Staff Serving Overseas in WWI

The numbers of staff serving from the organisation is difficult to digest. Here, we look at some of their stories

A group of bus drivers at the Front (1914-12-01)TfL Corporate Archives

"Somewhere in France"

By June 1915, the London General Omnibus Company alone had 5,088 men serving overseas. By December 1916, 12,194 had enlisted across the companies

Staff Register for Plumstead garage (1921-01-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Plumstead Garage Staff Serving Overseas

Entries detail number of dependents as well as what happened to the individuals

A Group of London Busmen in France (1915-10-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Busmen in France

That more weren't killed or physically wounded is remarkable. The minute books of the London General Omnibus Company recorded 348 men as killed, wounded, missing, or captured by June 1915, rising to 716 by December 1916. By July 1918, this figure was 1,352

From the Metropolitan Railway alone, 200 members of staff were reported as having joined up to or re-joined the Forces by 5 August 1914. By May 1918, 1,223, or 34% of the total male staff of the Metropolitan Railway were serving with the forces.

Enlistment of Company's men (1915-09-23)TfL Corporate Archives

Enlistment of Metropolitan Railway staff

Letter from Metropolitan Railway detailing the number of men from the Company who have enlisted in the Army or Navy and the number that have been killed to date

Motorman Corbett served with the 9th Lancers in the Boer War and worked with the Electric Railways as porter, traffic regulator, signalman, conductor, and motorman on the Hampstead line. He was reported as being popular and respected amongst his comrades and had to his credit the saving of a life at Leicester Square station in 1910. He wrote of his experiences.

Letter from Motorman Corbett (1914-09-14)TfL Corporate Archives

A Motorman Lancer

A Motorman Lancer

Motorman Corbett reports that despite the terrible slaughter he's able to find moments of happiness and good things in abundance

So numerous were the organisation's staff serving overseas that even when not in the same regiments they would often bump into each other. A Central London Railway gateman, Mr J A Messingham, was in the thick of the rearguard actions when the Germans were marching on Paris:

"...I am in hospital, got here last Tuesday. I got wounded...about thirty miles from Paris, not serious. The bullet went from the knee to the ankle. I had seen Mick Bowles in the morning. Chivers was at Landrecies during a very strong night attack..."

The Combine in the war (1915-01-09)TfL Corporate Archives

The Combine in the War

"I have a mate off the LER, one off the Trams, one a Bus driver and one from Lots Road..."

A busman's view of Paris (1914-10-17)TfL Corporate Archives

1914-10-17 A Busman's View of Paris

A Busman's View of Paris

Many letters read almost like a piece of travel writing, where the reader wouldn't even realise there was a war raging. 

"I have been in Gay Paree and find it very nice, too."

A Message from Baghdad (1917-12-01)TfL Corporate Archives

A Message from Baghdad

Reproduction of a design by Lance Corporal C Parsons, now in the Military Police in Baghdad. The original was on a strip of khaki and includes a depiction of the bridge of cars

Photograph of A Hindmarsh (1916-12-01)TfL Corporate Archives

District Railwayman A. Hindmarsh

Photograph of a District Railwayman standing on the bank of the River Irawaddy in Burma

A picture of Egypt (1917-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

A Picture of Egypt

H. Poynter on a camel next to a sphinx

Four L.G.O. Sailors on HMS Bacchante (1916-02-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Busmen Sailors

Four London General Omnibus Company men serving in the navy aboard HMS Bacchante

Saved from the Hogue (1914-10-17)TfL Corporate Archives

Saved from the Hogue

Saved From The Hogue

A first hand account of the sinking of the HMS Hogue on 22 September 1914 

Hard work in the trenches (1914-10-31)TfL Corporate Archives

1914-10 Hard work in the Trenches

Hard Work in the Trenches

Conductor Howard reports on a night attack on the German line

What conductors think of the Germans (1914-11-28)TfL Corporate Archives

1914-11 What conductors think of the Germans 2

What Conductors Think of the Germans

"The German Artillery are, I must admit, simply grand."

A brave conductor's last battle (1915-01-23)TfL Corporate Archives

1915-01 A Brave Conductors Last Battle

A Brave Conductor's Last Battle

"The way the Germans came into action against us was like the passengers at the corner of Tottenham Court Road rushing to get a bus."

Five District railway men in the New Army (1915-01-09)TfL Corporate Archives

District Railway Staff in Uniform

Christmas in Salonika (1916-03-31)TfL Corporate Archives

Christmas in Salonika

"...some fun was provided by the Officers of this Company at our Christmas dinner..."

Some men were taken prisoner - by June 1916, 85 men were listed as being prisoners of war. The organisation tried to remain in contact with them and keep family and colleagues updated.

One of the first Prisoners (1917-04-01)TfL Corporate Archives

One of the First Prisoners'

A. Bennett was captured at Mons. This photograph was sent by his wife and was taken at Wahn Schiesplatz near Cologne

Prisoners of war (1916-12-31)TfL Corporate Archives

Prisoners of War

Gifts for TOT prisoners (1915-06-30)TfL Corporate Archives

Gifts for Prisoners

In June 1915, gift packages were sent to 60 men being held prisoner in Germany

A Prisoner's Experiences (1915-09-01)TfL Corporate Archives

A Prisoner's Experiences

An exchanged disabled prisoner, Lance Corporal Dyer, was the subject of a long interview in the Daily Mail and the staff magazine printed an extract

Prisoners' Working (1915-08-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Prisoners' Working

On a postcard, prisoner C Kirby reports that the prisoners are working on farms, and like it much better than being confined in the camps

Two Central London Railwaymen Prisoners (1916-02-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Two Central London Railwaymen Prisoners

The boots being worn in this photograph were sent to the men by colleagues

In April 1925, a funeral with full military honours took place for George Cox, a conductor from Athol Street Garage. George not only served in the First World War but had a remarkable story of survival...

A hero of the war (1925-04-07)TfL Corporate Archives

A Hero of the War

During 3 years he was imprisoned in 6 different camps and underwent considerable privation. Eventually, in 1917, he made a remarkable escape...

See our other stories for more information on Honouring Acts of WWI Heroism and The Christmas Day Truce

Credits: Story

Story compiled by TfL using information in records at the Transport for London Corporate Archives. The Corporate Archives seeks to preserve and make accessible records, not to interpret them. A wider range of material is available for physical consultation.

Permission is granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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