Battle Bus in Ypres

Today Battle Bus arrives in the Belgian town of Ypres. Once an important trade centre, four years of constant bombardment during the First World War reduced the town to ruins.

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One wartime B-type bus driver, Edward Darby, recalled a particularly horrifying experience when the town’s medieval Cloth Hall caught fire:

“We’re standing under the Cloth Hall at Ypres. The whole of the place is on fire. And there’s a gargoyle sticking out over the top… And I says ‘I’m not going to stick here… So I turned round to [my friend] and I says ‘Are you ready to make a move?’ and…the back of his coat was all alight. Molten metal from the roof gathered in the top… come out through the gargoyle and right down the back of his neck. Had I been standing there, I’d have caught a packet.”

clothhall
Battle Bus outside Cloth Hall, Ypres, 20 September 2014

Edward lost many friends during the war, but he survived and the Museum filmed him talking about his wartime experiences in 1984.

The citizens of Ypres painstakingly rebuilt their town, including the Cloth Hall. In 1927 the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing was unveiled on the eastern side of the town. The last post is played every evening at 8pm.

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The story of London’s busmen at the front is also told in our new book by Dr William Ward, Ole Bill – Londons Buses and the First World War.

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