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Posts Tagged ‘Operation Dynamo’

Following on from marking the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe day earlier this month on 8th May, today marks 80 years on since the evacuation of Allied soldiers commenced from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940. This is essentially a repost from 5 years ago but the sentiment remains true and strong.
The Dunkirk evacuation, code named Operation Dynamo, was decided upon when large numbers of British, French, and Belgian troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army. The event is renown for the use of a flotilla of 800 small ships used to assist in the ferrying of some 338,226 soldiers to safety.

southern-railway-coat-of-arms-1923-1948The Southern Railway played very much an unsung role in Operation Dynamo, as once back on English shores the soldiers that did not require immediate hospitalisation or were already based at local South Eastern England barracks were dispersed across England away from the main reception ports of Margate, Ramsgate, Folkestone, Dover, and Newhaven. During the nine period of Operation Dynamo the Southern Railway laid on and coordinated an amazing number of special trains comprising of : 327 from Dover, 82 from Ramsgate, 75 from Margate 64 from Folkestone and also 21 ambulance trains.
These trains, known as ‘Dynamo Specials’ moved 180,982 troops, many of these services were routed via  Redhill, Guildford and Reading, in order to bypass the capital and avoid congestion. Where possible during this period the Southern Railway maintained its usual passenger services with the except of some ‘omnibus replacement services’ to free the most heavily utilised routes between Guildford, Redhill and Tonbridge. Not only was coordination required of the departing trains but also the routing of the return empty stock workings and the necessary prepared engines required to keep the transportation of soldiers as quick and efficient as possible.

The Southern Railway mustered at very short notice nearly 2000 additional carriages, many borrowed from other railway companies including 47 complete rakes from the LNER, 44 from the LMS and 40 from the GWR.  Also 180 engines and crews were required from across the network, to operate these services.

To avoid delay at Dover and Ramsgate it was decided that the soldiers, many of whom had not eaten properly for days, would be fed on the trains. Just simply feeding the men provided Southern Railway with a major logistical problem,  therefore certain rail stations were designated feeding stations. These stations included Headcorn, Tonbridge and Paddock Wood Although the Royal Army Service Corps were primarily responsible many local Women’s Voluntary Service members were involved to provide food and drink, much of which was also donated or paid for with monies rasied from the local communities. Due to the number of trains involved only an eight-minute stop for soldiers to be provide with food and drink that bearing in mind this could have been 550 per train, was again an impressive feat.  Trains often had to pull into a siding at these food stops to ensure that any ambulance trains had priority over the use of the main lines.

Given that Southern Railway had practically no time to organise and plan such an activity, what it achieved without the use of modern day communication systems was very impressive; improvisation and word of mouth were the order of the day. One unknown Army general was famously heard to say: “I wish the Army could operate with as few written instructions as Southern Railway does in an emergency.”

The Southern Railway, as well as coping with troops from Dunkirk, was also evacuating no less than 48,000 school children from the coastal areas due to fear of a German invasion. It should not go unmentioned that a number of the Southern Railway’s shipping fleet and crew, varying from cross channel passenger vessels, Isle of Wight ferries and cargo vessels were actively involved out on the channel itself,  with a number being either badly damaged or lost to enemy action.

We should also pause to remember the 68,000 of our soldiers whom didn’t make it home safely from this particular French campaign.

I hope this post goes just a little way to remember and honour the part that the Southern Railway played in the overall success of Operation Dynamo out of what was a defeat in military terms in Flanders.

 

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Today marks 75 years since Victory in Europe Day or VE Day.
VE Day is the day on which Allied forces formally announced the surrender of Germany, which brought the Second World War to a close in Europe. The military surrender was first signed on May 7, but a slightly modified document with the final terms was signed on May 8 in Berlin. Celebrations immediately erupted throughout Britain and more than one million people celebrated in the streets. In London, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth appeared on the balcony alongside Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Too late for printing in many diaries / calendars, in more normal times today was announced as being a Bank Holiday by moving the traditional May Day Bank Holiday Monday to today, although many at the moment must be wondering what is the difference?
Many celebrations and events were planned to mark the 75th Anniversary today, but the current Covid-19 lockdown (stay safe, stay at home and thank the NHS) has changed those plans.
Her Majesty the Queen will address the nation at 9pm, the exact time the Queen’s father, King George VI, made a radio announcement declaring the end of the war on the continent in May 1945, and I hope you will join the 2 minutes silence at 11 am this morning as we remember the sacrifices made by all.

The cover of the May 1945 Southern Railway Magazine. Note that it includes an image of 21C11 General Steam Navigation. (click the menu link above to find out more about the Restoration Society and it’s aim to restore 35011 back to this original condition)

By its obvious geographical nature the Southern Railway paid a vital part in the entire war effort. The dedication and efforts of the railway workers that worked tirelessly, in all too often difficult and life threatening conditions themselves, indeed many did also fall, should be remembered along with the military personnel.

In this post I provide details in numbers* of the efforts made under wartime conditions to put things into to perspective. Many will be familiar with some of the major events in which the railway played such a large part such as Operation Dynamo, the mass moving of personnel from Dunkirk 80 years ago at the end of this month, and of course Operation Overlord, the planning, logistics for the moment of men and machines to support D-Day in June 1944. For the Southern Railway it wasn’t just these two events but a continued effort for the duration.

Although the overall number of Southern Railway staff when compared between 1939 (67,680) and 1945 (67,570) didn’t change that much the number of women employed increased from 1,861 to 9,167. The company managed to maintain an operational workforce despite 10,956 men and 212 women being enlisted to active service during the same period.

The Southern Railway was to suffer severe damage, disproportionate to that of its three rivals. From July 1940 to March 1945, the LNER suffered 1737 incidents of enemy damage; the LMS experienced 1939 and the GWR fell victim to 1202. But in the same time the Southern Railway, covering a much smaller route mileage than the others, recorded 3637 incidents of damage through enemy action. This amounts to 170 incidents per 100 miles.

Between 1939 and VE Day the Southern Railway had moved 9,367,886 military personnel on 30,890 special troop trains, an additional 6,269,160 on duty service staff were carried on ordinary trains. 1,797 Ambulance trains carried 408,051 wounded. An additional 35,360 military freight trains were run.
At the outbreak of war the Southern Railway had 1,819 locomotives, 61 were built during the war comprising of: 1 Q Class 0-6-0, 40 Q1 class 0-6-0, 20 Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2 and 4 West Country Class 4-6-2. Whilst only 1 locomotive was destroyed by enemy action, 189 were damaged. A further 130 locomotives were built for other railway companies.
153 Carriages were destroyed by enemy action (Steam 49, Electric 93 and 11 NPCS), whilst 4,040 were damaged (Steam 1,806, Electric 1,784 and 450 NPCS).
An amazing 13,820 wagons were constructed: 7,500 for SR, 1,755 for LMS, 2,230 for LNER, 650 for GWR and 1,885 for Government WD of which 1,600 went overseas. 169 wagons were destroyed by enemy action, along with 69 Private Owner wagons, those damaged amounted to 1,355 along with 800 PO wagons.

At 11am this morning we should remember the 387 Southern Railway staff killed whilst on active service and 170 killed whilst on railway duty. A further 687 men and 59 women were injured by enemy action on duty.

I hope this post allows a pause for thought and reflection on the immense efforts and sacrifices made at the time.

*Source: War on the line: The Southern Railway in wartime, Bernard Darwin, published 1946

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This week sees the release of a new blockbuster style film ‘Dunkirk’; directed by Briton Christopher Nolan, whose stars include Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy and some singer or other Harry Styles (I didn’t think I would ever include his name in a post on here!); is of course about the the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 27 May and 4 June 1940.
As it is probably not mentioned much in the film (as I have not seen it yet) I thought it would be worth revisiting a past post from May 2015 that commemorated the 75th anniversary of the event and discussed the vital part played by the Southern Railway.
The Dunkirk evacuation, code named Operation Dynamo, was decided upon when large numbers of British, French, and Belgian troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army. The event is renown for the use of a flotilla of 800 small ships used to assist in the ferrying of some 338,226 soldiers to safety.

southern-railway-coat-of-arms-1923-1948The Southern Railway played very much an unsung role in Operation Dynamo, as once back on English shores the soldiers that did not require immediate hospitalisation or were already based at local South Eastern England barracks were dispersed across England away from the main reception ports of Margate, Ramsgate, Folkestone, Dover, and Newhaven. During the nine period of Operation Dynamo the Southern Railway laid on and coordinated an amazing number of special trains comprising of : 327 from Dover, 82 from Ramsgate, 75 from Margate 64 from Folkestone and also 21 ambulance trains.
These trains, known as ‘Dynamo Specials’ moved 180,982 troops, many of these services were routed via  Redhill, Guildford and Reading, in order to bypass the capital and avoid congestion. Where possible during this period the Southern Railway maintained its usual passenger services with the except of some ‘omnibus replacement services’ to free the most heavily utilised routes between Guildford, Redhill and Tonbridge. Not only was coordination required of the departing trains but also the routing of the return empty stock workings and the necessary prepared engines required to keep the transportation of soldiers as quick and efficient as possible.

The Southern Railway mustered at very short notice nearly 2000 additional carriages, many borrowed from other railway companies including 47 complete rakes from the LNER, 44 from the LMS and 40 from the GWR.  Also 180 engines and crews were required from across the network, to operate these services.

To avoid delay at Dover and Ramsgate it was decided that the soldiers, many of whom had not eaten properly for days, would be fed on the trains. Just simply feeding the men provided Southern Railway with a major logistical problem,  therefore certain rail stations were designated feeding stations. These stations included Headcorn, Tonbridge and Paddock Wood Although the Royal Army Service Corps were primarily responsible many local Women’s Voluntary Service members were involved to provide food and drink, much of which was also donated or paid for with monies rasied from the local communities. Due to the number of trains involved only an eight-minute stop for soldiers to be provide with food and drink that bearing in mind this could have been 550 per train, was again an impressive feat.  Trains often had to pull into a siding at these food stops to ensure that any ambulance trains had priority over the use of the main lines.

Given that Southern Railway had practically no time to organise and plan such an activity, what it achieved without the use of modern day communication systems was very impressive; improvisation and word of mouth were the order of the day. One unknown Army general was famously heard to say: “I wish the Army could operate with as few written instructions as Southern Railway does in an emergency.”

The Southern Railway, as well as coping with troops from Dunkirk, was also evacuating no less than 48,000 school children from the coastal areas due to fear of a German invasion. It should not go unmentioned that a number of the Southern Railway’s shipping fleet and crew, varying from cross channel passenger vessels, Isle of Wight ferries and cargo vessels were actively involved out on the channel itself,  with a number being either badly damaged or lost to enemy action.

We should also pause to remember the 68,000 of our soldiers whom didn’t make it home safely from this particular French campaign.

I hope this post goes, once again, a little way to remember and honour the part that the Southern Railway played in the overall success of Operation Dynamo out of what was a defeat in military terms in Flanders.

 

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This weekend sees a number of events taking place to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 27 May and 4 June 1940. The Dunkirk evacuation, code named Operation Dynamo, was decided upon when large numbers of British, French, and Belgian troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army. The event is renown for the use of a flotilla of 800 small ships used to assist in the ferrying of some 338,226 soldiers to safety.

southern-railway-coat-of-arms-1923-1948The Southern Railway played very much an unsung role in Operation Dynamo, as once back on English shores the soldiers that did not require immediate hospitalisation or were already based at local South Eastern England barracks were dispersed across England away from the main reception ports of Margate, Ramsgate, Folkestone, Dover, and Newhaven. During the nine period of Operation Dynamo the Southern Railway laid on and coordinated an amazing number of special trains comprising of : 327 from Dover, 82 from Ramsgate, 75 from Margate 64 from Folkestone and also 21 ambulance trains.
These trains, known as ‘Dynamo Specials’ moved 180,982 troops, many of these services were routed via  Redhill, Guildford and Reading, in order to bypass the capital and avoid congestion. Where possible during this period the Southern Railway maintained its usual passenger services with the except of some ‘omnibus replacement services’ to free the most heavily utilised routes between Guildford, Redhill and Tonbridge. Not only was coordination required of the departing trains but also the routing of the return empty stock workings and the necessary prepared engines required to keep the transportation of soldiers as quick and efficient as possible.

The Southern Railway mustered at very short notice nearly 2000 additional carriages, many borrowed from other railway companies including 47 complete rakes from the LNER, 44 from the LMS and 40 from the GWR.  Also 180 engines and crews were required from across the network, to operate these services.

To avoid delay at Dover and Ramsgate it was decided that the soldiers, many of whom had not eaten properly for days, would be fed on the trains. Just simply feeding the men provided Southern Railway with a major logistical problem,  therefore certain rail stations were designated feeding stations. These stations included Headcorn, Tonbridge and Paddock Wood Although the Royal Army Service Corps were primarily responsible many local Women’s Voluntary Service members were involved to provide food and drink, much of which was also donated or paid for with monies rasied from the local communities. Due to the number of trains involved only an eight-minute stop for soldiers to be provide with food and drink that bearing in mind this could have been 550 per train, was again an impressive feat.  Trains often had to pull into a siding at these food stops to ensure that any ambulance trains had priority over the use of the main lines.

Given that Southern Railway had practically no time to organise and plan such an activity, what it achieved without the use of modern day communication systems was very impressive; improvisation and word of mouth were the order of the day. One unknown Army general was famously heard to say: “I wish the Army could operate with as few written instructions as Southern Railway does in an emergency.”

The Southern Railway, as well as coping with troops from Dunkirk, was also evacuating no less than 48,000 school children from the coastal areas due to fear of a German invasion. It should not go unmentioned that a number of the Southern Railway’s shipping fleet and crew, varying from cross channel passenger vessels, Isle of Wight ferries and cargo vessels were actively involved out on the channel itself,  with a number being either badly damaged or lost to enemy action.

We should also pause to remember the 68,000 of our soldiers whom didn’t make it home safely from this particular French campaign.

R3302 1940 Dunkirk train pack

R3302 1940 Dunkirk train pack

The efforts of the Southern Railway has not gone unnoticed by Hornby who are planning to release this year their R3302 ‘1940 return from Dunkirk’ train pack;  comprising of a ex LSWR Drummond 700 class No. 325 and 3 coach Maunsell low window set No. 447. Unfortunately it does not look like it they have managed to release it to specifically coincide with the actual commemoration weekend but at least the intent is there.

I hope this post goes just a little way to remember and honour the part that the Southern Railway played in the overall success of Operation Dynamo out of what was a defeat in military terms in Flanders.

 

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