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Wartime Membership Letter Highlights Historic Moment in Rail

Tue, 12 October, 2021

TWI’s library services team were delighted to receive a historic letter in the post recently that hinted at changes to the UK railway system as well as The Welding Institute and the creation of what would become TWI.

The membership renewal letter, which was sent to our head office near Cambridge, was sent on behalf of the Southern Railway in June 1940.

This was before professional institutions were debarred from acting as research associations (in 1946), which saw creation of the British Welding Research Association (BWRA) as a separate entity to The Institute of Welding. The BWRA was the forerunner to today’s TWI Ltd, while The Welding Institute was later formed from the original ‘Institute of Welding.’

At the time of writing his letter, Southern Railway General Manager E.J. Wissenden may have been able to look out of his office window in Dorking, Surrey and see the Battle of Britain being fought in the skies above him.

However, it wasn’t just the historic moments that were unfolding above Mr Missenden’s head that this letter highlights, but also a change in the way that the railways themselves operated.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, a ‘Big Four’ group of companies ran the British railway system: the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS); the Great Western Railway (GWR); the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER); and the Southern Railway (SR). However, during the war, the management of these companies united to effectively become one company as railway use increased to meet the demands of the war effort. Despite this there was very little investment in the infrastructure during the war and the railways and the rolling stock became run-down. This was to lead to nationalisation of the rail network in the years following the war as it became clear that the network could not be maintained by the private sector.

This is just one example of the interesting items and information held by TWI’s library service that can be accessed by our Industrial Members.

You can see the letter below, and find out more about the early years of TWI and The Welding Institute here.

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