Waterways go to War

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Summer 2024

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones studies a World War II government publication laying out the state of Britain’s transport industry

In 1942, an 80-page paperback book titled Transport Goes to War was first published by the Ministry of Information for the Ministry of War Transport. It was subtitled The Official Story of British Transport, 1939-1942. Inside, nine chapters describe aspects of the then current state of British public transport on the roads and rails, commercial road transport, the waterways, the railways and shipping at the ports. Some chapters deal with the effects of the war on transport and related infrastructure, and how the country was adapting to the continuing situation to keep goods moving. Casualties The war impacted on boaters in many different ways and there were tragedies. After the war, boaters recalled instances of attacks and enemy encounters. Boatman Phil Garrett remembered seeing bombers while working along the Birmingham & Fazeley, and planes strafing boats on the Grand Union Canal, although they were high up and never came very close. Boaters did lose their lives. James Pow…

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