The rail industry came together yesterday (6 November) to commemorate the thousands of railway workers who lost their lives during World War 1.

Network Rail, Rail Delivery Group, Transport for London, Railway Industry Association, Irish Rail, RMT, ASLEF and TSSA were among the organisations at the Railway Workers Centenary Memorial Service, held at Southwark Cathedral. The event marked 100 years since a service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, attended by King George V, to remember the contribution of the railways during the war, and particularly the over 20,000 railwaymen who died in service of their country.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester, the grandson of King George V, attended the service to pay his respects to the fallen. Among the other 597 guests were Sir Peter Hendy and Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chair and chief executive respectively, as well as the families of many railway workers who lost their lives during the conflict.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE said: “Over 100 years on from the end of World War 1, this memorial service was a great opportunity for the railway industry to come together and remember the hundreds of thousands of railway workers who served their country, over 20,000 of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. It was important to pay our respects to those workers, whose contribution will never be forgotten.”

Graham Wood, whose grandfather Wilfred Wood was awarded the Victoria Cross for his services in the War, was also in attendance. He said: “My grandfather was a railwayman who won the Victoria Cross back in 1918. I was delighted to be invited today, 100 years on, to remember him and the thousands of others who served their country.

“Today is the first time I’ve worn the Victoria Cross to any event in all the years it’s been in the family. It’s been a lovely day out and I’ve enjoyed it very much.”

The stewards at yesterday’s centenary were:

  • Mick Whelan (General Secretary, ASLEF)
  • Chris Burchell (Chief Executive, Arriva)
  • Paul Crowther (Chief Constable, British Transport Police)
  • Andrew Haines (Chief Executive, Network Rail)
  • Manuel Cortes (General Secretary, TSSA)
  • Mike Brown (Transport Commissioner, TfL)
  • Dyan Crowther (Chief Executive, HS1)
  • Chris Green (retired, former Virgin Trains Chief Executive)
  • Neil Walker (Exports Director, Railway Industry Association)
  • Peter Loosley (Policy Director, Railway Industry Association)

Southwark Cathedral was chosen to host the centenary due to its long association with the nearby railway communities at London Bridge, Waterloo and Blackfriars.

The railway suffered heavily during and immediately after the war, with its infrastructure left in near ruins after a lack of investment and overuse by the military.

In peacetime, the army dumped its surplus-to-requirement vehicles onto the open market, drawing even more people away from the railway. Meanwhile, the railway’s workforce had been decimated.

Notes to editors

  • Over 186,475 railway people from Britain and Ireland fought in World War One, on land, sea and in the air, and more than 20,000 of these gave their lives. On 14th May, 1919, in the presence of His Majesty King George V, over 7,000 railway people and families attended a service of remembrance in St Paul’s Cathedral “in memory of the railwaymen of Great Britain and Ireland who have died in the service of their country during the war 1914-1918”.