National Union of Railwaymen

The National Union of Railwaymen came into being on 29th March 1913, the result of the amalgamation of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS), the General Railway Workers Union (GRWU) and the United Pointsmen’s and Signalmen’s Society UPSS).

The new union immediately attracted new members – with membership rocketing from 159,261 at the time of amalgamation to 267,611 by the end of 1913.

Discussions on amalgamation grew out of the 1911 national railway strike, which saw four key railway unions: the ASRS, GRWU, UPSS and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF)) combine in a dispute for the first time. ASLEF was also involved in the first post-strike discussions on fusion, but left the talks after its proposals for a looser federation were not adopted.

For the duration of the First World War and its immediate aftermath, the railways were removed from the control of private companies and managed by the National Government. During the war, the NUR and ASLEF negotiated jointly with the government to win wage increases for railway workers, although at levels below the high rate of inflation. In March 1919 the government announced its plans to standardise and reduce the wartime rates of pay and, after failed negotiations with the unions, the second national rail strike began at midnight on 26-27 September 1919.

A key feeling during the strike was that sacrifices made during the war had not been acknowledged by the government – in the words of the NUR General Secretary, J.H. Thomas,

“the short issue is that the long made promise of a better world for railwaymen which was made in the time of the nation’s crisis, and accepted by the railwaymen as an offer that would ultimately bear fruit has not materialised”.

After nine days of strike action by the NUR and ASLEF, the government agreed to maintain wages at existing levels for another year. Subsequent negotiations resulted in the standardisation of wages across the railway companies and the introduction of a maximum eight-hour day.

The following is a list of some of the main characters in the early years of the ASRS and NUR in the Forest of Dean. Most of them are from Lydney which was a railway and port town.








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