This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.
Introduction to research
Volunteer Rhys Davies-Santibanez reflects on session three of the project, which introduced the volunteers to the resources available to help them start their research.
Having spent the previous week out and about visiting other museums, being back at the London Transport Museum was a welcome return to soft seats and having tea on tap. A quick recap of our impressions of the different ways other museums displayed their exhibits revealed many diverse opinions in the room. With that in mind, how were we going to agree on the direction of our research?
We split into two teams to discuss subject areas and approaches to researching the B-type buses. My group’s interests lay in the tales of the soldiers on board, together with the broader (and political) story of the First World War’s effect on women’s rights and on workers in general. Before we knew it, our guest speaker had arrived.
Andrew Robertshaw is a man of boundless energy and passion. He introduced himself by rattling off a handful of impressive credentials (and a quick Google search easily doubled this list). Armed with just a USB stick and a boxful of trinkets, Andy effortlessly proved that curiosity and some online tools are all you need to start researching First World War military personnel. I thought he’d just briefly touch on the generalities of research, but by the time he left I had two pages packed full of notes. Lunch provided time to digest his many insights before the afternoon’s activity, our library induction!
Caroline Warhurst, the Library and Information Services Manager, warned us it was normally pretty cosy with just two people working in the library. Nevertheless, ten of us managed to squeeze in to listen to her. Despite the crush, the short time we were in there proved fruitful.
One book in particular, ‘The London B-type motor omnibus’ by G J Robbins and J B Atkinson, 3rd ed. 1991, was packed with excerpts of soldiers’ letters about the B-type buses. They were originally published in ‘News of T.O.T’ (which stands for Train, Omnibus, Tram) a wartime newsletter produced by the transport companies, which the Museum has had digitised. A quick keyword search revealed a treasure trove of stories from the front line. I started following the adventures of W H Davis, a former signal repairman from south of the river who first popped up in T.O.T’s wounded list in December 1916, but by March 1918 was awarded a medal and promotion for his bravery and leadership. If I could find that snippet in just an hour, I wonder what might appear over the coming weeks…
The day wound to a close with a group discussion revisiting the research interests we had explored. In contrast to my group’s focus on personal and social stories, the others had been thinking about the Battle Bus as an object in its own right: what the B-type buses had been used for during the Frist World War, and even the materials and process of production.
Plenty to think about between sessions! How do we tie our various interests into a single thematic thread? What do we look into next? Next week we start researching in earnest, thinking about what our Battle Bus exhibition might look like.
Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.