The transport network in France was responsible for providing everything the British Expeditionary Force [BEF] required in order both to survive and conduct operations on the Western Front. The appointment of Sir Eric Geddes to the position of Director-General of Transportation in the autumn of 1916 is now widely accepted as having provided the BEF with the logistical platform from which to build the war-winning machine of 1918. Yet prior to Geddes’ arrival in France, the BEF had already begun engaging with Britain’s transport experts. This article examines the work of the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway [SECR] at the port of Boulogne during 1915. It illustrates that the BEF, far from being insular, was highly active in harnessing civilian support even in the opening months of the war. However, due to the as yet incomplete understanding of the character of the war, the long-term contribution of the SECR was severely restricted by the short-term inability of the company, and the BEF, to adequately comprehend the colossal material effort required for victory on the Western Front.
- civil-military relations
- industrial warfare