Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Khaki

Canals in the UK

Recommended Posts

Khaki

I understand that in some cases canals in Britain have more recreational use than commercial, but what were their uses in the Great War both commercial and or military? Was there a revival of use or was it the last days for the canals.

khaki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HERITAGE PLUS

The Kennet and Avon Canal at Devizes, Wiltshire was used to train Royal Engineer, Inland Water Transport personnel in the use of barges to replicate the canals in France and Belgium.

Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MartinWills

Canals were , in most cases, still heavily used for bulk transport at the time of the great war and would have played a key role in the war effort. A few were already in decline at the time but major arteries and those serving key industrial areas saw significant traffic up until the early 1960's.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
NigelS

The Basingstoke canal connecting Aldershot - it separated the original North & South camps - to the London docks & other branches of the canal system (via the River Wey Navigation & the River Thames), & running adjacent to Farnborough airfield, numerous military camps & depots at Bisley, Pirbright, Mytchett & Deepcut, as well as passing through large amounts of military owned land, certainly had a military use during the Great War. The canal (opened late 18th cent. but already in decline by early 20th) featured in military exercises before the opening of the Aldershot camps (mid 19th cent. when it was used for the transport of some of the building materials used ) after which its use for such activities became more regular (particularly by the RE for bridging practise & similar); it also provided boating and swimming for soldiers' leisure activities. Immediately pre war, Cody had used it for testing sea plane floats, and it had also managed to feature in the fraudulent scheming of the infamous Horatio Bottomley.

London's Lost Route to Basingstoke: The Story of the Basingstoke Canal - P.A.L Vine gives:

The latest effort to reopen the canal met with success and within a few weeks of the outbreak of the First World War, on 4 September 1914, a notice appeared in The Times under the heading 'Basingstoke Canal Re-opened' which read: 'it should be of interest to all those concerned in the industrial and commercial development of the districts served by the Basingstoke Canal to learn that an ample supply of water has been secured to the canal by the partial diverion of the Whitewater Stream at Odiham, and that the canal is now being used for the conveyance of traffic.' In fact, work on rendering the canal navigable had been in progress since 1912. Two new barges capable of carrying 50 to 60 tons were registered in May 1914 at the offices of the Port of London Authority, and during the summer the bed above Fleet was repuddled with thick clay. It was also in May that William Mills, an out of work bricklayer's labourer, drowned himself in the canal at Woking.
During the First World War the waterway was used to convey government stores and munitions from Woolwich to Aldershot as well as such miscellaneous items as beds, clinkers, flour, hop-strings, oats and oil cake. The main down traffic was timber from Fleet and Frimley and horse manure from the camp at Eelmore to the wharves below Brookwood. Control was vested in the Inland Waterways & Docks Department of the War Office and was managed by the Royal Engineers, under Lieutenant Wilder's command, at the Stanhope Lines. At one time twenty-five boats were working and German Prisoners-of-war were employed on unloading and and maintenance work. The tonnage carried to and from the Wey varied between 11,600 in 1915 and 18,000 tons in 1918. A perusal of the ledgers for 1919 shows that the upward cargoes of the government narrow boats consisted entirely of oats, and that while Eliza & Anne, Elsie & Violet and Millie & Minnie were removing load after load of army boots and rubber tyres, and Mabel & Enid carried nothing more lovable than 'old tins'; Diana appears to have concentrated on empty drums and scrap metal

From History of the Canal (Basingstoke Canal Society website http://www.basingstoke-canal.org.uk/the-canal/history-of-the-canal/):


The canal was taken over by the Army at the beginning of the First World War and run by the Royal Engineers using German prisoners of war as part of the labour force. The last cargoes from Aldershot were 22 barge loads of aircraft spares from the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough destined for Woolwich Arsenal in 1921.

(a photo of POWs unloading timber from a canal boat at Frimley Wharf can be seen in the above link; my guess would be that some, if not all, of these POWs would have been from the nearby Frith Hill Camp)

Post the Great War, the Basingstoke's commercial use - not that it had ever been that great - declined with coal for gas & timber, both to Woking, continuing until after WWII; not linking any major commercial or industrial centres its trade was, other than the military & building supplies , mainly agricultural and, as with many other canals, the extensive local railway network that developed from the mid 19th cent. didn't help its trade. Post WWII, with little traffic above Woking, dereliction set in. During the mid 70's the local authorities (Surrey & Hampshire County Councils) compulsorily purchased it from its then owners and, after many years of restoration (both local authority & voluntary), it was reopened for navigation to just below Greywell in Hampshire in 1991 (A tunnel collapse, land sales by previous owners & the M3 prevent getting as far as its original destination, Basingstoke, today) .

The Basingstoke Canal also has three examples of WWI bridging technology crossing it, Click , and, for those interested in WWII defences, a number of examples along its length in the Crookham/Winchfield area (details can be found in the booklet Wartime Defences on the Basingstoke Canal Click and the Pillbox Study Group's website)

NigelS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Khaki

Thank you all for the replies and links, I cannot remember when I have had such an interesting read about a subject not directly Great War related, what an amazing bunch of people dedicated to the restoration of the canals and locks, a highly recommended read that does contain Great War data.

khaki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

I have seen accounts of some military hospital/convelescent centres hiring inland waterway vessels to give patients outings in the summer.

In WW1 canals were still used to move bulk cargoes like coal, ore etc where transit time was not that important.

There is a photo of the boy scouts being used to guard lock gates as it would be easy to sabotage the system by leaving open the wrong paddles and draining pounds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HERITAGE PLUS
I have seen accounts of some military hospital/convelescent centres hiring inland waterway vessels to give patients outings in the summer.

At Avoncliff Aqueduct in about 1917. The horse-drawn barge Bittern had been converted by the Red Cross to transport soldiers who had been wounded in the First World War, which was still going on, for recreational cruises and to Bradford. The rails in the foreground were those of the narrow-gauge tramway which conveyed blocks of stone from Westwood Quarry to a yard next to the railway on the other side of the aqueduct.

Photo Source: http://www.bradfordonavonmuseum.co.uk/archives/5384

This is the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Dave

post-128-0-47044800-1396221908_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HERITAGE PLUS

The narrow boat/barge 'Bittern' was purchased by the Red Cross for use as a Hospital Boat and was used during the summers of 1917 and 1918.

It had a boatman's cabin and an awning over the hold that had been converted to take ‘non-walking’ patients with bench seating on the sides under the awning for the walking wounded patients.

Wounded and convalescent soldiers were taken from the Avoncliff VAD Hospital at Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire.

The horse that drew the barge was stabled at the Canal Tavern in Bradford-on-Avon and ‘Bittern’ was moored at the wharf nearby.

post-128-0-94966400-1396222634_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Khaki

Interesting photos, do any of these original barges like the Bittern (GW era) still survive ?

khaki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

Those shown are narrow boats not barges (which are wider and cannot be used on many British waterways). Narrow boats are still being built to the traditional design They are often incorrectly referred to as barges

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Khaki

Thanks, the difference in beam noted.

khaki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

The traditional 70 foot narrowboat shown in this sequence was still a working boat back in the early 1970s when I used to use the Birmingham Canal Navigations (Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice and the beer is better) and was known to have been in use in WW1

http://livinghistory.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=15368&start=0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RobL

Was myself that posted that - Peacock is receiving work to get it back in working order. Several other motor narrowboats were built by Fellows Morton and Clayton during the war

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

Was myself that posted that - Peacock is receiving work to get it back in working order. Several other motor narrowboats were built by Fellows Morton and Clayton during the war

Nice photos especially the really sullen POW! BTW a butty boat isn't always horse drawn, merely un-powered and towed by another boat which might be horse drawn or motorised. Saved on manpower as one horseman could draw two boats that way so overall you needed three men one horse man/lock worker and two steersmen whereas two separate boats used four men for the same cargo load

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Scalyback

I thought butty indicates a grouping of barge/tram/other. Hence the Welsh use of butty for a companion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Khaki

I thought butty indicates a grouping of barge/tram/other. Hence the Welsh use of butty for a companion.

Or a great chip sandwich with a few drops of vinegar

khaki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Scalyback

Or a great chip sandwich with a few drops of vinegar

khaki

Bacon unless you are disbarred from it. It does give the line "A bacon butty,butty" :whistle:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bargingalong

I've been researching the Hospital Barges used in France in WW1. I unearthed a hitherto lost fact - that the local Branch of the Red Cross at Parbold near Wigan used a barge on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (which runs through Parboiled between Wigan and Liverpool) for the evacuation of the wounded in an exercise held by the War Office at the end of July 1914. The 'wounded' were local Scouts. Members of the family who owned the local flour mill, which used barges to fetch grain from Liverpool docks, were on the Red Cross Committee, so would have been able to supply a clean barge. Unfortunately, no photographs exist of the occasion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
seaJane

Ramlin Rose: the boatwoman's story by Sheila Stewart (Oxford University Press) is a semi-fictionalised story of life on the Oxford Canal including life during the Great War and running cargoes to London during the Blitz in the 1940s. It is based on collected oral histories but told as if happening to a single person.

I have a copy and it is an excellent read - here is some more about the author: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11106160/Sheila-Stewart-obituary.html

sJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mancpal

Khaki

The horseboating society may have some archive material relating to WW1 canals. They occasionally pass my house towing a boat up to Stanedge tunnel before two brave fools leg the boat through the 3 1/4 mile tunnel, the record for which is breathtakingly short considering it was a laden freight boat.

Simon

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moonraker

A duplicate of the card shown in Heritage's Post 7 has just sold for £77.16 on eBay. Three other people submitted bids of £75.16, £63.99, and £57.55, so obviously a desirable card.

 

(The winning bid is one of the very highest I've seen for "military Wiltshire", though perhaps interest also came from canal enthusiasts. Credit to the vendor - his starting price was £3. There's quite a bit of unsold "military Wiltshire" on eBay at present, and some of it is desirable, but the starting prices asked are unrealistic.)

 

Moonraker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moonraker

I could almost repeat the above post of October 20, 2017 word for word. Another copy of the card has just sold for £77, with one other bidder going up to £75.

 

And there are still some good "military Wiltshire" cards that have stuck on eBay for months, though there's been a minor run of desirable cards that have attracted strong bidding, including a very commonplace comic card normally worth £3-4 - but with a rare military postmark that increases the value by eight or ten times.

 

Moonraker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...