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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Steam Engines on the Front


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Hello all, 


They said that curiosity killed the cat but thankfully, I'm safely not a feline. 


Is there any evidence of steam engines being used on the western front? I've heard cases of them being used to carry heavy artillery and pulling tanks out of holes but have not seen any firm evidence.


If anyone can share pictures or evidence to help me with my curiosity would be greatly appreciated



Adam Mills

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They were certainly used for pulling the heavier guns (those which were not rail-mounted). There were also a number of "Auxiliary (Steam) Companies ASC", of which I think no. 367 was the first to appear in France.


Mike Young's book Army Service Corps 1902-1918 will no doubt supply more information.



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This previous thread may be of interest:



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A search for simply "steam" on the IWM site brings up a whole buffet of treats from steam ships and trains (obviously) through to steam lorries, rollers, cranes, diggers and even (possibly) an American steam tank! https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search?query=steam&filters[webCategory][photographs]=on&filters[periodString][First World War]=on&page=0




The tank looks suspiciously like an attempt at an amphibious one....

Edited by DavidOwen
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 A lad from this town worked as a driver for a local steam tractor contractor, enlisted as a steam engine driver, became a motor bike despatch rider and finally joined the RFC, dying in an air crash in 1918. A brief and varied life ehh?

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What a great video! The driver of the third vehicle was Douglas Haig surely?

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On 21/02/2018 at 20:34, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

There is an IWM photo of a steam traction engine stuck in mud, being dug out IIRC.

I will try to find it.



Here it is:

mid_000000.jpg?action=e&cat=photographs THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL-MAY 1917. © IWM (Q 6180) IWM Non Commercial License


The driver in the right hand traction engine was my wife's grandfather, Tom Featherstone. Shortly before his death, one of his sons drew the sketch below so Tom could name some of the people in the photo. The Fowler road roller he drove post-war, named 'Dorothy', has been preserved and can be seen at steam fairs. Edited to add that James W., Bill Sligh and Tom Featherstone all worked for the same firm prior to the war.

17 June 2004 (3).jpg

Edited by IRC Kevin
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