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.
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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.
The brightly coloured poster above by Charles Sharland was issued to promote the August bank holiday of 1914. It declares 3 August as ‘Underground day’ and encourages passengers to make their choice of what to do and where to go from the many destinations available by tube and bus.
However, when the day came, festivities were overshadowed by the threat of Britain becoming involved in the war on the Continent. By the end of the following day, on 4 August 1914, Britain had declared war on Germany.
The poster for the 1919 bank holiday reflects on the changed circumstances. The ‘short’ war had turned into a four year conflict with millions of lives lost, and many more changed forever. For the first time there had been a home front, with Londoners at risk from aerial bombardment.
The subdued design gently invites passengers to enjoy holidays once more. The emphasis of the trains, buses and trams being at the service of Londoners reminds us of the important role that London transport staff and vehicles played in the war.
Did you know: Originally the bank holiday in August was the first Monday of the month, as dictated by the Bank Holiday Act (1871). This was until the Banking and Financial Dealings Act (1971) decreed a century later that it would fall, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, on the last Monday of the month. Why? One suggestion was that as the latter half of August is cooler the roads would be less busy with the crowds that thronged to the seaside, getting drunk and causing all sorts of mid-Summer mischief!