The Quintinshill Disaster and Britain’s Railways During the First World War

Wilkinson, Robert Luke (2020) The Quintinshill Disaster and Britain’s Railways During the First World War. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Although the Home Front in Britain during the First World War has received a great deal more attention in recent years, the role of the railways has been largely overlooked. Yet the railway were crucial in maintaining the war effort and wartime economy, transporting not only weaponry and troops, but food items for both the domestic population and the forces; mail travelling to and from the front lines, and essential commodities such as coal for the nation’s navy. This dissertation considers the impact of the early stages of the war, through analysis of the worst disaster in British railway history at Quintinshill on the 22nd of May 1915. Five trains were in involved in a catastrophic collision leading to the loss of 226 military and civilian lives. By utilizing documents detailing the coordination of the railways by the Railway Executive Committee, and exploring the events at Quintinshill using the official report into the disaster, as well as newspaper reports and company documents, the operation of the railways under wartime conditions is examined. Using the Quintinshill disaster as a prism through which to analyse the issues, the extreme pressures faced by the railways and the people that operated them during this crucial period have been examined, showing how normal protocols dictating safe operations on the railways were being neglected during wartime.

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