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WW1 Photos Centenary Website: 2014-2018 By Paul Reed

WW1 Transport

Forgotten Fronts: Italy 1918

Italy entered the Allied cause in 1915 and for the next two years the fighting took place between Italian troops and units from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the Battle of Caporetto the entire course of the war in Italy changed and it look as if the Italian Army might collapse. British troops were transferred from the Western Front from October 1917 and found themselves in some cases moving from the mud and slime of Passchendaele to an Italian winter, which several veterans I interviewed who fought there thought was much more preferable! The British units found themselves in Northern Italian, principally in the area around Asiago. They would remain here, later joined by both French and American units, until the Austro-Hungarian forces collapsed in October 1918. By this time more than 1,000 British soldiers had died in Italy, with more than 5,000 wounded or sick.

This photograph shows British and Italian troops at a railway siding. The British soldiers are Royal Engineers and may well be from the Railway Operating Division running the railway system that supported the British forces here.

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Old Bill Buses Go To War

Motorised transport was an essential part of any army in 1914, but very much in the minority compared the much greater amount of horse transport each nation put onto the battlefield. The British Army of 1914 lacked a great deal of it, so following the outbreak of war and by the time of the First Battle of Ypres, the War Office had commandeered a number of London motor buses along with their drivers, who became part of the Army Service Corps. These buses – which soon became known as ‘Old Bill Buses‘ with a reference to Bairnsfather’s Old Bill character – were photographed during First Ypres still painted in their London colours but by 1915 they were army green, with boarded up windows.

This image shows British troops waiting to board a series of buses to take them to a rest area somewhere in Flanders in 1915. The two men with their backs to the camera are officers, and their kit and the fact they are carrying rifles, reflects the changes that wartime conditions were enforcing; officers now had to try and look like the men to avoid being sniped. The ‘MT ASC’ white signage can be seen on the bus showing how they had now become standard equipment for some of the Mechanical Transport units of the Army Service Corps. One of the crew stands in the rear door, perhaps as he had done as a conductor in the days of peace.