In our series The Great War – Through a London Child’s Eye, we’re following “The Private Diary of Edward Hampton” to learn about life as a child in London 1916, half way through the First World War.
In 1900, almost every vehicle on the streets of Britain was horse-drawn.
There were many thousands of horses working hard on the roads, streets and lanes throughout the country. They pulled cabs, buses, trams and delivery vehicles, bringing passengers and goods around the towns and villages.
For longer distances, there were steam trains. Their whistles announced their arrival into stations to collect passengers and parcels.
By 1914, things looked and sounded very different. In Lodnon and many cities across the UK, motor buses, electric trains and trams had become popular ways to travel.
Bicycles remained popular. Delivery boys pedalled around town delivering parcels to homes and, when not patrolling the streets by foot, policemen cycled!
Many people thought horses would be crucial to Britain’s success in World War One. So, when war was declared, tens of thousands of ponies and shire horses were taken by the government.
Farmers were sad to lose their horses, and children missed their ponies, but everybody wanted to help the war effort.
Some horses would be used by cavalry regiments of soldiers who fought on horseback, while others would pull weapons and ambulance carts through the mud. With so many horses sent to war, only very young or much older horses and donkeys were left in Britain.
Petrol was in short supply, so lots of companies used a horse and cart to make deliveries. They delivered letters, parcels, laundry, milk, coal, beer, bread and groceries. Horse-drawn carriages or cabs were also used to carry passengers around town.
With a shortage of petrol for tractors, farmers needed strong horses for heavy work like ploughing and harvesting crops. If horses were not available, people had to work very much harder.
Most of the cars were made by the Ford, Rover, Wolseley, Morris and Humber car companies.
During the war, these companies stopped producing cars and started making things for the war.
Some turned private cars into ambulances, while others started making munitions or special vehicles like armoured cars, lorries and aeroplanes.
The petrol shortages meant that some car engines were adapted to run on gas. These cars had a huge inflated bag on their roof!
Britain’s train network covered large parts of the country, so even small villages were often quite close to a train station.
This meant it was possible for people to travel almost anywhere in Britain by train. Realising trains would be important for moving troops and supplies, the War Office took over the whole network during the war.
Within a few months, almost 100,000 railway workers had gone to fight in the trenches. Women were recruited to do most of their jobs, but some men stayed as drivers and firemen.
During the war, women trained for new jobs on the London Underground and buses. They became ticket collectors, guards, clerks, painters and cleaners. They worked hard to keep the systems running smoothly despite damage and shortages.
Although women worked as mechanics and ticket collectors on the London Underground, they weren’t allowed to become drivers.
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The Great War – Through a London Child’s Eye is supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.