IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE 

BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F. 

 

 

 

 

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 The First World War 1914 - 18


 

 In common with other British railways, the LB&SCR was brought under government control during the First World War. Until then it had carried relatively little heavy freight for much of its existence, but this situation changed dramatically at the outbreak of war. The railway was responsible for carrying the bulk of the stores and munitions  delivered to the British troops on the continent, principally through its ports of Newhaven and (to a lesser degree) Littlehampton. This included nearly seven million tons of freight, including 2.7 million tons of explosives. It necessitated an additional 53,376 freight trains over the four years of the war, as well as an additional 27,366 troop trains.

This additional traffic required substantial improvements to the railway infrastructure, notably at Newhaven harbour, where electric lighting was installed, but also at Three Bridges, where a new freight marshalling yard was established, and at Gatwick and Haywards Heath, where passing sidings were constructed so that the frequent passenger trains would not be impeded by the slower-moving freight. Some munitions trains were routed to Newhaven via the Steyning Line to Brighton so as to avoid congesting that part of the Brighton main line which had only two tracks.

Prior to the First World War engine cleaners received no holidays. However, engine cleaners who had worked as a fireman for at least 9 months out of the previous 12 months were awarded 3 days annual holiday; but only approved fireman were able to meet to meet this requirement and by the time they could fill 9 months of the year with firing turns they had virtually ceased to be cleaners. Moreover, even those footplatemen who were entitled to a few days’ holiday were forbidden from taking it during the summer service. Therefore some cleaners/fireman belonged to Territorial Army or to the Royal Navy Reserve. This was not them being patriotic, but it was a way of getting paid holiday whilst attending summer camp each year. But things caught up with them in August 1914 when the Great War broke out.
The Territorials and Reservists were mobilised almost immediately and caught up in the patriotic fervor which swept through the nation. Many others volunteered for active service. By the end of August, Brighton had seen the departure of 25 enginemen; 18 cleaners, 3 approved firemen and 4 firemen. The exodus continued in September with another 16 departures; 8 cleaners, 5 approved firemen and 3 firemen. Five  more volunteers went in October/November; 3 cleaners and 2 firemen. Thus in a very short time, Brighton had seen a total of 29 cleaners, 8 approved firemen and 9 firemen all going off to fight for their country. This was approximately one in ten of the entire footplate grade at Brighton. Only 2 of the 46 loco-men did not return after the war was over. It is possible that most of them served in the Railway Operating Division which had a causality rate much lower than in the trenches.

This sudden depletion of loco staff raised concerns within the locomotive department and a notice was duly issued by Lawson Billinton Locomotive Superintend, stating that the footplate staff could best serve their country by staying put and continuing in their normal jobs. A lot of trains were going to be needed to supply the British forces in France and those trains couldn’t run without engine crews. Indeed, from thenceforth any enginemen who wanted to ‘join up’ for military service would first have to hand in their notice to the L.B.S.C.R.: in other words they would have to resign from their job on the railway. 

 

A scene at Brighton railway station

 

 

On the Western Front men were living and dying in the rat infested mud of the trenches, whilst back in ‘Blighty’ a tremendous war effort was being maintained to keep the mincing machine supplied. Britain’s railways were geared up to carry huge consignments of war materiel including train load after train load of ‘cannon fodder’  both human and equine; train load after train load of hay and straw for the horses, rations and supplies for the troops, guns, munitions and the rest. Also, of course, there was a contra-flow of Ambulance trains bringing back the wounded and the maimed. Most of this rail traffic converged on the sea ports of South-East England and Newhaven played a major part of this operation.

 

Newhaven running shed was one of the smaller depots on the L.B.S.C.R. Before the war it could only muster a total of only ten locomotives. Under war conditions, Newhaven depot assumed an importance out of all proportion to its size. It provided running shed facilities for a constant procession of visiting engines which came and went through all hours of the day and night. Almost every one of these locomotives worked into Newhaven with a ‘MOBRAIL’ trains (MOBRAIL was the code-name for a goods train loaded with military supplies). As the war went on, more and more MOBRAIL’s were needed and eventually they were arriving in Newhaven at half-hourly intervals all around the clock.

As the focal point of so much activity during the war, Newhaven running shed simply hadn’t enough enginemen to cope with all the work. There was only one solution to this problem: enginemen were drafted in from other depots within the company for 3 or 4 months at a time. The enginemen had to be available for any turn of duty at any hour of the day or night and were working seven days per week without having a day off. The enginemen also had to find their own lodgings in Newhaven.

With the need for more manpower some engine drivers such as Bill Coney worked passed their retirement age of 60 to help ease the manpower shortage and finally retiring at end of the war in 1918 aged 62. 

  Extracted from the book

Yesterdays Once More

By Fred Rich 

 

 A scene at Brighton railway station

 

 

In March 1915 A.S.L.E.F. Organising Secretary Mr. W. Warwick met with Locomotive Superintendent Lawson Billinton. W. Warwick was the secretary of the Locomotive men's Side Conciliation Board. Billinton explained that it had now been decided to pay enginemen, who were reduced in consequence of the war, their original rate of pay, notwithstanding their being employed on lower grade work. The proviso that all such men must transfer, if required, must, however stand still. Warwick agreed to the proviso was quite reasonable. Billinton stated that the men who transferred would be given first opportunity to go back when normal times come around again. The men would not be moved unless absolutely necessary.

Complaints between the Locomotive men Billinton where not just about pay but also working conditions. On 12th February, 1917, the Locomotive men fielded a major deputation and met with Billinton. attending were E.S. Moore of the Running Department and engine drivers from Battersea, Brighton, Fratton, Horsham, New Cross, St. Leonards and Tunbridge Wells and a fireman from West Croydon. At the outset Billinton suggested that instead of the deputation being called 'A Grievance Committee', some more suitable name such as 'Improvement committee' should be found. The range of subject included: 

Derailments on Lewes turntable.

Billinton promised locking levers would be separated, but after that enginemen would be held responsible for any further derailments.

Space between the down local and turntable road at Montpelier Junction blocked with permanent way material.

Billinton promised to raise this with the Engineer.

Shedman Kitchin should be given a minimum driver's rate.

Billinton replied that the man was hardly a driver, and it was established that he did not take his engine more than 200 yards on running lines. he had no objection to Kitchin's advancement when possible and when a suitable vacancy occurred.

Distribution of the 4s.9d and 8s. pay rates.

Billinton reminded them of the precedence of men over the local lines and of seniority. The question of Tunbridge Wells and Three Bridges being classed as  main line could not be definite. The whole point rested with the class of worked carried out.

Seniority arrangements.

The delegation's proposal, Billinton explained, would mean putting up 63 men and putting down 139, and therefore detrimental to the majority. The men raised problems of seniority relating to Battersea men transferred to West Croydon, and pointed that the defence of the realm list, hung up in the shed caused dissatisfaction in the matter.

Punishment of men exceeding speed limits.

Billinton gave particular instances where men had been suspended, pointing out previous cases against them. In the case of speed limits interfering with the timekeeping of trains to the extent of making the time shown in the time book impossible, the lost time must be explained. Billinton took the opportunity to elucidate the new method of taking speed by electrical recorder.

Promotion.

The men proposed that a driver or fireman should be related after working two years or 616 days in the higher grade. Billinton stated that this was a question largely affected by 'Universal Seniority', but best left till after the war. The men's point was the difficulty of getting into the second class of the Pension fund when only approved men, and the delay made back payments heavier.

Shed Day.

The men suggested a reduction of miles to 700 for a shed day of 10 hours. War reductions were causing a loss shed days, and a large number of excess miles worked in summer might be carried forward to the winter, It was stated that local men at Brighton got 3/4 day's pay for a shed day by working a trip before washing out. Billinton promised to look into these entitlements.

Withdrawal of Fogmen. 

Billinton had discuss this with Mr. Scott, notwithstanding shortage of labour, but exceptional cases could be brought to the Foreman's notice for consideration.

Guard Signals.

They suggested that the Under Guard should give the white light to the Head Guard when starting trains. Billinton approved this.

Lodging Allowance.

The men thought the present allowance should be increased owing to War conditions. Billinton promised to look into the matter; the difficulty was, however, that this matter was embodied in the terms of service.

Request that the walls of the ash pit at Brighton should be repaired.

Billinton assured that this would be done when the labour was available, and explained that it was proposed to release the Forces such men as firelighters, washer-out, etc., whose place would be place taken for the time being by firemen not required for traffic.

Request for the opening of the old engine shed pits at Eastbourne.

Billinton could not see the necessity for this view of the small number of engines running into Eastbourne.

Revisions of timings requested.

Billinton said this under consideration but explained 'engines should not be thrashed'. In connection it was mentioned that the awning at Battersea station, West London line, was dangerous for men working with the Moguls.

Shortage of overcoats.

Fireman Ede (Midhurst) and Pumping Enginemen Cornwell (Steyning) were instanced. Billinton said enquiries would be made at shed at whether they had a spare overcoat.

Other matters:

Disc for crossover roads at West Croydon.

Two place at Victoria where handsignal were necessary.

Question of dangerous position of regulator lubricators on dome.

Billinton pointed out that it was more dangerous to attend to these lubricators than for a cleaner to clean out the boiler.

A case of tight workings on the 9.25 am to Victoria, arriving Battersea shed about 4.30 pm, and leaving at 4.53 pm.

Moore was asked to look into it.

More leniency requested for the men at Fratton not using a time recorder

Over to Moore again.

War bonus payments for men off ill or attending deputations.

South Eastern men were paid if a medical certificate was produced. It was asked what the South Western men were doing in this respect.

Coal for railwaymen.

Billinton promised to enquire regarding coal from the Railway Company for private use.

Complaints by Brighton men of painters taking up a large part of the shed.

Billinton said the painters would be transferred.

Suggestion of trailer coaches being fitted so that the engine could be attached at either end, to save running bunke first.

Exhaust injectors of No.37 not having a stop plug for use in case of obstruction of top clack.

To be investigated.

 

Extracted from the book

Lawson Billinton: A Career Cut Short

 By Klaus Marx

 

                                                             L.B.S.C.R. Ambulance train 

 

                      The L. B. S. C. R. First World War service badge 

 Above

The L. B. S. C. R. First World War service badge .

The L.B.S.C.R. 1st World War memorial plaque at Brighton & London Victoria station (Central side), listing the 532 names of the the railway employees who lost their lives during this war.

 

A badge was issued by the L.B. & S.C.R. to all its employees who were classed as in “protected occupations” within the Company. Similar badges were issued by other railway companies throughout the country.

This badge was produced after the railway trade unions put pressure on the government to protect the railway workers from being attacked by the general public who branded railway workers as cowards due to not being seen in military uniform.

The A.S.L.E.F. General Secretary Albert Fox wrote in April 1915 to the War Office.

“Our members are jeered at and even molested in the streets by dockyard workers and soldiers, because they have not been enlisted. I have no hesitation in asserting that our members are just as loyal to their country. We have a large number who would have joined if they had not been prevented from doing so by the instructions given from the War Office to the effect that locomotive men must not be enlisted. My object in writing this letter is to ask that some arrangement shall be made for supplying Drivers, Firemen and Cleaners with these buttons to prevent any trouble in the future” 

The Government War Office refused the A.S.L.E.F General Secretaries request as they only issued badges to skilled workmen of armament firms. However the badges where issued by some of the railway companies.

There were an estimated 35 different types of these badges produced by the different railway companies

 

 

 UNIVERSAL SENIORITY

 

Engine driver Eaves who had been reduced to the lowest driving rate for any firing work, met Locomotive Superintendent Lawson Billinton on the 17th October 1915. Driver Eaves pointed out that as there were vacancies above him to fill up, Driver Eaves felt that he ought to be considered to fill such vacancies. Billinton had already sent out a letter on the subject of  having a 'Universal Seniority', but the loco men in the Southern District did not want a 'Universal Seniority'. Billinton confirmed there would be no higher rate while there were vacancies.

Extracted from the book

Lawson Billinton: A Career Cut Short

 By Klaus Mar

 


1918 A.A.D.

 

At the 1918 A.A.D. in late May and early June. The Brighton and Doncaster delegates attempted to align the Society with the desire for a Allied victory (in the Great War) but was ruled out of order.

 Taken from "Driven by ideals"

 

 

 

 

REMEMBERANCE 333  "L CLASS" (Baltic Tank 4-6-4T) was the last steam engine to be built by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway at Brighton in April 1922. The Remembrance locomotive was named in honour of the 532 L.B.S.C.R railway men who lost their lives during the First World War. The engine was allocated to Brighton based Engine-drivers Fred Horsman and Harry Funnell, who worked on the Southern Belle service between Brighton and London.  

Following the electrification of the main London to Brighton the "L CLASS" locomotives were to be designated to work on the express trains between London to Eastbourne.The "L CLASS" locomotives were to be withdrawn from service at the end of 1934. Remembrance was withdrawn from service on the 7th December 1934. This was due to the electrification of the line Between Keymer Junction to Eastbourne and that there was no other suitable work for the "L CLASS" locomotives. This was owing to restrictive route availability placed on this class of locomotive. With no other suitable work being available within the Brighton section of the Southern Railway the "L CLASS" was withdrawn. Remembrance along with the other six engines of this CLASS  were sent to Eastleigh works to be rebuilt into  CLASS N15x (REMEMBRANCE CLASS 4-6-0) locomotives.

Remembrance re-entered service on 27th June 1935 and along with the rest of her Class they spent the rest of their working lives on the South Western section of the Company, working semi fast trains between London Waterloo and Basinstoke. These locomotives were finally withdrawn from service by British Railways in 1956 and Remembrance was withdrawn at Brighton on 4th April 1956 after working a special train to Brighton. The Remembrance name plates are on display at the National Railway Museum at York 

 


A scene at Brighton railway station

 

 STORIES FROM THE SHOVEL


WE WON THE WAR..............................

..................BUT WE LOST OUR ENGINE

extracted from RTCS book on locomotives of the LBSCR


An humours incident happened on the evening of 11th November, 1918, Armistice Night, which involve the crew of an Class E4 No. 500. The crew had just worked a van special down from London Bridge to Redhill and was standing in the down bay awaiting instructions as its return to New Cross, when the Station Master asked the driver into his office for a glass of beer to celebrate the ending of hostilities. The Fireman, a young  lad of 17, was left in charge and after attending the fire and boiler he sat down on a luggage truck, ate his supper and fell asleep. In due course, the driver returned to find his his engine gone and his mate snoring gently away without a care in the world until roughly brought back to reality and 11.45 p.m. on the draughty Redhill platform. A hurried search failed to bring the engine to light and at first it was thought that there was a  runaway on the main line, but after the Signalman on duty had proved this impossible, the search was broadened to include the S.E.& C.R.'s running shed. There the they found the engine simmering along side the Foreman's office, where it apparently been taken by a crew going of duty, although no evidence of this was ever found despite a lengthy inquiry by the officials of the two companies concerned. In the wrath of officialdom fell on the helpless Fireman, who was fined £3 for sleeping on duty, no special circumstances being found in his tender years, or in the 12 1/4 hours spent on duty prior to the incident.

 

 

         Brighton driver Jack "Mucking" Billett finally receives recognition for serving in the First World War 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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