Lines of Communication

On the outbreak of war, the Government took charge of the railways.  Plans were drawn up for military and naval rail movements under the control of the War Office in the case of an emergency.  The General Officers Commanding-in-Chief Central Force, Northern and Scottish Command were tasked with working out the railway movements required for the collection and concentration of local forces to meet the various contingencies as well as dispatching and receiving reinforcements from the other commands.


When Central Force was disbanded, the overall responsibility of moving troops and supplies laid with Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, with an Inspector -General of Communications (I.G.C.) appointed to co-ordinate the movements. The Commanders-in-Chief of the Commands were still responsible for arrangements of the Lines of Communications in their respective areas (with Eastern Command now also responsible for drawing up plans for movement of the Northern and Southern Armies) under the Inspector-General of Communications.


Should operations commence and mobilization ordered, The Commander-in-Chief Home Forces was responsible for fixing the railheads to which reinforcements, ammunition and supplies were to be sent.  The I.G.C. would fix the regulating stations. The Commands would be responsible for local traffic in the area of operations.   The provisional regulating stations were:

  • Eastern Command (Willesden, Norwood, Stratford, Bletchley, Welham)

  • Northern Command (Leeds – Neville Hill, Carlisle – London Road)

  • Scottish Command (Greenhill, Hawick)


An emergency scheme for supplies would come into operation which would apply to the Northern and Southern Armies as well as mobile forces in Northern and Southern Commands, and to the various Emergency Schemes in place (including the reinforcement of the London Defence Positions).


Supplies were to be moved in standard “Type Trains”, where the supplies were standardised for a range of formations (e.g. Division, Cavalry Brigade, Cyclist Division etc).  Supply Depots were provisionally fixed for supplying formations:

  • Glasgow – all formations in Scottish Command

  • Leeds – all formations in Northern Command

  • Northampton – whole of Northern Army

  • Reading – whole of Southern Army

  • Millwall and Deptford – London Defence Positions and the General Reserve under the Field Marshall Commander-in-Chief.


At the railhead supplies were to be drawn by Divisional Supply Columns or other transport formations.  


It was anticipated that these emergency supply arrangements would take three days to come into operation and as such all General Officers Commanding-in-Chief of Commands and Armies were to ensure that the normal methods of supply continued to function until the emergency system came into operation.


Ammunition and ordnance stores for entrenching and demolitions for the first three days of operations were held by the troops or at forward depots. Further supplies were to be made by indents to the I.G.C.  (or the Deputy I.G.C. for Scottish or Northern Commands). On mobilization, measures were to be put in place to form and maintain reserves of ammunition at the supply regulating stations.  In the first instance, if orders were not received to the contrary, the reserve was to be split equally between Bletchley and Willesden regulating stations. The reserve represented one days supply for the entire Northern and Southern Armies and the General Reserve:

  • 200 rounds per rifle

  • 6,000 rounds per machine gun

  • 200 rounds per 15 and 18 pdr

  • 100 rounds per gun and howitzer


This emergency scheme did not apply to Garrison Ports or Troops in Garrisons outside the area of operations or within the area of operations but behind the railheads.