CILT - First World War Centenary

CILT and the First World War

To honour the centenary of the First World War, CILT has been putting together a number of reflective features that acknowledge the invaluable role that the transport and logistics industry played during the First World War. Remarkably, the innovation of the transport infrastructure in the First World War led to the very beginning of what we now know as CILT and here we celebrate the efforts of some of our earliest members who fought in the four year conflict.

We also pay focus to the contrast in army logistics operations in 1914 compared to the present day. While little may have changed on the battle field, the development and influence of Transport and Logistics makes Captain Rowan Dalglish’s comparative study of 22 Squadron particularly interesting reading.

Leading experts on Great War logistics highlighted how the First World War transportation experience indirectly shaped the development of Britain’s future infrastructure. Despite the initial military failing to grasp the importance of transport and infrastructure, the Allied forces would not have succeeded in repairing roads and railway systems to transport troops and artillery throughout the First World War.

CILT will continue to focus on the tremendous work of members and the importance of the industry throughout the four year conflict and how the future, as we know it now, was shaped.

First World War features

Steve Agg FCILT comments on CILT's First World War Centenary plans

Steve Agg FCILT comments on CILT's First World War Centenary plans.

One hundred years ago this month saw the start of the greatest conflict the world had ever known. Over the period from the August 1914 start until the armistice in late 1918 50 million men were engaged in waging war and civilian populations endured devastating disruption, loss and death.

Many organisations are rightly remembering this highly significant anniversary which will be the first of many milestone events to be marked over the coming 4–5 years. In addition to wishing to honour our past and those who made sacrifices which have enabled us to live as we do our Institute traces its origin back to that conflict and those who emerged from it.

The Institute of Transport as the original legacy body through to which we trace the current CILT was established on 3rd November 1919 by a group of individuals who had been engaged in leading the logistics and transport activities of the war effort.

We know this because within our International Knowledge Centre we maintain the John Williams Library which retains many of the original documents regarding the early years of the Institute, its activities, proceedings and membership records.

We actually have the very first handwritten membership forms covering the period up to and including the mid 1920s and applicants then as now were required to give career information to date as part of their application. This of course covers the period of the conflict and it is our intention to publish an occasional series of short biographies from these early records over the coming years. Details of war service in the military as well as in civilian occupations will enable us to produce some fascinating thumbnail sketches and provide snapshots of the lives of logistics and transport professionals from all modes and sectors.

Looking at these early records (which every member can do but you do have to come to Corby) it is remarkable to make comparisons with the challenges faced by professionals 100 years ago against those of today. Many of them are similar but of course we aren’t running trains or buses, operating shipping, moving millions of tons of freight across land sometimes on made up roads or flying in the earliest years of aviation whilst in the midst of a global conflict.

Steve Agg FCILT, Chief Executive, CILT

How the First World War led to the beginning of CILT

Terence Hughes and Rob Thompson present the legacy and influence of developments established in the logistics and transport infrastructure of the First World War. Remarkably, the innovation of the transport infrastructure in the First World War led to the very beginning of what we now know as CILT, with the creation of the Institute of Transport at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1919.

On the afternoon of Monday 3rd November 1919, a mere eight days before the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War, a rather obscure group of men attended a luncheon meeting at the Savoy Hotel in London. These men, principally managers, administrators and engineers, were at the Savoy to champion a new and thoroughly modern cause: the formation of the Institute of Transport. Apart from the promotion of transport interests in general, the three basic aims of the Institute were: the collection and collation of data for the purpose of developing and improving scientific methods to achieve greater transport efficiency; the achievement of a future integrated transport system; and training of logistics talent.

Nearly 100 years later and after the issue of a Royal Charter and a change of name, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport continues to pursue more or less the same laudable and necessary aims so vital to maintaining and improving the logistics system upon which Britain, Europe and the rest of the world fundamentally depend.

The aims and the ideas behind them did not spring out of thin air, which begs the question: where did the impulse to set up the Institute come from? The clue is in the names of the men involved and the date of the first Savoy luncheon.

Apart from, perhaps, Sir Eric Geddes, Minister for Transport (and the first President of the Institute), Sam Fay, Phillip Nash, Francis Dent, George Gibb, Alexander Gibb, Henry Maybury (a future President), Guy Granet, Henry Thornton and Ralph Wedgwood (amongst others) would have been unknown outside of a small but influential circle of transport specialists connected with an equally unknown wartime organisation known as General Headquarters (Transport). Those few that did know of them and the organisation they worked with would have been aware of the enormous and vital contribution they had made to Britain’s victory in the war of 1914–18. In fact, it would be fair to say that of all those who served in the war, from the most humble soldier to the most exalted commander those who served in GHQ (Transport), made the single greatest contribution of all, and it was this organisation and the experience of those connected with it that was the driving force behind what we know today as CILT.

The beginning

When Britain went to war in August 1914 along with France, Germany and Russia, they expected to fight a bloody but short war that would probably be ‘over by Christmas’. What none of the belligerents had counted on was the willingness of its population to fight, the inventiveness and productive capacity of its industries and the terrifying power of modern weapons, especially artillery. By Christmas 1914, Germany, France and Britain had fought each other to a standstill. As each side dug in, they created a continuous ribbon of trenches that stretched from the North Sea across Belgium and France to the Swiss border. The Germans were content to sit on these defences, while the Allies, unable to go around, would have to attack head on.

Britain alone among the belligerents entered the war with a colossal navy, but only a tiny fighting force of about 100,000 men: a mere fraction of the ‘million man’ armies of France, Germany and others. Realising it was now in for the long haul, Britain needed to expand its armies dramatically to face the enemy on equal terms. Soldiers were not a problem, as the men of Britain and the Commonwealth volunteered enthusiastically, but it would take time to train them. What was a major problem was their equipment needs, and above all the desperate need for machine-guns, bigger and more powerful artillery and the millions of shells they would need to annihilate the increasingly powerful enemy trench defences.

Working virtually from scratch, the Ministry of Munitions was formed to marshal Britain’s manufacturing potential. Within 18 months, shells which had been counted individually in 1914 were now pouring into France by the thousands of tons. Army units were expanded in number and type as commanders attempted to balance the numbers and to find new ways of winning this most unexpected type of war. By the beginning of July 1916, the infantry of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France and Flanders had increased tenfold, while its new artillery and specialist units now numbered in the thousands. On 1st July 1916, the BEF engaged in its first major battle: the Somme.

The Somme campaign began amid high hopes. However, despite gigantic German casualties, by the autumn of 1916 the BEF had run out of steam and was stuck fast in the Somme mud. Much polemic has been written about this infamous campaign, but one of its most important aspects – transport – has been all but ignored. This reflects a wider ignorance of its role and influence during the war at the time and subsequently.

The Somme campaign failed not because of poor command, the ignorance or inexperience of officers or the calibre or the training of the troops, but because the BEF transport system, absolutely central to modern mass-industrialised war, failed comprehensively from port to front line. At the ports, ships waited up to three weeks in harbour to be unloaded, and quaysides and warehouses were a hideous jumble of every kind of piece of equipment or item of supply. The roads and railways that carried these supplies to the front were collapsing.

At the major transport hub of Amiens, the main supply base for the British, there were 18 miles of trains waiting to be unloaded. Further forward, there were great dumps of equipment that could not be moved due to the appalling state of the roads. Rail and road could not be repaired due to the low priority given to the means and material to maintain them; the commanders wanted hells, but did not fully grasp that without material and manpower to build and repair and transport, shells, guns and supplies of every type could not be moved.

In other words, the military failed to grasp the central importance of transport and its infrastructure and the need to pace it at the heart of their battle plans. The response of the BEF to this catastrophic wholesale collapse had major consequences for the future conduct of the war and for the development of domestic civilian transport during the post-war era.

‘Not fit for purpose’: Geddes Transport Mission, 1916

During 1914–16, the military operated the BEF logistics system, but the unprecedented mass, material nature of the war was simply beyond its collective capability, especially once the material floodgates of the Ministry of Munitions began opening. The system, if it can be called that, was ineffective, inefficient and fragmented, and functioned in an ad hoc manner that was inimical to the supply of men, munitions and materials. The main problem was that the military was untrained and unable to run transport systems on such a vast scale, and it was only the much-distrusted civilian transport leaders and experts who had any experience of managing supply movement on such an enormous scale. In autumn 1916, a delegation of civilian transport experts headed by railway supremo Sir Eric Geddes examined the whole of the BEF transport system. He had proven his worth at the Ministry of Munitions and was one of the so-called ‘men of push and go’ brought in by Prime Minister David Lloyd George to transform Britain’s wartime industrial and transport base.

Although initially distrusted by BEF Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, Sir Eric Geddes and his team were given free rein throughout the autumn (much to the disgust and alarm of the conservative military transport officers) and his final report was nothing short of revolutionary. Once implemented, it would prove transformative. His far-reaching recommendations amounted to the abolition of the military transport system as it stood and the integration of every transport and transport-related function under single, central, co-ordinating body staffed by civilian experts known as GHQ (Transport) or, jokingly, Geddesburg. It ultimately became the most important headquarters on the British front, dwarfing even the mighty General Headquarters (GHQ) headed by General Douglas Haig.

Transport Mission recommendations

Sir Eric Geddes identified five major areas relating to transport, each of which had a specific directorate created around it: railways, docks, roads, canals and light railways and these directorates were unified under a Director-General which was a radical change in policy. The DGT’s remit did not just cover operational issues, but also transport infrastructure construction and maintenance, as well as the integration of portside facilities, depots, warehousing and railway wagon construction, amongst many other functions. More importantly, he introduced the idea of using scientific management, the use of widespread cross-directorate data collection and collation, and statistical forecasting to increase the efficiency of the system. To achieve all this, he employed predominantly civilian experts from many different civil fields.

The whole amounted to much more than a central co-ordination of military transport, but arguably the creation of world’s first large-scale, mass, integrated transport system driven by the application of scientific principles.


Transport Mission results

The results were astonishing. Unable to support one BEF operation in 1916, the BEF transport system successfully dealt with further massive material expansion in 1917, while simultaneously successfully supplying the gigantic needs of four major offensives in 1917.

The legacy of the mission, including the use of civilian experts, resonated well beyond GHQ into many other combat support areas. Whatever military mistakes were made during 1917 and 1918, the BEF’s capacity to supply and move was not one of them. The legacy did not stop at the end of the war, but continued to exert an important, if yet historically unquantified, influence on the development of postwar logistics, particularly through the newly formed Institute of Transport.

In summary

Although absence of historical research means we know next to nothing of the entity and depth of the relationship, it is clear that the experience of the First World War was the primary driving force behind – and GHQ (Transport) the primary example of – what would eventually become the Chartered Institute of Transport. Its First World War transportation experience indirectly and directly shaped Britain’s transport development and it is significant that the goals of GHQ (Transport), the Institute of Transport and the modern-day CILT remain the same.

The remarkable logistics and transport achievements of the British Army in the First World War are the inspiration for the work of the independent Expeditionary Trust. It continues to conduct research and aims to bring this hitherto unrecognised story to the public. The trust will be publishing a study of the British army’s supply chain in co-operation with Cass Business School, and is developing video and digital displays for use in a range of locations, including museums and other venues. The trust welcomes the
support and co-operation of the profession.

About the authors

Rob Thompson graduated in military history from Birmingham University and is a leading expert on Great War logistics. He was a Teaching Fellow in the Centre for First War Studies at Birmingham University and is currently producing a study of the British Army’s Supply Chain on the Western Front for the Cass Business School.

Terence Hughes is Director of the Expeditionary Trust, he graduated in History from Oxford and worked as a senior producer for BBC Television where he was editor of the Money Programme. He has contributed articles to the Sunday Times and written books on ‘D—Day’, the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ and the ‘Concorde’ project. 

One hundred years apart: a comparison of 22 Squadron (Sqn) operations

The following essay was submitted to the Annual Fujitsu Defence Logistics Essay Competition: The Future of Logistics. Chris Markey, Chairman, CILT Defence Forum, sits on the marking panel, and thought that this piece was particularly relevant as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Whilst the text is acronym-rich, it gives a fascinating account of how little battlefield support has actually changed in a century, the main difference being that asymmetric warfare brings the enemy into what had in the past been a relatively secure rear area. The essay was written by Captain (then Lieutenant) Rowan Dalglish RLC. Similar articles highlighting the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will be featured in future issues of Focus.

With the third disbandment of 22 Close Support Sqn (this time as part of Army restructuring) falling in the same year as both their deployment to Afghanistan and the centenary of the First World War, it is a fitting time to look back at the squadron’s achievements then and now. There are a surprising number of similarities to be found. A comparison between the squadrons very first and most recent deployment serves as a good vehicle for analysing current experiences in Helmand in the wider context of Army logistic operations. The fundamental role of 22 Company/Sqn has remained the same across the century that separates its first and last deployment, that is to say, the movement of goods between the rear and the front of the battlefield.

22 Horse Transport Company, Army Service Corps1, as was, had quite an unusual war. They remained as one regular company throughout, and were deployed in almost every British location along the western front, from Mons in 1914 to the eventual occupation of the Rhineland in 1919. As the HQ Company for the 3 Division Column, they effectively performed the functions of a modern CSLR (Close Support Logistic Regiment) on operations, but for a whole division rather than just a brigade, which was the norm.2 The Company was mobilised on 5th August 1914, travelling to France from Bulford to arrive in time for the Battle of Mons.

They assisted in the retreat from Mons, picking up 970 stragglers in their horse-drawn GS wagons, the staple of British Army transport at the time. Based near Poperinghe for the first and second Battles of Ypres (completing gas drills for countering the new weapon in 1915), they moved down to the Somme in 1916, before making their way north up the front. In April 1917 they were put in their most dangerous position, suffering regular heavy shelling while based in Arras town, though this was a problem throughout the war, particularly with the new threat of German aerial bombardment. Based in Brandhoek near Ypres later that year, which, incidentally is where Capt Chavesse VC and Bar is buried, by 1918 they were advancing behind the Somme lines when the Armistice was called. They continued their advance through France, Belgium and Germany, and the diary finishes in October 1919 with the Coy just south of Cologne.

The modern 22 Close Support Squadron (22 CS Sqn) deployed on Op HERRICK 19 in January 2014, boosting the capacity of 2 Logistic Support Regiment (LSR) already in theatre. This is their first deployment to Afghanistan, where they provide logistic support to Task Force Helmand, as well as to the drawdown of bases across Central Helmand.

Conduct of operations

The first comparison here is in the length of time spent on operations. When 22 Coy mobilised in 1914, it was in the expectation that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’, which turned into a deployment of over five years, though it was rather easier to return home for ‘R and R’ than it is from Afghanistan. 22 CS Sqn, meanwhile, will spend only 3 months in theatre, but this deployment was preceded by a year of uncertainty, as manning requirements for the force in Helmand changed regularly.

Looking at the regimental structure, in 1914 3 Div Column had an HQ Company (22), and 4 other Companies operating as Close Support units. While there is no mention of numbers in the diary, looking at the sizes of the convoys, and the historical stability of the size of a manageable sub-unit, it seems likely that Company numbers are around the same as today, at around 90 to 100 soldiers. 2 LSR adopted a different structure for deployment (where it became the CSLR), changing from its barracks configuration of 2 Close Support Sqns, 1 General Support Sqn and an HQ Sqn, to just 1 Close Support Sqn (of 4 Troops) supported by the Regimental HQ and later bolstered by the addition of the 71 members of 22 CS Sqn (2 Transport Troops and 1 Force Protection Troop).


Clearly this structure is reactive to the number of dependent units. In 1914, each company (squadron equivalent) was assigned a brigade within the division to resupply. The sheer numbers dwarf the current size of the whole British Force in Afghanistan; in October of that year, divisional strength is recorded as 14,637 men and 5,364 horses, and a glance in the last chapter of the current Royal Logistic Corps Staff Handbook will highlight the substantial fodder requirements of working horses. 2 CSLR is concerned with the movement of materiel from just 4 locations, looking at the needs of around 500 UK personnel in each. This is the last deployment of a CSLR on Op HERRICK, so the numbers are particularly low as the last bases are being closed.

In 1914, unlike in Afghanistan, it was possible to requisition land and limited supplies from the locals. This was recorded at Mons, with an optimistic note that requisitioned goods were ‘To be paid [back] to the mayor after the War’. However, there is no evidence of civilian contract movement, and certainly not on the scale currently practiced in Helmand. In other words, not only was 22 Company helping to supply many more units than 22 CS Sqn, but it was supplying their every need, rather than just militarily sensitive items as now.

As a result of this larger number of dependent units, the convoys taking supplies from the railhead to the brigade ‘dumps’ (distribution points) had to be considerably more frequent. At the current tempo of operations, 22 CS Sqn in Afghanistan has been looking at around 50 vehicles going out once per week, of which around 25 are task vehicles, the others being recovery, support and close protection (armoured) vehicles. In November 1917 there were daily details of around 40 vehicles, of which around half would continue to ‘forward areas’; presumably beyond the brigade dump to behind the unit front lines. While on paper this is a more impressive record, it must be remembered that the distances involved were considerably smaller: round trips of around 30 km were usual, while the journey to and from Lashkar Gah involves a distance of around 240km, a longer time even considering the speed difference between a wagon’s 6 or 7kph and an EPLS’3 30kph deliberate speed limit.

On all operations, the enemy has a vote, and in the asymmetric battlespace of Helmand, the specific threat to Combat Logistic Patrols (CLPs) is considerably greater than it was in 1914. Then, the primary threat to convoys operating behind the lines was indirect fire, made particularly dangerous by the inevitable channelling caused by road use. ‘Hellfire Corner’, the 6-way crossroads east of Ypres, was one such particular threat area. Comparable are the bad-lands of the ‘Yakchal Shoulder’, a bend on the Highway 1, west of the turnings for Sangin and Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan. This is an area regularly seeded with the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) made notorious in Helmand, and the primary threat for CLPs. However, 22 CS Sqn must also take into account the possibility of complex attacks, involving small arms fire, RPGs, IEDs and suicide bombing, though fortunately, the most usual attacks involve well-aimed stones and fruit in the district centres of Gereshk and Lashkar Gah.

The diary entry of 14th June 1915 describes a typical road move for 22 Coy:
‘In the evening a convoy of 14 logistic vehicles carrying 10,000 rations had to proceed to 8th Infantry Bde HQ, east of Ypres. I placed Lieut. T W Richardson in command of the convoy, which left at 4.30 p.m. and returned at 1.30 a.m. the following morning. The rations were delivered and a receipt obtained.’

The threat level, however, negates the possibility of operating this way in Helmand. On occasion, a CLP might be the only presence in an area, effectively forming its own front line. This has generated a need for organic force protection, and a troop is dedicated to this task within the CLP (on only one occasion is a need for force protection mentioned for 22 Coy, and it was drafted from the infantry). In addition, the CLP is reliant on many outside agencies to provide force support: artillery reconnaissance and IDF capabilities, air assets to provide a ‘show of force’ deterrent and ground assets whose battlespace is being transited, not to mention reactive support, such as engineer and RLC route-proving and clearance capabilities and the reassurance of emergency medical evacuation.

In return, the CLP can provide intelligence on an area, as well as reconnoitring the ground. For example, the state of repair of the Gereshk Bridge over the Helmand River was a point of concern for the Royal Engineers, and CLPs regularly took photographs of it, so they could analyse the state of the ground and the bridge without having to mount their own operation to see it. More kinetically, earlier in the campaign it was common for CLPs to be given ‘block’ and ‘screen’ functions, in recognition of the effect a long and heavily armoured column of armoured vehicles could have on ground operations.

The consequence of this added complexity is that it is now very rare for a Lieutenant to be put in charge of a CLP, which as an All-Arms grouping of between 90 and 180 personnel is more normally commanded by a Captain or a Major. They would command the individual Logistic and Force Protection elements instead, which has knock-on effect for junior operational command; the force protection commander is the only junior officer able to lead his own troop, while the logistic commander controls the tasks in location. Their troop is allocated as part of a general pool of drivers in the squadron, and they have no effective control over them on the ground. Whether this will have detrimental effect on this generation of troop commanders when they reach sub-unit command remains to be seen. 

The different equipment used had a knock-on effect on the work load of the soldiers, as well as the operational capabilities of the unit. As already mentioned the speed, as well as the range and lift of an EPLS, is wildly improved from a horse-drawn GS Wagon, the driving of which was a highly physical task. Manually unloading a GS wagon took around an hour and a half, while nowadays, a logistics commander can expect his soldiers to unload 150 tonnes of materiel in that time. Not only that, but the variety of lift capability is vastly improved; for example, the CSLR recovered a stricken Apache helicopter shortly after 22 CS Sqn had arrived in theatre. The rough equivalent could be a GS Wagon attempting to retrieve a field gun, and while picking up tanks is light work for the CSLR’s Heavy Equipment Transporters, a 1916 tank driver would laugh at a horse drawn wagon attempting to recover him.

Looking at the wider logistic picture, the Army Service Corps made use of Senior Supply Officers from the Column, who were attached to a Brigade HQ in the effective role of modern Brigade Logistic Liaison Officers. Their individual diaries provide logistic detail from the time, some of which makes for familiar reading, as in this complaint from 31st October 1914:

‘Am of the opinion that the numbers of rations which are to be issued daily to each unit should be given to Supply Officers solely by Brigade HQs – & no notice taken of the numbers sent by the units themselves as these are frequently incorrect.’

This provides an example of a situation where doctrine from Afghanistan has improved on a situation that caused problems for 22 Company 100 years ago, that is to say, the inaccuracies and misunderstandings arising from communications between individual units and their logistic suppliers. Now, the RLC makes use of Logistic Support Teams, made up of supply specialists from the CSLR, who are embedded in location with dependent units, thus removing the ‘Chinese Whispers’ element of misunderstanding between the different cap-badges, as well as assisting the unit’s quartermaster.

The first few months of the diary are full of such ‘lessons learnt’, as the Column familiarised itself with the best tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for the war. The length of the HERRICK campaign has meant that TTPs from Afghanistan have filtered through into most of the soldier’s basic training, let alone into the mission specific training for operations. As a result, 22 CS Sqn has been much better prepared to hit the ground running, which is key to allowing much shorter periods in theatre, as well as combating the higher threat level.

The conventional warfare of WWI and the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan are very different operational contexts. However, the supply chains for both have been relatively static, which has allowed for a clearly defined theatre logistic laydown, and thus a surprisingly high number of similarities between Close Support operations a century apart. The increased threat has generated the most important doctrinal difference; the adoption of the Combat Logistic Patrol, which has made the transport element considerably more complex, and consequently, significant in the overall battle picture. This can only worsen a complaint still relevant from June 1915, that ‘Supply duties are as important as Transport and all officers should have knowledge of them.’ Plus ça change!

Everyday life on operations

Just as equipment care of trucks occupies most of a soldier’s time in 2014, so care of their horses was the primary concern for the soldiers of 1914. The BEF would have been completely unable to operate in Afghanistan as we do today, simply because of the lack of forage in an area small enough to be appropriately secured and protected. As a result, 22 Coy were fortunate; the need for fields to pasture the horses meant that they were rarely channelled into population centres to become targets for artillery, though aircraft were still a problem. Similarly, Camp Bastion is more isolated from threat in the desert, although as it is now larger than Lashkar Gah and Gereshk, it is a target in its own right.

In general, the routine was very similar. There were daily low-threat details running supplies from the railhead to the divisional supply dump, just as there are routine moves within Bastion. There were rifle inspections, foot drill, which has fortunately ceased on operations, care of the horses as opposed to equipment care, billet cleaning and of course, weekly and monthly returns.

The soldier of 1914, however, was working in much more arduous conditions. The frequency of the moves meant that there was rarely an opportunity to properly settle into a billet. Some of these were deeply unsuitable, and had to be changed for health reasons. The frequent references in the diary to the weather serve as a constant reminder that the men of 22 Coy ASC were required to ‘basha up’ regularly, and effectively lived outside for more than 5 years. On one notable occasion, a driver suffocate himself by sealing up the GS Wagon he had chosen to sleep in too effectively from the cold. The air-conditioned tents of Camp Bastion make for rather more comfortable surroundings and the only time a 22 CS Sqn soldier qualifies for the Unpleasant Living Allowance is when they are detached to spend time in the increasingly sparse and austere Forward Operating Bases as they shut down.

It is to be hoped that such situation as recorded on 11th February 1917 would be reversed by the conscientious modern officer: ‘Good billets found for the mess and the officers but poor for men and horses’. This reflects a fundamental difference in attitudes across the century, where officers would have received different food, have been allowed unregulated alcohol and the luxury of un-censored letters home amongst many other privileges. It is pleasing to note that the first thing to go in the downsizing of the CSLR accommodation was the Officers’ and Seniors’ Welfare tent.

One must beware of drawing trite comparisons, but overall, it is fair to say that the Coy were working harder in 1914 and in more unpleasant conditions, particularly in an environment where regular recorded accountability (i.e. paperwork) was minimal, and the work largely physical. The increased complexities of counter-insurgency, and the isolation of armoured cabs mean that more is expected of the individual soldier in 2014 in terms of ‘brain over brawn’. However, given the very low casualty figures over a 5 year campaign in WWI and more so as a percentage of total casualties, the level of risk was much lower. Even taking into account modern advances in protective equipment, a sqn deployed to Afghanistan for a similar continuous period would be lucky to escape so lightly. In other words, 22 Company had to work harder for longer, but were in less danger, doing a less ‘punchy’ job, than where 22 CS Sqn in 2014.

It is reassuring, however, to see how the capabilities of the close support squadron have been widened and improved in the intervening hundred years, whilst retaining the essential lessons learnt, maybe even from as far back as 22 Company’s foundation in 1903. The achievements of our forebears are made all the more impressive when placed in direct comparison with operations today, and the deployed 22 CS Sqn has a great deal to be proud of when looking back at their Great War counterparts, who struggled through day-to-day challenges that the modern soldier would still recognise. It is appropriate to close with a citation for bravery from 11 Oct 1917, not even a footnote within the context of the global war of 1914–19, but possibly a more accessible example for soldiers today as a result:

‘The following acts of gallantry having been performed by CSM Timeney & Dvr Jarvis […] On the night of the 29.30 Sept in the BRANDHOEK area, while hostile aircraft were dropping bombs of various sorts, incendiary & explosive – in the neighbourhood of Train coy camps an incendiary bomb fell between two G.S. wagons loaded with hay that were standing on the wagon of no 3 Coy. The hay caught fire & C.S.M. Timeney observing the fire at once ran to the wagon to extinguish the flames. He was joined by Dvr Jarvis & these two succeeded in extinguishing the fire. By their prompt action these two men undoubtedly prevented a serious loss of government property & in the discharge of this duty they did not allow themselves to be disturbed by further bombs falling close by.’

CILT and the First World War - Colonel Robert McCreary

The September issue of Focus highlighted the legacy and influence that the First World War had on the transport industry and the role of the Institute. Over the coming months, we will continue to commemorate the centenary by profiling members of the Institute who played a major role in the war and went on to have an influence on the logistics, transport and the supply chain.

With help from The International Knowledge Centre, CILT’s hub for world-leading resources in all areas of logistics, transport and the supply chain, we have been able to find an extensive list of members who played a major role throughout the war. Alongside the abundance of journals and texts that can be found in The Knowledge Centre at Corby, two historical membership application files have provided incredible nostalgia and also an array of members who applied to become part of the Institute shortly after the First World War.

Colonel Robert McCreary

DOB: 3rd August 1890
General education: Royal Academical Institution, Belfast (1902–08)
Higher education: Queen’s University Belfast (1908–12) – BA, BSc (Engineering First Class Hons), AMICE
Experience upon becoming an Associate Member with the Institute of Transport: Improver – City Surveyor, Belfast, 1912–13; Officer of the Royal Engineers (Special Reserve), 1913–19; Permanent Way Engineers, Belfast City Tramways, Belfast, 1919

After graduating with a First Class Honours degree in 1912 from Queen’s University Belfast, Robert McCreary began work as a Civil Engineer and Improver at the City Surveyor’s Office. During his short career there, he spent time as a Resident Engineer on a section of the city’s tramways. He became an Associate Member of what was then the Institute of Transport on 5th March 1920, with an illustrious array of experience and awards to his name.

By the time Robert McCreary was discharged from the Royal Engineers (RE) in 1919, he had been awarded a Military Cross and become a Major during his supervision of railway construction and maintenance to the front line. His astounding contribution to the military began in 1913, when he was appointed to commission as 2/Lt with the Royal Engineers (Special Reserve). In 1914, he was training railway troops at the Chatham Barracks. Later that year, he was attached to the Railway Troops Depot in Longmoor, Hampshire, cited as the centre for all RE railway and road personnel during the war, from its outbreak of the war until the armistice. Nearly 1,700 officers and 66,000 other ranks were sent overseas from Longmoor.


After the realisation that the war would not be over by Christmas 1914, the British Army set in motion plans to expand upon the remaining rail network still in Allied hands in France and Flanders. The 8th Railway Company landed in France in August 1914 and the 10th and two Special Reserve Companies followed soon after.

In September 1915, Robert McCreary crossed the Channel with 10th Company RE and was engaged on survey, construction, maintenance and traffic operations in France and Belgium. From 1917, he was part of the OC 268th (Railway) Company RE, carrying out extensive works in reconstruction of main lines and land, maintaining and surveying the rebuilding of tracks and bridges that were demolished by the enemy as they retreated. As the war came to a close, he and his men from the OC 10th Company engaged on their most important excursion, which was pivotal to unlocking the opposition defences, when they were sent to collect all the necessary rail and transport information in the area occupied by the Army of the Rhine.

When the war came to an end, Robert McCreary returned to Belfast and was put in charge of the maintenance for approximately 100 miles of track as a Permanent Way Engineer at Belfast City Tramways. He returned to France during the Second World War, once again overseeing and commanding the reconstruction of railways. When France fell to German forces, he commanded engineer units in England until the Normandy landings. In 1945, he was demobilised as Colonel McCreary OBE MC.

Robert McCreary retired in May 1951, and his significant impact on the transport services in Northern Ireland, as well as across Europe, sees him regarded as one of the standout members of the Institute of Transport who joined shortly after the First World War.

The Gedge Medal: a memorial to naval logistics heroism

On 6th August 1914, the Royal Navy suffered its first loss of the First World War. More than two weeks before the British Expeditionary Force lost its first soldier on the fledgling Western Front, some 130 people were killed when HMS Amphion sank in the North Sea, with the European war barely 30 hours old.

Amphion was the second of three Active class scout cruisers, small, lightly armed and armoured, but relatively fast and agile, serving as the eyes of the fleet. It had only been in service 18 months and was assigned to the Harwich Force as one of the guardians of the southern North Sea, Thames estuary and approaches to the Strait of Dover. On 5th August, it left Harwich to sweep the North Sea with a destroyer flotilla.

Already at sea by the time the British force headed out was a former North Sea ferry, Königin Luise, determined to drop mines to block the shipping lanes to Britain’s capital. Late that morning, the German ferry was spotted and intercepted by destroyers Landrail and Lance, whose 4in guns fired the first British shots of the conflict. When Amphion entered the fray, more than 15 4in guns were pummelling the German steamer, which rolled over after a couple of hours. Amphion moved in to pick up survivors and rescued 56 of the 130 men aboard, before the force continued its patrol.

The ships soon found fresh pickings, another steamer very similar to the makeshift minelayer and flying the German naval ensign, the Reichskriegsflagge. The destroyers closed in to attack, unaware they were
about to send the German Ambassador and his staff to the bottom of the North Sea. Amphion’s captain, Cecil Fox, realised the mistake and ordered the destroyers to break off, but they did not. Cecil Fox steamed in with Amphion, putting himself between his destroyers and the steamer, the St Petersburg, in an act of chivalry.

With the action over, he decided to return to Harwich, but in doing so he sailed across the line of mines laid by the Königin Luise. Shortly before 07.00 hrs on 6th August, the Amphion ran over one, with horrific results.

The blast tore apart the forward section; every man save one on the fo’c’sle guns was killed, and most of the German prisoners that were being held in the bow. Just before the explosion, 19-year-old Stoker 1st Class Herbert Street had been enjoying a break with his fellow stokers, among them a fellow Lyme Regis native, Thomas Gollop. The latter took rather longer to finish his mug of cocoa than his shipmate, which saved his life. Herbert Street was killed in the blast; Thomas Gollop survived.

The blast also killed the Royal Navy’s first officer casualty, Staff Paymaster Joseph Gedge, Amphion’s accountant. Subsequently, in his name a medal was introduced at Oxford University and within the Royal Navy Supply Branch, and a science block was erected at his former school in Leatherhead, a project backed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet in 1914, Admiral Jellicoe.

As for Amphion, she was going down by the bow. Cecil Fox ordered his men to abandon ship and his destroyer to close in to pick up survivors. They did so remarkably calmly and quickly. Within 18 minutes of hitting the mine, every survivor had been taken off. The captain was the last man off.

The lifeless ship continued to float and move. It drifted back into the minefield and struck a second mine, triggering her forward magazine and an explosion far more fearful than the first. Debris was flung around the North Sea, hitting some of the rescue boats. A 4in shell crashed on to the deck of HMS Lark, killing two men just plucked from the Amphion, plus a German PoW. More than 130 Britons died in the loss of the three-year-old cruiser, while at least 18 of the 56 German sailors rescued also perished.



Her wreck now lies on the bed of the North Sea some 30 miles east of Orford Ness and is a protected war grave. The survivors landed at Harwich. According to a newspaper reporter who watched them being helped ashore, they bore terrible burns, as if they had been peppered with acid: ‘The scene here is like that which follows a colliery explosion.’ The first dead – four British, four German – were buried with full military honours at Shotley Cemetery in Suffolk on 8th August 1914. Such casualties would soon be dwarfed by losses in France, but even in the first month of the war, not one day passed without a member of the naval service dying, often of illness. A few drowned and most lost their lives in action.

The fact that Joseph Gedge was a ‘pusser’ was not lost on the fledgling logistics branch. In 1928, the members of the Royal Naval Accountant Officers’ Dining Club subscribed: ‘a sum of £260 to institute a prize to be competed for annually by junior Supply Officers’. Their orders stated: ‘The award will take the form of a gold medal and a prize of books, the value of the latter being the sum remaining over from the annual interest after deducting the cost of the medal. The medal will be known as the Gedge Medal, in commemoration of Staff Paymaster Joseph T Gedge, RN, who was killed on 6th August, 1914, when HMS Amphion was sunk by a mine, and who was the first British Officer of all the fighting services to be killed during the 1914–18 war. The family of this officer have consented to the use of the name.

The medal and prize will be awarded annually to the officer who has passed the examination for the rank of Lieutenant (Supply) at the first attempt and has obtained the highest aggregate of the total maximum marks in these examinations during the current calendar year. Officers granted permanent commissions from the lower deck are also eligible for the award. In the event of two or more officers obtaining the same number of marks, the award will be made to the officer who obtains the higher total of marks in the papers Secretarial and General Work and Pay and Cash combined. Officers of the Commonwealth Navies who compete at the same examinations as officers of the Royal Navy, will be eligible for the award.’ Ask any serving Logistics Officer of the Royal Navy or the Royal Naval Reserve and he or she will be aware of the existence of the Gedge Medal and what it stands for. Since its inception in 1928, 80 officers of the branch have been awarded the medal, which is struck every year to ensure its uniqueness. Those that sit in judgement and award the medal, have been successful, too; of the 80 Gedge Medals awarded, 47 of its recipients have gone on to the rank of Admiral. The medal is awarded at the Defence Maritime Logistics School (DMLS) Annual Awards Ceremony, which is attended by Steve Agg, CEO, CILT. Such is the prestige of the Gedge Medal that it is always presented by the Chief Naval logistics Officer, currently Vice-Admiral David Steel CBE. Note. The author acknowledges the help of Richard Hargreaves, Navy News, in writing this feature.

About the author
Captain Phil Waterhouse CMILT joined the Royal Navy in 1982 as a Junior Seaman and was promoted to the Officer Corps in 1988. He has spent the majority of his career at sea as a Logistics Officer in HMS Bulldog, Coventry, Beaver, Fearless, Ocean, Edinburgh and Bulwark. Key assignments ashore have included Deputy Fleet Logistics Officer, Commandant, Defence Maritime Logistics School, Project Manager for the defence change project Management of the Joint Deployed Inventory (MJDI) and the Logistics Branch Career Manager. He is currently Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff Logistics Strategy and Capability at the Navy Command HQ. He is Royal Navy Senior Representative on the CILT Defence Supply Chain Forum.

We sustain that they might fight

In recognition of the First World War centenary, Trevor Stone FCILT, reflects on the achievements the aviation logisticians of the war realised and how they paved the way for today’s RAF.

OIn 2009, the Royal Air Force (RAF) Supply Branch and Trades were renamed Logistics, a change that more accurately reflected what they did and one that was more widely understood outside the service. It was only a change of name, but behind this rebranding there is a rich logistics heritage that can be traced back to just before the formation of the RAF, during the First World War. This year’s 100th anniversary of the beginning of that conflict is also an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of these early aviation logisticians and understand how they paved the way for today’s RAF.

From a tentative beginning, powered flight made quite rapid advancements. In just six years, it had progressed from the first powered aircraft flight by the Wright Brothers in December 1903 to Louis Blériot flying across the English Channel in 1909. The military value of aviation was soon recognised with its first real use in anger by the Italians in the Turco-Italian war in 1911. Britain was somewhat slower to acknowledge the military value of aviation, but in November 1911, a standing subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence was tasked by the British Prime Minister to: ‘consider the future development of aerial navigation for naval and military purposes’.1 It was from this committee’s recommendation that the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was established by Royal Warrant on 13th April 1912.

Whilst it took some time for the value of the new corps to be accepted, it went on to prove its worth, initially as artillery co-operation and reconnaissance, and later in air combat and ground attack. The corps grew in size significantly as the war progressed, and logistics, albeit a term that was not in general use at the time, soon became critical to its operations.

The fledgling RFC had just two-and-a-half years to establish itself before it was mobilising for war. By the time the German army entered Belgium on 4th August 1914, with the subsequent declaration of war by Britain, the RFC had just 60 aircraft and 95 motor transport (MT) vehicles, although these numbers were to increase exponentially as the war progressed. Notwithstanding its relative infancy in the British Military structure, the RFC was mobilised remarkably quickly, with its headquarters element reaching France as part of the early deployment of the British Expeditionary Force in August 1914.

Logistics was already earning its keep. The use of the railway proved to be a particularly effective means of moving large numbers of people and supplies. Using Southampton as the port of embarkation, the planners devised a timetable that involved trains arriving at the port every 12 minutes, up to 16 hours a day. By the end of August, 670 trains had transported nearly 120,000 people to Southampton for embarkation to France.2 In those early days, supply and demand soon proved to be a significant challenge for the RFC. With aviation still very much in its infancy, little progress had been made in the development of the aviation industry within Britain. Indeed, at the outbreak of war, there were only 12 aircraft-manufacturing firms in England, three of which were producers of seaplanes, and there were only two ordnance firms with contracts for Government aircraft. Between them, the companies were working on outstanding requirements for 115 aircraft for the RFC.

It is not surprising that this limited manufacturing base proved insufficient, so in the early days the British were largely dependent on the French to meet demand. Aircraft were also expensive, typically in the region of £1,000 to £1,200 per aircraft (exclusive of engines, instruments or guns).3 Mobility was key to the RFC, so it was acknowledged there would need to be a degree of independence in order to preserve flexibility when operating in the field. At the heart of this principle was the organisational structure of squadrons and flights. The squadron unit was designed to be very much a self-supporting body, usually with a headquarters’ flight and three flights of four aircraft. This basic concept has stood the test of time and remains with the Royal Air Force in the 21st Century.

Even at the beginning of the war, the resources needed by the RFC were already quite extensive. The transport requirements for just one squadron of 12 aeroplanes, for example, consisted of six heavy and seven light aeroplane tenders, four motor repair lorries, three shed lorries, six trailers, four reserve equipment lorries, six motor cycles and three portable sheds.4 As the war progressed, the wider range of equipment requiring spares support expanded to include wireless sets, Lewis machine-guns, magazines and mountings, Vickers guns, bombs, carriers, sights and release gears, cameras and photographic equipment. The range of what might be termed miscellaneous stores was also quite varied and included a host of basic materials, such as brass, copper, gunmetal, solder, mild steel, tool steel, tin, copper tubing, acetone, beeswax, paint, soda, soap, tallow, varnish, carbide, oil and timber.5 The responsibility for equipment was based on the Army’s quartermaster system with domestic equipment, clothing and non-specialist tools being provided by the Army Service Corps, and ammunition, pyrotechnics and lubricating oil being provided by the Army Ordnance Corps. The RFC, however, was responsible for aeronautical equipment, which was classified into two categories:

Class A included instruments, tools, plant and special stores, and Class B were consumable items such as metals, screws, nuts and bolts. To account for this equipment, the RFC used a system of stock ledgers. The A and B ledgers were used to account for Class A and B stores, whilst a C ledger was used to account for complete aeroplanes and engines, along with their component spares. Additionally, a T ledger was used for transport (motor cars, motor bicycles and lorries), along with their component spares. The despatch of stores to overseas theatres was heavily dependent on movement by rail, sea and inland waterways. As far as the campaign in France was concerned, most military stores were moved across the Channel by barge and then onwards by rail and/or inland waterways. This total military task alone (of which the RFC’s requirement was a relatively small component) was a sizeable undertaking.

The quantity of material conveyed by inland waterways in France rose from a weekly average of just over 19,000 tons in November 1916 to a peak of over 66,000 tons just before the end of the war. The cross-Channel barge tonnage was also particularly extensive, rising from a weekly average of 445 tons in December 1916 to a peak of just over 25,000 tons in late 1918.6 The total figure for cross-Channel carriage between 9th August 1914 and 26th March 1920 was 27,566,245 tons.


Of this figure, aircraft stores (excluding fuels, oils and ammunition) only amounted to 131,339 tons. By way of comparison, the figure for hay and oats for livestock (mainly horses and mules) was an amazing 5,919,427 tons or just over 21%.7 Although designed to be largely self-sufficient, the RFC flying squadrons still required a reliable supply chain. One of the key links in this was the Aircraft Park, which served as a depot for holding stocks of equipment and various engineering activities. By the end of October 1914, the park’s base element was firmly established at Rouen, with an advance base at St Omer. Thus, very quickly, the RFC had set in place the key elements of a relatively flexible supply chain to support its operations on the Western Front. It is worthy of note that in addition to material provided through the main channels of supply, a significant amount was locally purchased in France

What became rapidly apparent, however, was that these parks would become increasingly immobile, unless they could be relieved of the heavy repair work commitment. To relieve this, three new Army aircraft parks were formed in December 1915, one to support each of the Army brigades. The parks were intended to remain as mobile as possible, situated to the rear of the Army and as close as possible to a railhead to enable rapid redeployment. They were kept deliberately small, with around 150 people in each, and consisted of separate repair, stores and transport sections.

Each held between two weeks’ and one month’s stock of stores and looked after the daily needs of the flying squadrons in their respective area of operations. By October 1917, the sheer number of aircraft deliveries to France had reached a level beyond the capabilities of the existing depots. To alleviate this, aeroplane supply depots were created 20–30 miles to the west, to become solely responsible for the receipt and issue of aircraft, as well as for repairs. Consequently, the aircraft depots were able to focus on the receipt, issue and repair of equipment and MT.

Whilst the RFC’s logistics operation developed into a relatively sophisticated set-up, there were no specialist logistics officers, so this responsibility was the remit of stores clerks were charged with looking after the equipment under the command of squadron adjutants, who were usually pilots or observers by training.

It soon became evident that there was a pressing need for some form of ground branch officer who specialised in logistics, so in January 1915, the specialisation of Equipment Officer was introduced. This title itself is a little misleading in that the specialist post was responsible for the supply and technical work of the RFC as well as equipment accounting. Most of the new Equipment Officer posts were filled by commissioning regular Quartermaster Sergeants of the Royal Engineers and by calling for volunteers.

Training was provided by a dedicated school initially set up near Reading before it moved to Henley-on-Thames. The first two weeks of the eight-week course focused on stores aspects, with the remaining six weeks spent acquiring an elementary knowledge of engines, aeroplanes and MT.

By 1916, the overlapping responsibilities of the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service (formally established in July 1914), the competition for aircraft and engines, coupled with growing public concern over German bombing raids, led to some drastic rethinking on possible unification of the air services. Eventually, the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, appointed General Jan Christian Smuts to head a Government committee to look at air defence and air organisation. General Smuts recommended the formation of a new service, which would be independent from the Army and Navy.

Consequently, with the passing of the Air Force Bill in November 1917, the Royal Air Force officially came into being on 1st April 1918. In its early days, the RAF’s logistics’ organisation was largely based on those so successfully established by the RFC.

After nearly four-and-a-half years of war, the Armistice was signed in November 1918. The RAF had risen from the foundations laid by the RFC. Many lessons had been learned with perhaps the growing need for materiel being one of the most significant. Although aviation was a relatively new technology, it had quickly become apparent that it was a resource-hungry discipline, a factor that was exacerbated by the diversity of aircraft and engine types in service.

By November 1918, the RAF was operating over 20 aircraft types and 23 different engines. By the end of October 1918, the newly formed RAF had a total of 22,171 aircraft on charge, but with a staggering total of 37,702 aero engines. Of these engines, just over 9,000 were in the repair ‘loop’8 and nearly 5000 in store (of which 2741 were obsolete).9 Although a significant number were purchased from overseas, in excess of 55,000 aircraft and 41,000 engines had been manufactured in Britain. By the end of the war, over 1,500 firms were supplying aircraft, engines, propellers and spares with a supporting workforce of 347,112 (including men, women and boys).10 The overall cost was high in terms of money and manpower. Indeed, by the Armistice, air expenditure was in the region of £1 million a day.

Military manpower levels were also high and by the end of October 1918 there were no fewer than 90,000 RFC officers and other ranks employed in the various theatres of war.

As part of the RAF’s early post-war organisational developments, the need for a specialist logistics discipline was recognised. In October 1919, Air Ministry Weekly Orders announced that: ‘it has been decided to establish a branch of Stores officers. This Stores Branch will deal with all stores and accounting for stores in the Royal Air Force . . . The term “quartermaster” is abolished.’11 It was thus that RAF’s logistics was fashioned. Although initially named the Stores Branch, it was renamed the Equipment Branch just prior to the Second World War and became the Supply Branch in 1970. These titles also covered the various related trades for non-commissioned personnel. It was finally given its current title, The Logistics Branch and Trades, in 2009. There is perhaps no better testament to the commitment of RAF Logistics than the motto on the Branch badge: Sustentamus ut bellent – We sustain that they might fight.

About the author

Wing Commander Trevor Stone FCILT has been a member of the Institute for more than 30 years. Commissioned into the RAF Supply Branch in 1981, he has served at numerous locations throughout the UK and overseas, specialising in various aspects of supply chain management. He is an acknowledged expert on the history of RAF logistics and is in the final stages of completing a PhD with the University of Exeter.

Member profile - George William Graham Allen

CILT continues its profiles of members of the Institute who played an important role in the First World War.

George William Graham Allen

DOB: 12th January 1891
General education: Clifton College, Bristol (1905–09)
Experience upon becoming an Associate Member of the Institute of Transport: Managing Director – Oxford Steam Plough Company, later John Allen and Sons (Oxford) Ltd (1913–20); Deputy Assistant
Director of Transport – Third Army (1916–17); Engineer – Tank Corps (1917–18); Chief Technical Staff Officer – Tank Corps (1918–19).

George Allen became an Associate Member of the Institute of Transport on 17th February 1920 and was connected with road transport his entire life. His experience prior to the First World War saw him take charge of the family business, John Allen and Sons (Oxford) Ltd. The company was largely occupied with road work and contracting, and the manufacturing and maintenance of plant for use in this and similar work.

After leaving higher education, George Allen tried to join the army, and went to Woolwich in the hope of becoming a military engineer. However, the Royal Engineers rejected him and he returned to civilian
life. He travelled to Africa for a year, helping a friend to build a bridge in the Orange Free State.

When the war began, he was again unsuccessful in finding a place in the army; the Oxfordshire Light Infantry had more volunteers than it needed and, again, the Royal Engineers turned him down. He finally found a niche in the motor battalion of the Army Service Corps. For the first years of the war, he oversaw the taking of supplies and ammunition up to the line before acting as the assistant to the Director of Transport, Third Army, while in France. One trip at night his convoy of trucks advanced so far along a road that they found themselves behind German lines. He claimed on his membership form that this experience was an: ‘exceptional opportunity to study and deal with major road transport problems.’

In 1917, he became Chief Technical Staff Officer to the Tank Corps at the War Office. Tanks had been introduced in 1916 and he was a natural candidate for the Tank Corps, due to his engineering expertise. He became Workshop Officer, responsible for the testing and repairing of tank engines. At Cambrai in 1917, he was responsible for the successful manoeuvring of 150 tanks to their start line at night. He later took charge of the Technical Section of the Tank Corps. His time at the front ended when he was gassed in 1918.

When the war ended, George Allen returned to the family estate in Oxfordshire and resumed the role of director of the family business. He first became a director when his father was hired by the Government to organise the ploughing of land to grow food, as U-boats attempted to starve Britain. He died on 24th November 1940.



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