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WILLIAM C. PLAINE 1937 - 1941

(Footplate Seniority 29.04.1901)

& A. E. FRENCH 1942 - 1950

(Footplate Seniority 31.03.1919)


H. BEALL 1936 -1942

(Footplate Seniority 12.07.1897)

& C. BATCHELOR 1943 - 1949

(Footplate Seniority 21.04.1913)


First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller 1892–1984





The historians have recorded very little of the importance that the railway's played during the war. This page, in the coming months, will try to explain the important role played by the enginemen. Although being an Enginemen was classed as a “Reserved Occupation” and as such they could not be conscripted into the armed forces they were all expected to enter the Home Guard so not only were they working very long hours at work they were then expected to spend many more hours guarding their Depots and Sidings. The enginemen were putting their own lives at risk, whilst carrying out their work and keeping the country moving, whilst hostilities where going on all around them. Some engine men paid the ultimate price, as they come under attack from enemy aircraft

The politicians promised all of Britain’s railwaymen and woman that after the war was over they would be rewarded for their commitments for keeping the trains moving around the country. The railwaymen and women were going to go beyond their normal expectations and at times too confronted with some of the most difficult circumstances that they would never expect to endure under normal circumstances .It was not uncommon for Enginemen to be on Duty for 24 hours only being relieved when they had run out of food and water!!.   

During the Second World War, holidaymakers using the lines to the Channel ports and the West Country were replaced by troops, especially with the threat of a German invasion of the south coast in 1940. Before the hostilities began, 75% of traffic on the Southern Railway was passenger, compared with 25% freight; during the war roughly the same number of passengers was carried, but freight grew to massive 60% of total traffic. A desperate shortage of freight locomotives was remedied by C.M.E. Oliver Bulleid with the introduction of the C1 “Austerity” Class Locomotive on the Southern Railway  while the volume of military freight and soldiers moved by a primarily commuter and holidaymaker carrying railway was a breath-taking feat.

The British evacuation from France has been extensively documented but the historians have done less than justice to its sequel, which involved another 'evacuation'. This one was by land on our side of the Channel. All those troops had to be disembarked at various ports along the Kent and Sussex Coast from where they would be moved by train to place all over England. The railway was still by far the predominate system of land transport; and the German Air Force, with a few well-placed attacks, could have served our Southern railway links to the ports and caused total disruption to this second evacuation. It is anybody's guess what would have after that, fortunately this did not happen.

In the Spring of 1940, the Germans had conquered France in a six week blitz offensive. This left the British Expeditionary Force with its back to the sea, trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. It is now a matter of history that most of our beleaguered army was saved: as armada of rescue craft (including ‘the little ships’) swarmed across the English Channel to pluck our soldiers from the beaches of Northern France. This was Operation ‘Dynamo’ which took place between the 27th May to the 6th June 1940, ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’, which left Britain to fight another day.

The railway companies had only a few days to prepare and to co-ordinate for this huge operation and at any moment those days might have dwindled to hours, to co-ordinate all their Locomotives, rolling-stock and train crews and had to produced virtually ‘out of a hat’.  The Dunkirk trains would require immaculate organising and the trains had to be brought together to be in the right place at the right time – and then keeping them moving along hastily – improvised paths.

Nobody could foresee just how soon the evacuation would begin – it was imminent all the time. Moreover, it was impossible to predict how many soldiers would be rescued from Dunkirk and how many would be left behind. The only course was to plan and pray for the maximum number to be brought home; and on this basis it was estimated that 150 trains would be required. It was envisaged by the War Office that the British Expeditionary Force – or whatever was left of it – would be disembarked at eight Southern coastal ports: Margate, Ramsgate, Dover, Folkestone, Hastings, Eastbourne, Newhaven and Brighton. From these places the movement of rail would begin and the travellers themselves would be no ordinary passengers: they would be dishevelled survivors who had escaped from Hell, and many of them would be wounded.

The evacuation trains were eventually seen on all four of Britain’s main-line railways, heading for various destinations. But they all had to start from a handful of stations along the South Coast; and before doing so they, they had to enter this congested area as empty coaching stock. Hence it was on the South Coast that the drama was enacted out in its entirety.

The movement started at dawn on May 27th 1940, and it took 186 trains and not 150 trains as planned for. The trains never stopped for nine and half days with the enginemen working continuously throughout. The evacuation trains moved 323,000 men away from the ports and across the country to safety. The enginemen on trains were coming into the stations, were dazed with weariness. It didn't make it easier for the railwaymen and women, that the ports weren’t quite the same as the Railway had planned for. Of course, the railway workers didn’t know anything about it at first, until the first train had arrived in the station, before they realised what was happening.

A.S.L.E.F. along with the NUR applied for an increase in wages for Railway staff in November 1940. In May 1941 Enginemen were awarded an extra 4s per Week taking the War Advance to 11s per week







Back Row L~R: B.P. Pope, H. Bowers (Nine Elms), & F. Harding (Salisbury).

Front Row L~R S. Reeves (Brighton Driver), H. kent (Salisbury) & H. Upton (Eastbourne Driver).

They all volunteered for the Military Police at the outbreak of the war and are photographed somewhere inthe Middle East.

Southern Railway Magazine

Sept/Oct 1942

 Richard Beckett Collection

The train above has protective mesh on the Motorman’s cab windows with small cut out area to enable the Motorman to see out off, the mesh was to prevent splintering in case of bomb damage. 

The engine cab where Enginemen almost lived day and night, were shrouded from the cab roof to tender-end by the obliterating anti glare sheet, which not only trapped the revealing glare from the engine's fireboxes, but kept the heat in as well. Enginemen would end up suffering from heat rash, as if they had just emerged from a baker's oven.

There were instructions given to Enginemen at the beginning of the war - to seek cover when air-raid warning came along - was not, in practice, a success. To stop the railways intermittently simply could not be done, and so it soon became general to treat that red warning as nothing more or less than indication to be on alert. Even the tiniest blink of light from the engines was blanked out as the Enginemen crept through a blackness which almost be felt. Enginemen were also instructed how to immobilise their engines in the event of enemy invasion. The people who issued this instruction, would have been surprised if they had if they heard some of the ribald remarks with which it was greeted, for te officials of the company did not realise just what it meant to a driver and fireman to be told to sabotage their engines, they had regarded for as sacrosanct


Evacuees arriving at Brighton in late 1939 






Several enquiries are being made by member referring to the Fire-watching Order No. 69. It may not be generally known that the Minster of Transport, who is the appropriate authority scheduled by the Order, has now this Order compulsory so far as railways are concerned.

This means that fire-watching will take place at all points on the railways systems where it is considered to be necessary.

A rota of duties will, therefore, be drawn up after consultation with the representatives of the staff and exhibited for all concerned.

Our Local Departmental Committee Representatives should follow the advice set out in circular letters issued from Head Office under dates of February, 7, March, 6, and May, 20.

It is essential that the discussion with the representatives of the staff should take place prior to Fire-watching duties being rostered.

In the meantime, we are seeking a meeting with the Minister of Transport in order to submit a number of points upon which clarity is needed and where amendment appears to be necessary.


A.S.L.E.F. along with the NUR applied for an increase in wages for Railway staff in November 1940. In May 1941 Enginemen were awarded an extra 4s per Week taking the War Advance to 11s per week. Serious exception was taken by the Enginemen when an official Order on 'Fire-watching', which seemed to take no cognisance of our the Enginemen's very awkward of duty or the irregular nature of the turns they worked, to say nothing of the very long hours they were called upon to perform without any warning. When called upon to work these long hours without any provision being made to supply them with any food.

 When the threat of invasion had receded, the Southern Railway became the marshalling area for troops preparing to invade Normandy in Operation ‘Overlord’, and once again the railways played its part by providing a link in the logistics chain. This came at a cost, as the Southern Railway's location in and around London and the Channel ports meant that it was subjected to heavy bombing, whilst permanent way, locomotive, carriage and wagon maintenance was deferred until peacetime.

Due to the continual manpower shortage the war was causing in 1942 A.S.L.E.F. relaxed the agreement regarding Enginemen retiring upon 


World War II Service exemption badge, 'S.R.'

(Southern Railway)

During the Second World War Railway Footplate staff was once again given “protected occupations” by the war office.

 reaching 65 and as such many Enginemen continued to work very long hours helping the War effort above the age of 65. Also boys of 16 were promoted to Firemen not just as cleaners. Their positions as cleaners having being taken over by women for the first time.

In June 1942 the War Advance was increased by 5s per week although this did not cover the increase in the cost of living the War was causing. In April 1943 this was raised again by 4s 6d.

The sheer cold courage of Enginemen throughout the country, during the the Second World War, a place of pride in the ranks of those civilians who helped this country in her darkest hour, went unrewarded. 

After the cessation of hostilities A.S.L.E.F. presented to the Railway Executive Committee a claim for a substantial increase of wages and improvements to terms and conditions these were Maximum working week of 40 hour, A National Pension Scheme for Enginemen, Granting of a Fortnights paid Holiday, Enhanced Sunday Rate of Pay, Payment for Sick Leave and a Universal Eyesight Test Enginemen did not receive any of these demands until 1948 after the Railways had been Nationalised by the Labour Government. 

It would take another six months of hard negotiations by A.S.L.E.F. before its members were given a wage increase, which even then did not adequately meet the higher cost of living. This left a feeling of resentment for if it was not for the commitment given by the railwaymen and women in keeping the country moving it could have resulted in a different outcome for the entire Country.

The railwaymen and women of Britain have become the forgotten army, as they played a major part in helping to defeat the Germans whilst remaining on British soil.




We did in fact have women engine cleaners, they were not in the line of promotion and their  forewoman was a Mrs Roskelly who had a son who was a cleaner with me but he was one of the dozens who left the railway A.S.A.P. after the war. The women engine cleaners were kept well away from the rest of us rabble and sad to admit they were a lot more enthusiastic swabbing Gas Oil on engines than we were.
Inncidentally Fred Wheeler who was a fireman at Brighton at the time, married one of the cleaner girls, he lived near me in Hollingdean but later moved to Seaford as a Motorman.



There was also a tidy sized gang of women carriage cleaners at the station whose leader was Mrs Watson ( Ernie (Soapy) Watson's mum ). 

Women played a very important role in the war. There was a Signalwoman at Southwick, and the giant crane in Lower Yard was operated by Ernie Brown's sister, there were also a lot of female guards.  





During the War three complete 12 car sets used to be berthed in Kemp Town Tunnel to protect against possible bombing. They were the Mainline stock (which disappeared with the introduction of Cigs & Bigs) and weighed about 600 ton each 12 car set. After the evening rush hour they would leave Kemp Town Junction and freewheel into the tunnel as there was no juice and berth for the night.

About 6 a.m. we would go light engine to the tunnel and couple up to the first 12 car, we used to have an E4 Radial Tank and it would take ages with the Westinghouse pump thumping away before we had enough air to pull the train out of the tunnel as far as the Cox’s Pill factory, from where we could see the junction signal, if you came closer to the junction than Cox’s, it was hard work trying to move the train on the incline and in wet weather you would have no chance.

When the signal cleared we would pull the train almost into London Road station then propel it back clear of the junction so we could go down for the next lot while the train went into Brighton for a London service. This was repeated until all three trains had been hauled out.

Although Kemp Town Tunnel had no vents it cleared from smoke very quickly as it is on an incline all the way.


During the Second World War the Lancing Carriage Works was kept busy repairing bomb damaged carriages and wagons and converting carriages to mobile hospitals to support the army during the D-Day invasion. The works were also involved in constructing tail planes for gliders for the invasion.



Southern Railway Magazine article Jan - Feb 1942



Southern Railway's all electric locomotives CC1 & CC2 seen shortly after entering service at Three Bridges on the Horsham branch. 

Externally, it was clear the cab design owed a lot to Southern experience with the 2 HAL multiple unit design. It has even been suggested that (in true Southern tradition) this was because the jigs for the welded cabs already existed and thus made for speedy and cheap construction. At the outbreak of war in 1939, most construction projects were put on hold in favour of the war effort. Construction of CC1 and CC2 was exempted from this because of promised savings in labour and fuel over steam locomotives. Construction was not smooth however and was brought to a halt several times due to shortage of resource.

 After nationalisation in 1948, British Railway renumbered them 20001 and 20002 respectively. Also a third member of the class (20003 from new) was built at Brighton. Although counted as the same class, 20003 was markedly different externally to its two earlier sisters being 2 inches longer with flat 4 SUB like cab ends. Again a suspected economy drive and arguably simpler (and therefore cheaper) design than the earlier two. Equipment changes also added 5 tons to the earlier 100 ton design. 




Interest was aroused by, and discussion was heated on, an Electric Engine put into traffic by the Southern Railway and known as the CC1. The long discussion by the delegates centred on the fact that the Southern Railway proposed to work this Engine with 1 man in charge. There was tremendous opposition to this on all counts as we considered it a direct violation of the safety code to have a single person in charge of such a machine on the head of passenger trains. So serious was the view the Delegates took of this matter that the Executive Committee received instructions that if the Southern Railway carried out their intention of manning the CC1 with 1 man an immediate strike should be called. It only remains to be said that this drastic threat was never put into operation since the Southern Railway agreed to work the CC1 on freight traffic under the charge of 2 men after representation by our society.

Taken from “The Lighted Flame

ses where the Locomotive is placed in service, we could only agree that it should be manned by two men in the recognised Line of Promotion, i.e. two Motormen, or a Motorman and ASOssistant Motorma





Arissing from the policy which has been adopted in connection with the working of this engine, an agreement has now been reached with the representatives of the Southern Railway Company, by which this engine will be confined to the working of unbraked frieght trains, and it will by manned by two men, one a Motorman, and another an Assistant Motorman, both of whom will be in the line of promotion. the agreement reached precludes this or any similar type of engine from being worked with one man only, and will remain in operation during the period of hostilities.

Below a reproduction of a circular from head office regarding the manning of the Southern Railway's Electric Locomotive




Ref no. 43/1945                                                                                                                                           25th August 1945

To Branches

Southern Railway


As you are no doubt aware a number of complaints have been received from time to time regarding the manning of the Electric Locomotive on the Southern Railway, and the position has been raised in discussion with the Company.

The Executive Committee have recently given further consideration to the subject, and arising therefrom the Company having been informed that in all cases where the locomotive is place in service, we could only agree that it should be manned by two men in the recognised Line of Promotion, i.e. two Motormen, or a Motorman and Assisting Motorman.

In order to safeguard against future eventualities I shall be glad if you will advise me immediately there in any departure from this working, and in this event I shall be glad if you will send the fullest possible information to this Head office.

Thanking you to bring this to the notice of your members.

On behalf of the Executive Committee,

Yours  fraternally,

W. P. Allen

General Secretary


Pullman Shops after air raid



MARCH 1943


The L.D.C. elections have taken place and we have returned to our own A.S.L.E. and F. candidates. On the Sunday previous to the election we had a visit from our E.C. member, Bro. H. Bidwell, Bro. Jukes, Sectional Council Secretary and our Sectional Council member, Bro. J. Godfrey. Although our two meetings were not well attended they were interesting, and the members present will have made it well known. Now members, we have a new Secretary and a new L.D.C., so come to the branch and help build up a 100 per cent. membership, trade union and political. After the war we want a new world with new and better conditions, fortnight holiday with pay, etc. Members, have you ever considered the payments you make to your trade union and the benefits you receive for such a small sum? Come to the branch and discuss with a view to build up a good fighting fund for use after the war.


 The Southern Railway's 2nd World War memorial at Brighton station








The  National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas (near Lichfield) in East Staffordshire site of the national remembrance for railwaymen & women


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the Brighton Motive Power Depots

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the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches



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