The MINISTRY OF WAR TRANSPORT (MOWT) was a department of the British Government formed early in the Second World War to control transportation policy and resources. It was formed by merging the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Transport, bringing responsibility for both shipping and land transport to a single department, and easing problems of co-ordination of transport in wartime.
The MoWT was founded on 1 May 1941, when Lord Leathers was appointed Minister of War Transport . Following the general election of July 1945, Alfred Barnes was appointed Minister of War Transport, remaining in the post after the department was renamed the Ministry of Transport in April 1946.
The jurisdiction of the MoWT covered all forms of transportation and it inherited numerous and varied responsibilities from its parent organisations. From the Ministry of Shipping these included:
* ALLOCATION OF TONNAGE DIVISION, responsible for the provision of
shipping, other than liners, but including tankers and other coastal
craft. This division was headed by Max Nicholson from 1942 to 1945.
* SHIP MANAGEMENT DIVISION, responsible for the City Central
Chartering Office, which chartered vessels on behalf of the government
Baltic Exchange in London and abroad.
* COAL DIVISION, ensured the provision of bunkering facilities at
home and abroad for the use of controlled merchant shipping.
* COASTING AND SHORT SEA SHIPPING DIVISION, responsible for the
control of shipping in home waters.
* COMMERCIAL SERVICES DIVISION, responsible for reviewing the
requirements of government departments needing to convey commodities
essential for military, civil or industrial needs, and arranging
* FOREIGN SHIPPING RELATIONS DIVISION, responsible for negotiations
for the use of foreign ships and policy towards foreign and neutral
* GENERAL (SHIPPING) DIVISION, responsible for war risks insurance,
the tonnage replacement scheme and general shipping matters.
* LINER DIVISION, responsible for the operation of the liner
* SEA TRANSPORT DIVISION, responsible for all merchant shipping
requirements of the armed forces, which gave it control of troop
ships, supply ships, hospital ships, Fleet Auxiliaries including armed
merchant cruisers , naval stores and munitions ships, rescue ships,
ocean boarding vessels, and tugs. It also controlled the recruitment
of civilian crewmen.
* SHIP MANAGEMENT DIVISION, concerned with the management of ships
owned, requisitioned or seized by the department through various ship
* SHIPPING OPERATIONS CONTROL DIVISION, responsible for the
requisitioning, chartering and allocation of British merchant
shipping; the reconciliation of import demands with shipping capacity;
the acquisition and chartering of Allied and neutral vessels and the
associated Shipping Agreements between the British and foreign
Governments. The division was also responsible for co-ordination with
the United States
War Shipping Administration
In 1942 new divisions were created responsible for ship repairs and concerned with statistics and intelligence. After the end of the war in May 1945, those divisions not dissolved or absorbed by other divisions, gradually assumed duties in connection with peacetime shipping policy.
From the Ministry of Transport it inherited responsibility for all of Britain's roads, railways, canals and ports, and included:
* RAILWAYS DIVISION, responsible for processing and publicising instructions and disseminating information, to ensure effective co-operation between the various railway companies, whose senior officials were formed into the Railway Executive Committee . * RAILWAY INSPECTORATE, responsible for safety provisions, track inspection, accident investigation, and operating system inspection of the railways. * ROAD TRANSPORT DIVISION, responsible for the licensing of public service vehicles and their drivers, and goods vehicles ; the regulation of the construction, lighting and use of motor vehicles; speed limits; vehicle registration and taxation; and compulsory insurance. * HIGHWAYS DIVISION, responsible for the safety of road transport, priva