Reply To: Coal and Oil supplies to the RN in WW1

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    Amongst manuscript papers currently being catalogued at the Bodleian are several hundred notes written by Lewis Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary between 1910 and 1916 in Asquith’s administration. The notes of interest to this topic were hand-written memoranda by Harcourt from the early part of the First World War, made during discussions at War Cabinet meetings.
    A few days before the declaration of war in August 1914 the Cabinet were surprised to hear that Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, has commandeered £1million worth of coal from the South Wales coal-fields. He had been authorised to buy about £30,000 worth. His decision (good in respect of the Fleet) paralysed industry in South Wales for a week as he also commandeered fleets of railway trucks and motor lorries to ship it all to the naval bases.
    The citation for this is:
    Harcourt Papers: B.5 Miscellaneous Papers of Lewis Harcourt.
    MS.Harcourt 512: Correspondence, memoranda and printed papers on foreign and domestic war-time matters 1914-15
    Access to the catalogue for the Harcourt Papers is at URL:

    These papers provide a fascinating insight into the workings of the War Cabinet in this era, with many asides as to the Admiralty.

    Unfortunately the papers mentioned here are not yet available digitally and will not be available to see (for Bodley Readers with A cards) as hard-copy mss. until July, when cataloguing should be completed.
    The naval content of the Harcourt Papers will be added to the online catalogue of Bodley’s naval collections which is currently in planning and should be available online next year.