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Beachley and the First World War

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Beachley and the First World War
The Story of a Shipyard, a Railway and the Transformation of a Rural Parish

Carol & Richard Clammer

192 pages. 275x215mm. Printed on gloss art paper with colour laminated board covers.

ISBN13 9781911038269

£25.00

In the early months of 1917 German U-Boats were sinking Allied merchant ships at a much faster rate than they could be replaced and Britain faced a real danger of being starved into surrender. One of the Government’s responses to this crisis was to boost shipbuilding capacity by building three new national shipyards on the banks of the Severn Estuary, the largest of which was to be located on the rural Beachley Peninsula in Gloucestershire. On 3rd September 1917 the inhabitants of this quiet country parish were given ten days’ notice to vacate their homes in order to allow thousands of Royal Engineers and German Prisoners of War to begin construction. The authors have painted a vivid picture of local life before the war, the impact of the evacuation on the community and the construction of the huge shipyard together with its associated housing schemes, army and POW camps. They also record, for the very first time, the history of the railway branch line and the numerous railway locomotives which served the shipyard. At the end of the war the yard was still unfinished and accusations regarding its cost and alleged mismanagement grew into a national scandal which provided a rich vein of humour for satirical writers of the time. The scheme was eventually abandoned and the site converted into an Army Technical School while local people continued their long struggle to reclaim their homes and obtain fair compensation. This absorbing book draws on a wide range of contemporary sources and is illustrated by a superb selection of photographs and documents, very few of which have been published before. It will delight railway, industrial, military and social historians, and appeal to anyone with an interest in the local area.

Beachley and the First World War - Sample Images

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An extract from the Daily Sketch for Monday 17th September 1917. The centre photograph shows Richard Trayhern and his wife Elizabeth, both of whom were 72 years old and lived in ‘Laurel Cottage’. Keith Underwood Collection
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Another view looking north along the railway, on 1st January 1918. Sedbury Lane can be seen running parallel with the railway on the right and the gateway to the ancient manor house of Badhams Court locates the photograph precisely. The number of sidings completed or under construction makes it clear that, during the early months of the railway before the engine shed was completed at Beachley, this area was used for stabling and servicing locomotives, of which at least four are visible in the photograph. The nearest is thought to be the Andrew Barclay 0-6-0 saddle tank No. 1 (Works No. 1206) of 1910, which has been fitted with wooden ‘dumb’ buffers and a back to its cab. Behind it, with its cab facing the photographer, is probably the Manning, Wardle 0-6-0 No. 7 of 1901. In the distance other locos stand on the sidings and smoke rises from one hard at work on the branch. In the left background a long train of wagons is standing on the line leading up to Beachley Camp. Note the extremely rough and uneven condition of almost all the tracks. The National Archives