As part of the beeb’s marking of the 100th anniversary of the first world war BBC Two is to air a brand-new series, 1914-18: The Railway War which former politician Michael Portillo will present.
The five part programme will uncover World War One’s railway story, a century later. Each episode will uncover how the entire conflict, from start to finish, was a railway war: from the very earliest military planning prior to the declaration of war until the signing of the armistice in a railway carriage in Compiegne.
At key locations in Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Britain, Michael Portillo will tell the story of the world’s first war on the rails with help from rail enthusiasts, the descendants of those who fought on the rails, experts in railway and military history and ordinary people who share the belief that we should never forget.
In each half hour episode he will discover the locomotives and the carriages, which saw active service – the original Iron Horses of War. And he will have access to original artefacts including the government’s Railway Manual for War (1911) as well as railway poetry, war diaries and memorial souvenirs.
World War One was a railway war. This series explores how railways precipitated a mechanised war, defined how it was fought and conveyed millions to the trenches. I believe that it makes an important contribution to the BBC’s coverage of World War One by focusing on a neglected subject. – Michael Portillo