern.

"The National Debt proper, exclusive of what we call other capital
liabilities, was," as Mr. Chamberlain pointed out, "on March 31st this
year (1919), 7,435 millions," or 6,790 millions more than it was at
the outbreak of the war; and "of the actual debt incurred, internal
debt accounts for, approximately, 6,085 millions, and the external
debt, approximately, 1,350 millions." There were, it is true, "certain
assets, such as obligations of our Allies and Dominions, votes of
credit no longer required, and payments in respect of indemnities
from our enemies." But when all was said and done, "when every proper
allowance is made for these assets--the amount and value of which as
well as the date at which we may expect to receive payment for them
is necessarily uncertain--the burden of debt left to us is still very

The tone predominant throughout this outline, indicative of the manner
in which the taxpayers' millions were being used or misused for their
especial benefit, was undeniably pessimistic. On the other hand, every
cloud has its silver lining, and the occasional gleams, which illumined
the lowering trend of Mr. Chamberlain's forebodings, become intensified
a thousandfold when we reflect upon the horrors which we, in our
insular position of security, escaped, and when we ponder over the fate
that would most assuredly have been ours had the Warrior Warlord won
the day.

Writing to the _New York World_ in April, 1915, Mr. Gustav Roeder
throws some light upon the state of mind of the German women alone.
"Talk about your so-called atrocities which our men are said to have
committed in Belgium," they said to me, "it would be nothing in
comparison with what our men would do in England, and we women want to
be there too."

As a sample of the treatment accorded to the unfortunate inhabitants of
those portions of the fair land of France which the invader succeeded
in over-running, we may take this deposition of the _Times'_ special
correspondent with the French Army as being sufficiently convincing.
Writing under the date of March 21st, 1917, he says, "when the
Germans left Noyon on Sunday, they took with them fifty young French
girls, who, they said, were to act as officers' servants. When he (a
distinguished French officer) was on a part of the Somme front now
taken over by the British, he saw with his own eyes photographs, taken
from German prisoners, of German officers sitting at dinner and being
waited upon at table by naked women."

Even during the earliest days of the war, evidence was not wanting in
proof of the fact that German Imperialist greed was in no way to be
denied. "Heavy ransoms on French towns" was the heading to a paragraph
in the _Times_ of September 7th, 1914, and edifying to a degree was the
subjoined list of towns from whose impotent inhabitants the jubilant
Hun was setting to work to exact sums of money varying in proportion to
their size and population.

Thus we learn that having imprisoned the Préfet du Nord, the Germans
demanded from the town of Lille "a ransom of 7,000,000f (£280,000). At
Armentières they were content with a ransom of 500,000f. (£20,000). At
Amiens they have demanded 1,000,000f. (£40,000) and 100,000 cigars.
Lens has been ransomed for 700,000f. (£28,000)." On yet a previous
occasion (cp. the _Times_, August 22nd, 1914), the Press Bureau having
obligingly announced that out of £15,000,000 of Treasury bills, for
which the Treasury had invited tenders to be sent in, £10,000,000 was
required for a loan from the British Government to Belgium, the Germans
promptly decided that this good British gold might be turned to far
more profitable account by themselves than by the Belgians for whom
it was ostensibly intended, and proceeded forthwith to impose upon
the city of Brussels a war contribution of eight million sterling.
The All-Highest is credited with having expressed himself as being
convinced that "the German people had in the Lord of Creation above
an unconditional ally on whom it could absolutely rely." He must have
felt, too, that his faithful subjects had in the British Government
below a purblind benefactor whom they could regard as an unfailing
source of revenue.

Some idea as to the aspirations and intentions which the Germans were
keeping up their sleeves as concerning ourselves may be gathered from
certain observations which were drawn up by the Allied Ministers at
Jassy, with regard to the conditions imposed upon Rumania by the
Central Powers, and which in their own words "demonstrate in the
best possible manner the insatiable greed and hypocrisy of German

The actual terms of the treaty (of Bukarest) required, _inter alia_
(cp. the _Times_, August 10th, 1918), "the entire male population of
the occupied territories, that is to say of two-thirds of Rumania,
between the ages of fourteen and sixty, to carry out such work as may
be assigned to them. The penalties for disobedience include deportation
and imprisonment, and in some cases, which are not expressly defined,
even that of death. This treaty," as the Allied Ministers observed,
"is a fair example of a German peace. We should consider it all the
more closely inasmuch as the German delegates informed the Rumanian
delegates, who were appalled at being required to accept such
conditions, that they would appreciate their moderation when they knew
those which would be imposed on the Western Powers after the victory of
the Central Empires."

For the fact that "this England never did," and for the determination
that she "never shall, lie at the proud foot of a conqueror," we owe
it entirely to the grit of succeeding generations of British fighting
men. "Wars may be won or lost," in the opinion of Sir Douglas Haig, "by
the standard of health and moral of the opposing forces"; and because
"the feeding and health of the fighting forces are dependent upon the
rearward services, so it may be argued that with the rearward services
rests victory or defeat."

In the same way, since, as we have already seen, the rearward services
of the overseas forces depend for their sustenance upon the continued
and successful operation of the home services of supply and transport,
so it may be argued that upon the feeding and health of these latter
services does the final issue hang.

Realising then, from the very outset, the import of the task devolving
upon the great railways, appreciating, too, the truism that you cannot
maintain an A1 engineering community any less than an "A1 Empire with
a C3 population," Mr. Cooke determined on the course of inaugurating,
in the immediate vicinity of Crewe Works, a canteen, which, rivalling
similar establishments set up in well-nigh every Government-owned, or
controlled, munition factory throughout the length and breadth of the
land, was built and equipped with the most up-to-date cooking apparatus
and utensils, at a cost of £3800, and this thanks entirely to the
spontaneous generosity of the directors of the company, who further
expressed their readiness to bear the cost of all maintenance charges,
such as heating, lighting, and salaries of the kitchen staff. As a
result, the men were enabled to purchase all commodities at actual
cost price, at the same time finding that the meals provided were of
that excellence which inclines one to "forgive anybody, even one's own

There is not a shadow of doubt but that, as regards the rearward
services both home and overseas, "our supply system has been developed
into one of the most perfect in the world," and after being so largely
instrumental in frustrating the aims of the common enemy, the only
danger against which we had to guard was lest "the Ministers of the
Allied Powers should lose by their pen what the Army had gained by the
sword"; in which case the peace we had striven to secure--to quote the
words of that great littérateur and statesman of a former generation,
to wit George Canning--"would be the mere name of peace; not a
wholesome or refreshing repose, but a feverish and troubled slumber."



  "La Mort n'est rien,
  Vive la tombe,
  Quand le pays en sort vivant,
  En avant!"

Surely no one will deny to M. Paul Déroulède, that eminent and talented
French _homme-de-lettres_, to whose inspiring enthusiasm these lines
are attributable, the right of his assertion that Death in the
conditions which he mentions is a negligible quantity? Supreme as has
been the sacrifice of those well-nigh countless scores of officers,
non-commissioned officers, and men, who now "in glory shine," bitter
too and crushing as undoubtedly is the sense of void occasioned by
their absence beyond recall to those of their relatives and friends who
remain, "where is Death's sting?" it may well be asked, "where, Grave,
thy victory?" when the Country, struggling for all that she holds most
dear, finally emerges triumphant, renascent, from the darkest hours of
her existence; for underlying all, there is in this straightforward
challenge a tinge of pride unquenchable, a ring of scorn unmistakable.

Granted then the truth of this dogma, granted too that nothing is more
"dulce et decorum" than "pro patria mori," one cannot but bear in mind
the fact also that Death is not infrequently a happy form of release
from some lamentably pitiable condition of mind or body to another and
altogether brighter degree of existence. "La douleur est un siécle, et
la mort un moment;" one may even assume that the act of "passing away"
is comparable to that merciful dawn of returning consciousness, to
which the dreamer wakes from the vividly realistic, albeit imaginary,
torture of some agonising nightmare. For who at one time or another
of his or her enigmatic existence has not experienced this imaginary
torture, of which the crazy sequence of headlong unreasoning realities
wracks in topsy turvy torment the momentarily unbalanced brain, until
in a frenzy of despair and faced with some climax, unprecedented
and unparalleled, the dreamer wakes, bathed in profuse and clammy
perspiration, breathless and bewildered, yet infinitely grateful to
an all-powerful and protecting Deity that imaginings of so cruel and
fantastic a conception should prove to be but phantoms of the night?

Yet of all the myriad atoms of trivial humanity who have survived the
nightmare of Armageddon-up-to-date, what is the proportion of such
who can honestly say that the life to which we have been restored is
either brimful of promise or bright indeed with prospect? "Forward"
undoubtedly must be the watchword; "en avant;" but whither?

Selecting as a suitable title "Plain Speaking," the writer of a leading
article in the _Times_ of August 13th, 1919, urges that "Ever since
the Armistice Day they (the people) have been living in a fool's
paradise, as though the cessation of armed hostilities had opened the
door to a state of pure enjoyment according to every man's fancy....
The inevitable result is that Europe is drawing near, not merely to
bankruptcy and financial ruin, but to actual starvation."

So pessimistic a pronouncement lends itself to the assumption that
we are merely jumping out of the frying-pan of international strife
into the fire of internal or domestic disruption. The writer of this
article is, however, not quite so pessimistic as to be unable to offer
any remedy, for as an alternative he insists that "this mad orgy of
spending must cease from Government Departments downwards. All classes
must turn to work.... Employers and employed must give up quarrelling
and work together. Economy and work are the two watchwords for the

"En avant," then. But first of all "let us examine things," as Mr.
Lloyd George would have us do, "in the spirit of comradeship which
has been created by the war, that spirit of comradeship which arose
from a common sacrifice," and then, "let us demonstrate to the world
once more that Britain, beyond all lands, has the traditional power of
reaching a solution of her most baffling problems without resorting
to anarchy, but merely by appeal to the commonsense of most, and in
a spirit of fair play." Unhappily enough everybody was, however,
"suffering from the terrible strain of the war; nerves were jagged and
sore; the world was suffering from shell-shock on a great scale." The
position, therefore, if not indeed dangerous was none the less serious
and fraught with difficulty. Put in a nutshell, "we were spending
more, we were earning less; we were consuming more, we were producing
less; we were not paying our way. Before the war our National Debt was
£645,000,000; to-day it is £7,800,000,000" (cp. the _Times_, August
19th, 1919).

"En avant!" But how to remedy the state of affairs? How to straighten
out the tangle? What invariably happens when the blind lead the blind
seemed bound to occur if the Coalition Ministry continued leading or
misleading the people. "I make this indictment against the Ministry
of the day," exclaimed Sir D. Maclean when addressing the House on
August 12th, 1919, "that in this supreme financial crisis of the nation
they are failing wholly in their duty to put a stop to extravagant
expenditure." The Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated the then daily
average expenditure at no less than £4,442,000; the Army, the Navy, and
the Air Force accounting for £1,491,000 of this amount, notwithstanding
the fact that since the Armistice a total of 3,087,973 of all ranks had
been demobilised (cp. the _Times_, August 13th, 1919. Statement issued
by the War Office).

There can be no doubt but that the opinion prevalent on all hands was
that the great ship of State was in danger of being swamped in the
maelstrom of Ministerial mismanagement; yet in spite of this we read
that the Transport Bill (to take one solitary if salient instance) was
proposing to "create a new and costly brand of bureaucracy, headed
by titled dignitaries, and naval and military officers, with a whole
Milky Way of attendant satellites" (cp. the _Times_, July 17th, 1919),
and truth to tell, this "new and costly brand" seemed likely to afford
as great or as little hope of salvation to the man-in-the-street
as would a stone if thrown to a drowning man; it could but let him
down. According to the Gospel of Experience, "State Control has never
yet resulted in economy," and the present was certainly no time for
"legislative megalomania."

Admittedly no inconsiderable amount of ink has been spilt over the
question of transport, covering as it does so obviously wide a range.
The railways, as we know, during the war and since the armistice have
been run at the expense of, and under the nominal control of, the
State; but even so democratic a chieftain as is the versatile Prime
Minister had to confess that he had not noticed any apparent harmony
under this particular régime, and the subtle note of irony is by no
means lacking when he reminds his hearers in the House of Commons "we
have had, I think, a few strikes; and so long as strikes are prevalent,
where," he asks, "is the promotion of harmony if you have State control
and State ownership? I do not see the harmony that is to come under
State control" (cp. the _Times_ August 19th, 1919). No sooner had
the outburst of cheering which greeted this remark subsided, than an
Hon. Member (Lab.), chipping in, was heard to opine "these things
will happen under private ownership," a theory which impelled Mr.
Lloyd George promptly to retort, "I do not say it will be any worse
under State ownership, but I say it will not be any better." To the
average and impartial intelligence, therefore, the most satisfactory
and logical Q.E.D. to this little argument might be summed up in the
three words "as you were"; indeed, the "pros" in favour of so patent
a usurpation of private interests as is embodied in State control or
nationalisation of railways may be said to be far outweighed by the
opposing "cons." During the period in which the nation was fighting
for its life, there was evidently no time "for renewing machinery,
there was hardly time for repairing, and there was quite inadequate
time for cleaning," but the fact remains that during this period of
State control the railways were run at a loss; and that loss, largely
attributable to enormous increases in wages, diminution in working
hours, and mathematically proportionate reduction in output, came
straight from the taxpayers' pockets. Why then, it may be asked,
this persistent demand for Ministerial megalomania-to-be? What the
reason for this "new and costly brand of bureaucracy," which assuming
the proportions of an octopus threatens to crush every vestige of
individuality and private enterprise which happens within the deadly
orb of its encircling and insatiable tentacles?

The explanation is not far to seek--"Sir Herbert Walker and his
colleagues on the Railway Executive Committee have been too modest,
the public do not know what they achieved" (cp. _Engineering_, January
17th, 1919, "The Railway Problem"). Further, unknown to the average
man-in-the-street, "the individual organisations of the Railway
Companies (during the war) remained intact, and the Boards of Directors
continued to be responsible for the conduct of their affairs. The
desire was to get the work done"--to deliver the goods--"with as
little disturbance of the existing machinery as possible. The changes
which were introduced and the high efficiency which was witnessed in
the working of the traffic of the railways during the war was due far
more to a patriotic determination on the part of all concerned to do
their utmost to assist the country in a time of national emergency,
regardless of corporate or personal interests, than to the direct
imposition by the Government of its will upon the railway companies."

Ministerial axe-grinders, and disgruntled Labour members, were well
aware of all this; they were faced, too, with the fact that "the
control by a Committee of General Managers has really resulted in
freeing the railways from the 'blighting effect' of State control,
and the successful operation of British railways during the war is
really a tribute to the efficiency of private (as distinct from State)
ownership." Not only this, but a further fact which undoubtedly
redounds to the credit of Sir Herbert Walker and his little band of
colleagues could not be disregarded, for as we learn from the _Times_
of July 17th, 1919, "the Railway Executive Committee controlled the
whole railway system of these islands during the war from a few
shabby rooms at Westminster with a staff of about eighteen clerks.
The Committee was so modest that they did not commandeer a single
hotel, or angle for the smallest honours, but they achieved wonders of
transportation with steadily diminishing resources." Finally, and as
voicing the opinion of the business community at large, we have only
to observe that the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce emphatically records
its belief that "Nationalisation (of railways) would be a national

One misfortune not unusually leads to another, and logically enough it
may be argued that one of the more immediate of the "blighting effects
of State control" likely to become apparent is what may be termed "the
passing of ingenuity," resulting in lack of incentive to individual
enterprise, or, in a word, an inevitable stalemate. "Committed
irrevocably to mass production, to specialisation, to rigs and jigs
and standards, to gigantic industrial combines, to the suppression of
individual merit, and the apotheosis of mass merit," a writer in the
_Engineer_ of April 25th, 1919, deplores the fact that "skill is being
transferred from the man to the machine; knowledge is being replaced by
the schedule; organisation by rule is taking the place of organisation
by mother wit." Plainly too, but none the less regretfully, the same
writer conjectures that "in another fifty years these things we now
foresee dimly will be the commonplaces of industry"; and "oh tempora!
oh mores!" let future generations beware, for "brought up in standard
crèches on standard feeding bottles with standard milk, we shall pass
through a course of standard education, be dressed in standard clothes,
carried in standard conveyances, live in standard dwellings, behave
like standard citizens, and in due course be carried in standard
coffins in a standard hearse to a standard crematorium."

Undoubtedly every one is entitled to his or her own opinion, _apropos_
any particular subject of debate; but without prejudice it may be asked
whether any one in his legitimate senses is capable of viewing this
"standard" perspective, these "blighting effects of State control,"
with feelings other than of revolt and dismay. "Victory is nothing,"
so Napoleon is reputed to have declared, "if you do not profit by
success"; and having achieved success regardless of the cost, having
won through "non pour dominer"--to use the words of that great
Commander of the Entente Armies, Marshal Foch--"mais pour être libre,"
in what way are we endeavouring to profit?

"There is evidence of slackness; the effort has got to be quickened;
all must put their backs into it to save the country. Our international
trade is in peril, and our home trade is depressed by reduction of
output and the increased cost of production. Words must be translated
into action unless thousands of lives are to be sacrificed to hunger
and cold; this is no hyperbole."

Such, as we know, are specimens of periodic if unpalatable pessimisms
provided by prominent personalities. The experience of Sir Edward
Grey, as he tells us, is that the difficulty is not so much to tell
the truth, as to get the truth believed. Were we then really living in
a fool's paradise? Could it truthfully be said that we as a community
were consenting to become a "League of Dupes," as the Nations have
been banded together as a League? Heaven forbid! for just as it would
be idle to imagine that there will be no more strikes, no extremist
incitement to anarchy, so too in the considered opinion of Mr. Lloyd
George "it would be folly to assume that human nature will never give
way to passion again, and that there will be no war. A nation that
worked on that assumption might regret its conduct." Unfortunately,
there is no denying the fact--as a captured German naval officer
once tersely put it--that although they (the Germans) could never
be gentlemen, we (the British) would ever be fools! Hence it comes
about that at a time when "the most pressing interest of humanity is
that the profit and loss account of a barbarous bid for world-power
should show an impressive balance on the wrong side," it is open to
argument whether the policy embodied in the Treaty of Versailles, of
"tempering justice with mercy," was altogether prudent; mercy, that is,
which "could not speak more eloquently than it does in the unmutilated
landscape of German agriculture, and in the immunity of her civilians
from all the horrors of her own practice as an invader" (cp. _Pall Mall
Gazette_, June 28th, 1919).

Be that as it may, "once bitten" is proverbially and habitually "twice
shy," so that it would seem well-nigh inconceivable that a lesson of
such magnitude as the Nation has learnt during the long-drawn-out
agony of the world-war can readily be forgotten; and whatever the
future all unknown may hold in store for us, undimmed in the minds
of succeeding generations will most surely shine as a guiding light
the splendid record of private enterprise and of individual endeavour
as exemplified by the great railway companies of the British Isles,
amongst which pride of place can scarcely be withheld from the London
and North-Western Railway, to whom the country, without doubt, owes a
deep and lasting debt of gratitude.

"En avant!" then, as surely those who gave their all would have us do.
"En avant!" that their sacrifice supreme shall not have been in vain.
"En avant!" and may our thankfulness and pride go out to them in that
"great unknown beyond," where they--

  "... shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
  At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
  We will remember them."

[Illustration: WAR MEMORIAL, EUSTON.

  "At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will
  remember them."

[_To face p. 210._]



Fitted with standard vacuum brake, the train was also driven by an
ingeniously devised vacuum system of control, which could be operated
from either end of the train or from the footplate of the engine. On
the smoke-box side, and intermediate between steam chests and main
regulator valve, was fixed an additional regulator valve, actuated by
a small vacuum cylinder. A 3/4-inch vacuum pipe acting in conjunction
with the vacuum brake pipe and running the whole length of the train
was connected to three pairs of vacuum control valves and gauges
fixed, respectively, one on the footplate and one at each end of the
train. When all these vacuum control valves were placed at the "shut"
position, the ports were open to admit air, and no vacuum could be
created; consequently the brakes remained on, and the additional
regulator valve shut, so that no steam could reach the steam chests
even if the main regulator valve was open.

When, however, the vacuum control valves were placed in the open
position, the air ports were closed, and the driver, supposing he was
at the end of the train, signalled to the fireman on the footplate
to "blow up" with the usual steam-ejector, a vacuum being thereby
created not only for releasing the brakes, but also for operating the
additional regulator valve which the driver controlled and by means
of which he started the train. Conversely when he wished to stop, all
that he had to do was to bring his control lever over once again to the
shut position, when the air-ports opened, the vacuum was destroyed,
the regulator-valve shut, the brakes went on, and the train came to a



Gauges may be divided into two categories known as "working" and
"inspecting" gauges; again each category is further divided into two
sub-categories, designated in approved munitions' parlance as "to go"
and "not to go." "Working" gauges being in more or less constant use,
and subjected, not infrequently, to a certain measure of rough usage,
were allowed a slightly less "tolerance" or margin, plus or minus,
high or low, than were "inspecting" gauges; that is to say, given a
certain specific measurement for any specific part of a shell, the
gauge in proportion as it was "working" or "inspecting" was limited to
a tolerance of a minute fraction of an inch either above or below the
finished dimension; this was in fact considered the _beau idéal_ of
good workshop practice.

Let us take for the sake of argument a shell body. If after being
turned to presumably the required and finished diameter it was found
to slip through the hole of a "not to go" working gauge, there was no
alternative other than that of scrapping it then and there, because
obviously once turned to too small a diameter, not "all the king's
horses nor all the king's men" could ever increase that diameter by one
single iota again; as a biblical parallelism one might even add that
it would be "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle"
than for a "not to go" shell to enter into bond. If, on the other
hand, the shell would not quite enter the "to go" hole of a "working"
gauge, or even if it was a tight fit in this hole, it followed that
there remained a certain tolerance or margin whereby the diameter could
still be reduced to a trifle, and the shell _per se_ qualified as a
candidate for the final examination of the "inspecting" gauge. Picking
up, then, our "inspecting" gauge we find that this, in like manner, has
two holes, one "to go" and one "not to go"; but the gauge-maker has
perforce been wily enough to leave the tolerance of these "inspecting"
gauge holes a minute fraction of an inch greater, above and below the
required finished dimension, than that allowed in the "working" gauge
holes, his purpose being to ensure the inspector something up his
sleeve in the way of control over the machinists who use the "working
gauge" only; hence the "not to go" hole of the "inspecting" gauge is
slightly less in diameter than the "not to go" hole of the "working"
gauge; the "inspecting" "to go" hole is a tiny trifle larger than
the diameter of the finished shell than is the "to go" hole of the
"working" gauge.

The accompanying diagram scaled to convenient fractions of an inch will
perhaps help to illustrate the meaning of these tolerances.

Suppose for instance that the correct finished diameter of our shell
is 5-31/32 inches, the tolerances allowed by the Government (_i.e._
the final "inspecting" tolerances) can be represented by the two
semicircles and dimensions shown below the centre line, which, as will
be seen, are further from the finished dimensions than are the two
semicircles and dimensions shown above the centre line, these latter
representing the "working" tolerances, the difference between the two
sets of figures representing the amount of margin kept up his sleeve by
the Inspector by way of control over the machinists using the "working"
gauges only.

In actual practice of course the fractions of an inch representing
these tolerances are infinitely smaller than those shown above for the
purpose of illustration only.

Some idea of the infinitely small fractions representing the tolerances
allowed may be gathered by taking a sheet of ordinary thin note-paper,
the thickness of which is about 3/1000 parts of an inch, or ·003
inch; try to imagine this sheet of thin note-paper made ten times
thinner still, and you will find it reduced to a minimum of tissue
thickness, 3/10000 parts of an inch or ·0003 inch; remember now that on
good artillery depends not only the lives, maybe of your nearest and
dearest, but the honour of the nation too; and you have firstly some
idea of the imperceptible fractions of an inch to which a shell-gauging
instrument is made; secondly the reason for the proportionate degree of
accuracy demanded in the manufacture of artillery ammunition itself.


"BACKING-OFF" LATHE. [_Appendix C_]



The action of a thread-milling machine is as follows:--The cutter
fixed on a mandrel, and the shell in the milling machine, revolve in
opposite directions to one another. The teeth of the cutter, contrary
to expectation, are simply a series of parallel rings cut the correct
pitch of the thread required; consequently all that is necessary is
that the shell shall travel longitudinally the distance of one pitch of
the thread during one complete revolution, and the job is done.

Particular interest centres, perhaps, in the little thread-cutter
itself, and in the amount of ingenuity evinced in the method of its

In the first place a rotary form-milling cutter regulated by a dividing
head is run across the eventuating hob thread-cutter in a series of
spiral lengths. The profile of this form-milling cutter forms both a
rounded clearance for the cutting edge of the hob cutting teeth and a
"gash" or groove necessary for the clearance of the chasing tool when
cutting the teeth.

The reason for these spiral gashes is that each separate tooth shall
come into play individually and consecutively instead of collectively
and simultaneously, the life of the teeth being in this manner very
materially prolonged.

We notice then, that instead of adhering to a uniform circumference,
the teeth, or series of teeth, are what is known as "backed off" from
the cutting edge, a clearance being in this wise imparted, the true
form of the teeth being thereby maintained in subsequent grinding

This clearance is obtainable by means of the "backing-off" or
"relieving" mechanism of a lathe especially designed for the purpose.
A geared shaft running parallel with the bed of the lathe causes
to revolve a cam. This cam, by virtue of the eccentricity of its
face, imparts a transverse movement to the lathe rest through the
intermediary of a transverse spindle on which is fixed a second cam
also eccentrically faced.

The revolving face of the one bearing against the stationary face of
the other causes the latter to draw the lathe-rest inwards against
the compression of a spring; no sooner have the cam edges passed one
another than the spring relaxes, allowing the lathe-rest to jump back
again to its former position.

It is during the inward movement of the lathe-rest that the
form-chasing tool cuts the required clearance behind the hob miller's
teeth, finishing into the cross-cut spiral gash; the outward movement
has the effect of pushing the chasing tool in the nick of time clear of
the succeeding row of teeth, ready to repeat a similar operation. The
eccentric profile of the cam faces, needless to say, is responsible for
the curved relief, or clearance, behind the edge of the hob miller's
teeth, and the cams can be changed at will according to the curve
required. The delaying action of the lathe-rest necessary to coincide
with the spiral gash is imparted by means of a slide set diagonally
to the requisite angle of the spiral; as this was a series of rings
and not a screw thread, it was necessary, when cutting the teeth, to
disengage the leading screw from the backing-off gear to enable the
teeth to be cut while the saddle of the lathe was in a stationary

Far from falling within the category of those employers on the portals
of whose workshops may have been inscribed the fatal words "too
late," Mr. Cooke was early in the field as a purchaser of the hob
thread-milling machine.

Delivered with the machine was a hob cutter, but strangely enough
instead of being spiral this cutter was straight fluted. The occasion
of a visit to the Works of a certain Government Tool Inspector was
productive of an amusing little comedy. Noticing the backing-off lathe
above referred to, and being in urgent need of a supply of spiral hob
cutters, he expressed his intention of commandeering the lathe for the
exclusive manufacture of these particular hobs for Government purposes,
heedless of the fact that the lathe was and had been continuously
employed for locomotive purposes. Being under the impression too
that only one firm of expert tool makers in the country was capable
of cutting spiral hobs, great was his astonishment and delight on
discovering that Crewe was not only equally capable of doing so, but
previously had been performing this very class of work; the net result
of this little episode being that the lathe in question was immediately
requisitioned for a continuous supply of spiral hob cutters which were
to be sent to shell manufacturing firms, and a second backing-off lathe
was speedily forthcoming, in order that the Company's own locomotive
requirements should be in no way impeded.



Transcriber's note:
  -Applied the errata to the text
  -Whole and fractional parts displayed as 3-1/2
  -Made several silent typographical changes for mismatched
    single/double quotes
  -Italic text display as _text_
  -Spelling and word usage have been retained as they appear in the
   original publication, except as follows:
     -Page viii: Changed "Psychologigues" to "Psychologiques".
     -Page viii, 40: Changed "Enseignments" to "Enseignements".
     -Page 26: Changed "the same control has" to "the same control as"
     -Page 88: Changed "6 percent" to "60 percent". (The total
       composition of brass should add up to 100%.)
     -Page 89: Changed "are slightly taper to" to "are slightly
       tapered to".
     -Page 183: Changed "Rang-de-Fliers" to "Rang-du-Fliers" and
       "Etaples" to "Étaples".
     -Page 189: Changed "the the railway" to "the railway".

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