Database reveals railway staffs’ contribution to First World War

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They were among the bravest of the brave – but it has taken nearly 100 years for an archive to reveal the devastating loss the Great War had on the railway industry.

In what has been a real labour of love staff at York’s National Railway Museum have put together a database that recognises the nearly 30,000 railway workers who died during the First World War. The database, which has taken over two years to compile, is considered the most comprehensive of its kind.

Assistant archivist Alison Kay said it allows the museum to make people aware of the huge sacrifice made by railway workers, adding: “There’s an awful lot of people who worked in the same industry and died at the same time.

“When I was looking for stories on the lists I was looking for famous railway men that had died, like a more modern Brunel character, a prominent railway man on that list but you didn’t really get any because the industry did not send a lot of high ranking people into the war because they wanted them to be kept here.”

The impact of the war on one of the country’s major employers was huge.

By 1900 more than 620,000 people, or five per cent of the population, relied on the railways and the railway industry for work.

The database includes references to individual names, ranks, military numbers, railway departments and occupations, addresses, information on their families, war memorials and dates of death.

This information was previously available in railway company staff magazines and items from the museum’s archive but could never be found in one, central location. It enables users to find the information they require in on place.

The museum’s database can be found at www.nrm.org.uk/RailwayStories/worldwarone.aspx