London's Transport and the Home Front in WWI

In many directions at home, the organisation and its staff did efficient and useful service towards winning the war. Come with us and learn how

London General Omnibus special constables on parade (1916-04-30)TfL Corporate Archives

The 'Safety-First' Campaign

Congestion in London was so great that the question of protecting the public from accident became a very serious problem, and the serious consideration given to it resulted in the “Safety First” campaign

Cartoon advertising Safety First Competition (1920-02-28)TfL Corporate Archives

Inaugurated by the organisation, the campaign ultimately resulted in the formation of a Council of representatives of the great majority of the metropolis local authorities and firms and undertakings interested in public traffic

On 18th April 1917, it was resolved to form a safety committee in order to extend to works and factories throughout the country, the principles and practices which were saving so many limbs and lives in London's transport services. Funds were made available and many experts from the organisation's departments lent their expertise and advice.

Cartoon advertising Safety First Competition (1918-02-28)TfL Corporate Archives

On the bus side, a Freedom from Accidents bonus scheme was introduced, with 1d given for a full day without accident, and a quarterly bonus of 15s available. Garages also competed for a competition shield

Cartoon advertising Safety First Competition (1919-02-28)TfL Corporate Archives

The results of the campaign were hailed as astounding

The total number of accidents in which buses were involved in 1918 compared to 1914 was down by 64%. On the railway side they were down by 16%. In 1914, the total number of accidents in London's streets to persons and property was 56,367. In 1918 that had dropped to 29,399

The establishment of volunteer training corps was a key feature of life on the Home Front in WWI. They offered those unable to enlist due to age, health, or job, a way of preparing for fighting should these restrictions be lifted. In addition they provided an able force to undertake duties on the Home Front.

Board Paper regarding Establishment of a Drilling and Shooting Corps (1914-09-17)TfL Corporate Archives

Proposed drilling and shooting corps

"I propose that the Company promote among the staff a drill and shooting corps for the purpose of making them efficient in elementary drill and rifle shooting so that in the event of their being required for active service in the future they will be partly trained..."

Notice detailing Establishment of Volunteer Training Corps (1915-07-21)TfL Corporate Archives

Metropolitan Railway Volunteer Training Corps

"...each member is earnestly asked to choose at least two drills per week and book these as urgent engagements which cannot be broken except for some very special reason."

Notice regarding the Metropolitan Railway War Service Corps (1916-05-22)TfL Corporate Archives

Metropolitan Railway War Service Corps

Staff were encouraged to join the War Service Corps, which had sub-sections dedicated to: volunteer platoon, Red Cross work, hospital entertainments, market garden to grow food for naval and military hospitals, rifle club, women's section

Munitions manufacture using the facilities of the railway companies was co-ordinated by the Government's Railway War Manufacture Sub-Committee. Between them the various railway companies throughout Britain supplied 25,195 ambulance stretchers, 4,300 general service wagons, 400 water-tank carts, and 500 converted vans. Further work included valves, fitters, wheels and barrows.

Manufacture of war munitions (1915-04-29)TfL Corporate Archives

Letter to Board regarding the manufacture of war munitions

"We have undertaken as our share of this work to make certain parts of shell fuses...other classes of work will follow..."

At the same time ammunition was produced. The Metropolitan produced 2,496 shell base plates and 87,289 adapters just for the Ministry of Munitions. The Metropolitan District produced 49,500 adapters and powder cases for the War Office and 2,199 shells for the Munitions Committee. And these numbers don't represent the total output.

Minute regaridng munitions produced at Chiswick Depot (1916-10-12)TfL Corporate Archives

Munitions at Chiswick Depot

In October 1916, Chiswick tramways depot began producing Stokes bombs

The workshops at Ealing Common, Lillie Bridge, Golders Green and Chiswick were all busy turning out munitions. Lorry parts, shell cases, adapters, and howitzers were all produced

Summary of munitions output by Metropolitan Railway (1920-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Munitions manufactured by Metropolitan Railway

The coach factories at Holloway supplied the bodies of 6,175 3-ton lorries, 250 2-ton lorries, 178 stores wagons, and 401 complete mobile workshops, along with innumerable spares. Meanwhile the Associated Equipment Company at Walthamstow provided the chassis for over 10,000 vehicles.

Summary of munitions output by Metropolitan District Railway (1920-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Munitions manufactured by Metropolitan District Company

The organisation's training school system was at the time touted as one of the largest and most complete in the world, and it was placed unreservedly at the disposal of the Army, who made full use of it. From the 2 schools, at Milman Street and at the Hounslow garage, 29,000 men were passed out to join the Mechanical Transport services as fully efficient drivers, 21,000 of them directly into the Royal Army Service Corps.

Training of Drivers for the War Office (1915-01-14)TfL Corporate Archives

Training of Drivers for the War Office

Request from the War Office for the organisation to train drivers for mechanical transport

London General Omnibus special constables on parade (1916-04-30)TfL Corporate Archives

LGOC Special Constables photographed on 18 March 1916

A detachment of 'Special Constables', 485 strong, was formed of the London General Omnibus Company men. A section of these 'Specials' with 2 ambulances were detailed for duty every night during air-raid periods to give assistance to civic emergency services

7 large garages were commandeered in addition to various buildings and properties, including the Earl’s Court Exhibition Grounds, where many Belgian refugees were housed, and on one occasion early in the war an important workshop at Holloway was taken over for the billeting of troops.


Throughout the war, the bus, train and tram traffic carried on as usual. Passenger numbers increased, but they were carried to their destinations. Workshops turned out shells and lorries, but trains ran, and buses were on the roads. The public were provided with essential means of transit while at the same time support was given in men and material to the armies in the field.

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.

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