A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 67


CONTROL OF THE RAILWAYS


duties thrust upon them. News came up from a hundred points around the coast of the digging of trenches, and the like. At first people refused to take these measures seriously, and laughingly declared that it might be imagined the authorities thought the Germans would invade us. The note of good-humoured banter soon changed to a more serious tone. A number of Germans suspected of espionage were suddenly arrested, and it is said that a very carefully planned German scheme was thus crushed. A bill enabling the authorities to move or restrain the movements of undesirable aliens was passed through the Commons on the day war was announced. The navigation of aircraft of every kind, over the whole of the United Kingdom, was prohibited. Shipping was placed at the disposal of the authorities, who were given power to commandeer what boats they required for the service of the government. Two of the most important measures carried out in the first week for the nationalisation of the country's resources were the taking over of the railways by the state and the establishment of a government scheme for the insurance of shipping against war risks.

The state control of railways was announced on Tuesday night, August 4, and it at once came into force. Under an Act of Parliament passed in 1871 the government possessed power to assume supreme control over the railways of the United Kingdom, in order that the lines, locomotives, rolling stock and staff might be used as one complete unit in the service of the state for the movement of troops, stores, and food supplies. The order-in-council, announcing that this power was to be used, stated:

It is expedient that the government should have control over the railroads of Great Britain. . . Although the railway facilities for other than naval and military purposes may for a time be somewhat restricted, the effect of the use of the powers under this Act will be to coordinate the demands on the railways of the civil community with those necessary to meet the special requirements of the naval and military authorities. More normal conditions will in due course be restored, and it is hoped the public will recognize the necessity for the special conditions, and will in the general interest accommodate themselves to the inconvenience involved.

Unsuspected by the country at large, this step had been fully prepared for long before war began. For this we have to thank the War Office. A war railway council was in existence, under

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