Former politician Michael Portillo presents this five-part BBC documentary series exploring the role railways played in the First World War. While the bulk of the war may have been fought in the trenches of France, with the invention of the machine gun key to the long and deadly stalemate, Portillo argues that the railways also played a critical role in the war. Visiting locations in Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, he discusses the importance of the railways in moving men, guns and machinery to the frontlines and evaluates their contribution to the Allied victory.
In this five part series, Michael Portillo marks the centenary of the Great War by discovering the central role the railways played in securing victory, repatriating the dead and wounded and feeding the insatiable appetite for weaponry and supplies that the theatre of war demanded. This is a story of how a British invention that brought trade, travel and prosperity in peacetime became an engine of war. Michael tracks down the fascinating, emotional and sometimes tragic stories of the wartime railways that criss-crossed Britain and Europe. They were the crucial new arm of modern warfare at a time when motorised transport on the roads was in its infancy. Over these five episodes Michael visits the key railway locations that would become synonymous with the victories, defeats, battles and campaigns of the Great War, showing how integral they were to our success often in surprising ways and how they helped to shape the Europe we know today.