As we all (hopefully) should know by now, this is the Year of the Bus. It’s also the theme for the Museum’s next Poster Parade; a temporary museum exhibit showcasing posters from our collection. Normally, the curators choose the posters for each of these exhibits. However for this Poster Parade we want you to help us make our selection, in celebration of the London Bus! A simple search of the collection’s database reveals over 5000 potential choices. We’ve narrowed this down to 30 and we need your help to reach the final 15 that will go on display.
Our extensive research (and much coffee!) resulted in a selection of posters which reveal some interesting historical developments and consistent themes in the life of the London bus. You might notice Shillibeer’s Omnibus ( the first reliable motorised bus) and the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC), as well as the B-type, appear in several of our choices. The discontinuation of the Routemaster in 2005 and the introduction of low emission fuel buses also feature, to name but a few. Bus posters do not necessarily reflect all these changes, however there were a number of themes emerging.
Themes include recruitment, leisure trips and sightseeing as well as competition between bus, taxi and tube travel. There are also a range of stylist differences across the decades. The eighties posters might ring a few bells for you; from a decade in transport which saw the introduction of night buses and bus passes! If you prefer bright, animated images, vote for ‘Hop on a bus’ or ‘The motor omnibus for all ages’. The colourful London General posters from the 1920’s might catch you eye; or you might prefer the mixed media styles such as ‘Busabout’ and Eckersley’s ‘See London by Bus’.
It’s that time of year again when we open the doors of the Museum Depot in Acton to let visitors explore and enjoy our inner workings and hidden treasures! On 13th and 14th September it will be all about our recently restored B-type Battle Bus which served on the frontline during the First World War.
As always we will be warmly welcoming families on both days to learn about our stories through interactive story-telling and fun filled creative activities. This weekend we invite you to meet Barney the B-type bus and his friend Pippa the Pigeon and help them as they embark on a very important mission.
You can also craft your own Battle Bus, and transform it from its bright London red to the Khaki green of the frontline trenches.
All of the activities this weekend have been specially designed for you by our talented young volunteers who have been singing, acting and making all summer to prepare to entertain and get creative with you.
They need you help to transform our family B-type! Decorate our BIG bus red, then turn it green and jump on board for your #ltmbattlebus selfie.
11.30- 11.50 and 14.30 – 14.50 Suitable for families with children aged 3 – 7, Free
Barney’s been painted green! That’s no colour for a proud London bus! But Barney’s on a very important mission and you can join him and his friend Pippa the pigeon on their journeys.
Make and Take:
12.00 – 13.00 and 15.00 – 16.15 Suitable for families with children aged 4 – 12
Build your own B-Type, the Bus that helped Britain in the First World War.
See your bus transform as it drives from the streets of London all the way to the front line.
This year it’s all about buses with Transport for London’s Year of the Bus. To celebrate we’ve been busy creating a brand new handling trolley at the Museum that has been out and about at our garage open days, meeting and inspiring audiences all over London. Now it’s back in Covent Garden and ready to be part of the Summer Family Fun offer here at the Museum
There is often a notion that museum collections are there to be seen and not touched, but here we believe that physical engagement with Museum objects can enhance the visitor experience and help them learn more from our collections.
Our contemporary handling trolley has multiple height surfaces to ensure that it is fully accessible and ‘fit for purpose’ for all sizes, ages and abilities. Its surfaces provide ample space to explore our unique objects with all the family. It also offers an array of interactive options that create a fun sensory experience.
The trolley’s traffic light is another area for exploration, currently displaying our latest handling objects with an ‘On the Bus’ theme, especially for Year of the Bus. Each ‘light’ is home to an object focused on one sense; sound, touch and smell. What’s that smell? Does it feel familiar? Can you guess what’s inside?
The trolley has been inspired by iconic London Transport design, including our much loved roundel and Johnston font quoting transport favourites in 3D lettering which lends itself to be explored through touch.
The trolley will be home to 4 handling themes on rotation throughout the summer period. ‘On the bus’, ‘Finding Your Way’, ‘Signalling’ and the family favourite ‘Tickets Please’, which will give our visitors a chance to discover a wide range of London Transport stories in a variety of new and fun ways. These collections span from tube signalling, to 19th century ticket machines, to 20th century uniforms and 21st century contemporary designs. All are delivered by our wonderful museum staff and volunteers, who are looking forward to sharing their stories with you.
The Trolley will be out on Wednesday/ Thursday/ Friday 11-4pm from August 6-29 and will feature ‘Tickets Please’.
Charles Lee was one of the first bus drivers to volunteer for war service. In September 1914 he left his bus garage in Putney and joined the crews of 70 London buses sent to Dunkirk. The drivers were attached to the Royal Naval Division. Charles Lee’s unit drove soldiers from the docks to the besieged town of Antwerp. Following the fall of Antwerp, the same buses helped evacuate wounded British soldiers and some were captured by the Germans.
For his services in the First World War Lee received four medals: British War Medal 1914-1920, Allied Victory Medal 1914-1919, the 1914 ‘Mons’ Star and the Auxiliary Omnibus Companies’ Association medallion.
If you have any personal family stories, photographs, mementoes, medals, letters or diaries that you would like to share with us then we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at: email@example.com
A specific chain of events led to the outbreak of war in 1914, but the international tensions behind it had been building for many years. As early as 1908 the army had tested the suitability of London buses for troop transport. It was recognised that reliable motor vehicles would be crucial in any future war, as horses had been in earlier conflicts. In 1912, the government assessed a range of commercial motor vehicles for potential military service, and came to an arrangement known as the Subsidy Scheme; in the event of war the government would pay civilian businesses for their lorries and buses. The London General Omnibus Company (LGOC), was one of the biggest contributors to the scheme.
On 1 August, 30 of the LGOC’s new B-type buses were requisitioned, and converted into ambulances on the home front. In September the first buses went to France as part of a hastily arranged Royal Naval Division mission to relieve parts of Belgium. Some arrived with their original destination boards and adverts still intact. Soon afterwards the first of the green Army Service Corps B-type buses arrived, followed by hundreds more buses and their drivers, mobilised to transport troops and supplies to and from the trenches of the Western Front for the next four years.
On a humid summer night on the platforms of Northfields station, with the last Piccadilly and District line services faithfully plying the tracks, we waited with excitement.
We were waiting for the reassuring ‘chuffing’ sound of a steam train in the distance. As it came closer the sound grew louder until, at 23.38, we witnessed the arrival of Met 1 accompanied by her familiar whistle and plume of steam for the first time since the 150th anniversary celebrations of the London Underground in 2013.
The train, comprising the now familiar line up of Met 1, the Milkvan, Carriage 353, the Chesham set of coaches and Sarah Siddons, was being tested during engineering hours ahead of the Museum’s summer programme of heritage train outings taking place throughout August.
Following its prompt departure from Northfields the train, hauled by Met 1, made its way along the District and Circle lines up to Moorgate, surprising unsuspecting late night travellers as it slowly progressed along the line and through near empty stations.
Without a glitch the train soon reached Edgware Road, quickly filling the tunnels of the oldest part of the London Underground with steam, while the unmistakable smell of the coals delighted the senses of everyone who had the opportunity to travel on the train on this warm July morning.
After refilling at Moorgate, it was the turn of Sarah Siddons to haul the train, now with a free reign following the shutdown of the system all the way to Hammersmith. The journey was repeated for a second time before the arrival of the dawn chorus and the start of another working day.
We hope you’ll join us on these historic and memorable journeys with Met 1 on Saturday 2 and 9 August. For more information go to: Heritage Vehicle Outings
London is endlessly entertaining; brimming with opportunities for pleasure, and play. For over a century the Underground has used posters to increase passenger numbers by promoting pleasure trips and leisure destinations. An amazing array of London attractions have been featured. A closer look reveals the timeless allure of pleasure and the changing face of entertainment.
In the 1920’s and 30’s posters promoting London’s theatres and cinemas drew audiences into the West End. The cherubs in James Herrick’s poster, Nightly Carnival, scatter stars beneath their feet creating a sparkling map of well-known theatres. The Underground stations are cast as planets in a clever reinterpretation of the roundel and bar. Brightest London is less subtle but equally seductive. Horace Taylor’s striking design appealed to those who enjoyed dancing, cabaret and dining out. The draw of evening entertainments increased travel after the early evening rush hour.
Amongst the daytime pleasures on offer, shopping played a prominent role. London has long been considered the shopping capital of Britain. Posters enticed shoppers away from their local high streets to the grand department stores of the West End by promoting sales and seasonal shopping. The Underground even experimented with special season tickets for women passengers shopping in the January sales. The indulgence of shopping continues to pull in the crowds.
Posters promoting sporting events and picnics in the park attracted large crowds to London’s stadiums and open spaces. Before television the only way to see events like the boat race or the cup final was to go along. The Underground produced thousands of small posters to promote sporting events all over London every weekend. A trip to the Zoo became the most publicised leisure destination, offering Sunday outings and evening visits. Posters promoting carnivals, festivals and fairs continue to invite Londoners out to play. The cities buses, trains and tube keep pleasure at the heart of London life.
Today, on a glorious sunny morning, the Museum unveiled a restored double deck open top B-type bus No. B2737 in Covent Garden Piazza as part of its commemorations of the First World War.
Appearing in public for the first time and featuring advertisements from the pre-war era – including Camp coffee, Veno’s cough medicine and Wright’s coal tar soap, the bus was resplendent in its red and cream livery in the early summer sunshine.
Throughout the day the public were welcomed on board the bus to admire the decoration on the lower deck saloon with its wooden fretwork panels and the original cushioned moquette fabric seat covering design, recreated thanks to a fragment of material that was discovered during the restoration process.
After navigating the narrow staircase, it was hard not to imagine the challenges of travelling on board the upper deck with its exposure to the elements and signs warning passengers ‘keep your arm inside and do not lean over the side of the omnibus otherwise you may receive some hurt’.
One of only four surviving B-type London buses, B2737 was built at the AEC Works in Walthamstow in 1914 and served on route 9 out of Mortlake garage in south west London operating between Barnes and Liverpool Street. The B-types could reach a top speed of 16 mph and seated 34 passengers. With its top deck open to the elements and solid rubber tyres providing a bumpy ride, travelling on the B-type was not a comfortable experience for passengers or indeed the drivers who were also exposed to the extremities of the weather.
At the beginning of the War over 1,000 B-type buses were commandeered into military service and deployed for use on the front line along with their civilian drivers and mechanics. With their windows boarded up and painted khaki to disguise their bright red livery they were used to transport troops, and also served as ambulances and even mobile pigeon lofts enabling messages to be sent from the Front Line back to headquarters.
The public will have a limited number of opportunities to admire the restored bus before its transformation into a war time ‘Battle Bus’ in September, after which it will embark on a tour to the battlefields of France and Belgium visiting key sites including Ypres, Arras and Passchendaele to pay respects to the sacrifices made by so many during the First World War.
Recently we launched a crowdfunding campaign asking you to help us get our ‘Battle Bus’ back to the Western Front. But what does this really mean, and why is it so significant?
During the First World War London’s buses were to become crucial to the war effort. Our B-type bus, B2723, was one of the 1,200 buses requisitioned by the War Office and used as troop transport, ambulances, lorries and even pigeon lofts. In September, the Museum is taking B2737 back to key sites in Northern France and Belgium to commemorate the Londoners who fought and the busmen who supported them in the early months of the war.
Back in April we reconnoitred the route and places to visit. We tried to compare postcards and photographs of buses at the Front with those places today. This sometimes possible, such as in the market square at Poperinge in Belgium. In other places, rebuilding after the devastation of the war, as at Bethune, had radically changed the view and such comparisons were not possible.
It is difficult to reconcile the small towns and rolling countryside of the Somme and the wooded Messines Ridge today with the devastation of the wartime photographs, the huge systems of trenches of the aerial photographs, the highly dangerous places like Hell Fire Corner, now a roundabout on the Menin road out of Ypres, or the evocative place names where so many men fell, at Passchendaele, High Wood, Gommecourt or the Hawthorn Redoubt. Visitors need a mental overlay, such as provided by a good guide, in our case, Andy Robertshaw, to ‘see’ the First World War once again in the landscape.
The B-type bus was surprisingly easy to adapt for military use. Many buses were used to transport troops into battle. However the London bus chassis was versatile and could be adapted into a range of specialised vehicles, from ambulances and messenger pigeon lofts to anti-aircraft gun carriages and freight lorries.
Can you help get ‘Battle Bus’ to the Western Front? You can get involved and back the project for free by becoming a project Cheerleader and sharing it with friends and family or make a pledge from as little as £20 and in return for your support you’ll receive some exciting and unique rewards!