The MSLR War Memorial

June 29, 2020

In 2014 the Museum wanted to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Great War, and an obvious question was “How many of the MSLR staff died in the War?” This turned out to be more difficult to answer than you might think!

Larger railway companies paid tribute to their fallen staff in various types of monument, many of which can still be seen today – for example the Great Eastern Railway Memorial at Liverpool Street Station. However, as far as we know, the impoverished MSLR never set up an official company War Memorial. After a lot of genealogical research, we have identified five men who had worked for the MSLR and who died while serving in the forces. To belatedly commemorate those employees, we created a Roll of Honour which is displayed in the Museum and reproduced below. Similar tributes were produced by many organisations, including other railway companies.

At the time of the War, the MSLR had around 60 employees, most of whom were young men, but of course a large proportion were what we might nowadays call “key workers”; indeed when conscription was introduced in 1916 many railwaymen were not only exempt but were even forbidden from volunteering! In February 1918 the Railway Gazette noted that the MSLR had released 13 of its staff for military service. Since on average 1 in 8 of mobilised British servicemen were killed during the War, the toll of MSLR staff seems tragically high.

It has been even more difficult identifying those men who served and survived, but we know of at least eleven such Great War servicemen who worked for the MSLR at one time or another, and these are listed in the table below.

To commemorate 100 years since the end of the War, an MSLR Memorial monument was unveiled on August 27th 2018, with a service of remembrance conducted by the Vicar of Wetheringsett, the Reverend Julia Lall. The memorial takes the appropriate form of four railway sleepers set vertically, with a plaque listing the fallen. The memorial will also celebrate modern-day Museum volunteers who have passed away.

We hope in the future to research MSLR staff who served in World War Two, including those who served on the Home Front in the Home Guard, ARP (Air Raid Precautions), etc.

If you have any further information about the wartime service of MSLR employees, please contact us.

The MSLR War Memorial at Brockford in November 2018, with wreaths laid at a Remembrance service.

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