Category Archives: Battle Bus

Battle Bus project 2014-2018

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum Friends, London Transport Museum is close to completing Battle Bus – the civilian story of the First World War, a five-year programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War which has taken place between 2014-2018.

The Battle Bus project has included the restoration into operational condition of a 1914 London bus, B2737, and a five-year community programme delivered by apprentices and volunteers, which examined different aspects of the war’s impact on ordinary Londoners, and explored key themes over each year of the commemoration.

2014 – Year of the Bus and London to the Western Front

The B-types, were London’s first reliable, mass-produced motor buses. Introduced in 1910, they rapidly replaced horse buses on the Capital’s streets. When war broke out, over 1,000 of these vehicles, a third of London’s bus fleet, were requisitioned for war service. They served as troop transports and ambulances, some were converted into lorries or even mobile pigeon lofts.
B2737 was among the requisitioned vehicles, although it is not known where it served.

The restoration of B2737, known as Battle Bus, was completed in June 2014. It was restored to its original red and cream London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) livery.

B2737 running on its original route, route 9 from Liverpool Street to Barnes

Throughout 2014, as part of the Museum’s celebration of the Year of the Bus, B2737 participated in events across London, including a cavalcade of 48 buses displayed on Regent Street; a recreation of  route 9, from Barnes to Liverpool Street which it originally ran on;  London bus garage open days; the Shuttleworth Airshow; the Worshipful Company of Carmen’s Cart Marking Ceremony; Routemaster 60; the Lord Mayor’s Show, and the National Service of Remembrance.

In September, the bus was converted into a military troop carrier. The windows were fitted with protective boarding, and the body was painted military khaki. The conversion was carried out in the Museum, in public view, and captured on time lapse cameras.

Following the military conversion, the bus departed for a commemorative tour of the Western Front.  For ten days, the bus and a mobile exhibition toured Belgium and France, visiting locations where London Buses are known to have served. The tour included the bus participating in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, and a visit to Bus House Cemetery, named after the wreck of a London bus that was hit by a shell and remained where it was hit through the war.

Battle Bus at Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium

2015 – London’s Women at War – 100 years of women in transport

To ease the labour shortage created by war, women were recruited for a variety of roles in the transport industry for the first time from 1915. One of the most visible and most controversial of these was the role of bus conductor.

The Battle Bus learning project commemorated the role of women in the war effort with a programme that engaged female bus drivers. They explored the experiences of wartime conductresses and other women working in transport during the war, and reflected on their own experiences 100 years later. Their experiences were featured in a pop-up exhibition that launched at the Museum and went on to tour bus garages and libraries in parts of London associated with the B-type story.

The participants were also offered the chance to experience driving Battle Bus, and chalking their messages on the khaki livery.

Female driver Tracey driving Battle Bus

Battle Bus Apprentice, Hannah Steele supported a group of young people who developed Battle Bus inspired activities for families at public events at Fire Power, The Royal Military Museum in Woolwich and Westbourne Park Bus Garage Open Day. Their activities featured an original story ‘Barney’s Adventure’ which tells the tale of Barney and Beatrice, two B-type buses separated by war.

After its tour of the Western Front, Battle Bus embarked on a tour of the UK in 2015. The bus and its volunteer crew attended 18 public events, including visits to Beamish Open Air Museum, Crich Tramway Village, Hull, and Reading. It successfully completed the Historic Commercial Vehicles Society London to Brighton road run in May. In August it was taken to Bristol, to commemorate the buses crossing over to the continent from Avonmouth Docks during the war.

2016 – The lost generation of the Somme

Marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, Battle Bus travelled once again to France for a commemorative tour that visited towns and villages along what was the front line in 1916. The bus was displayed at the Thiepval Memorial on 1 July – now the sole veteran present at the commemoration.

Battle Bus in front of the Thiepval Memorial, France

The Battle Bus learning project explored the role of underage soldiers and the heavy casualties of the war. Working with successive groups of young volunteers who each passed their work on to the next group to use, a collaborative community exhibition was produced.

A group of university students researched their chosen themes to create the basis for the exhibition. A group of young men from Northumberland Park Community School in Tottenham explored the themes through film and animation. They also visited the Somme battlefields, locating the graves of soldiers whose stories they had learnt about during the project. In addition, they had the opportunity to lay a wreath of poppies during the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate on behalf of the Museum and in commemoration of all transport workers who sacrificed so much for the war effort.

A third group of young people, led by Battle Bus Apprentice Lamare Hart, produced poetry and spoken word, and performed at the opening of the resulting exhibition: From Tottenham to the trenches. The exhibition contained panels based on the first group’s work and videos produced by the second group. It was launched at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham, and toured other local venues, including the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum.

2017 – Children and war

In 2017, the learning team worked with two Year 4 classes from Lancasterian Primary School in Tottenham and two Year 6 classes from Lyndhurst Primary School in Camberwell. They explored stories of the Home Front and the themes of the Battle Bus, to understand the role of children during the war. Using comic books as their inspiration and working with a professional illustrator, the groups created original stories and artworks which were used to form an exhibition for each school: Home Front Heroes.

A second element of the project, led by Battle Bus Apprentice Joyce Zale, saw the team work with young people and a screen print artist to produce original designs and lead screen print workshops for museum visitors and students from the above mentioned primary schools.

Apprentice Joyce Zale delivering screen printing workshops

Battle Bus spent a week on display at the British Motor Museum’s First World War event. It also attended the centenary of Biggin Hill Airport where it was explored by a record number of visitors.

2018 – London’s Memory

Battle Bus has continued touring the UK throughout 2018. In July it visited the National Memorial Arboretum, and took part in the Tracks to the Trenches event at Apedale Valley Railway.

To commemorate the end of the war, London Transport Museum brought all the remaining B-type buses together for one day and displayed them in Covent Garden outside the Museum.

Last four remaining B-type buses on Covent Garden Piazza

Of the nearly 3,000 buses that were built, only four remain today. They all played slightly different roles during and after the war. B2737 was restored to commemorate the buses and transport workers’ sacrifice. B1609 which stayed in London service during the war was recently restored by its owner. B340, also owned by London Transport Museum, carried wounded troops in London during the war, and became the first bus to be preserved for a collection in 1924. B43 was requisitioned for war service and became a mobile war memorial in 1920, taking part in Armistice Day parades, driven behind the London Transport workers. Nicknamed Ole Bill, it was presented to the Imperial War Museum in 1977.

The community  learning project has focused on commemoration, with volunteers of all ages working together to explore the meaning of remembrance. Research volunteers dug deep into the Museum’s archives to uncover individual stories of transport workers across the theatres of war. Their research was turned into an exhibition which was open to Museum visitors from Saturday 20 October until Sunday 28 October. Further project volunteers took part in creative workshops with an installation artist to create ‘Forget me Not’ – a hanging artwork made up of over 100 screen printed flowers, symbolic of the hand embroidered postcards send by soldiers to loved ones back home.

This year’s Battle Bus Apprentice, Kamiah Cowell, led a group of young filmmakers on a project to create a film piece focusing on the theme of commemoration. The film is in the final editing stages and will be launched in December.

This five-year commemoration of the centenary will end with a fitting tribute to the civilians whose lives were forever changed by war: B2737 Battle Bus and B340 will participate in the event at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day 2018, A Nation’s Thank You, before going on public display at London Transport Museum.

The Battle Bus programme could not have been possible without the support and commitment of many people: particular thanks go to the  Heritage Lottery Fund, London Transport Museum Friends, our Apprentices, Outreach and Research Volunteers, Vehicle Supporters Group, community partners and to everyone that has joined us at events over the last five-years.

Forget-Me-Not

Discover our new installation and meet the artist behind the project

On your visit to the London Transport Museum, you’re sure to notice our new Forget Me Not display hanging beautifully above Battle Bus while it is on display at the Museum for the first time.

The new installation, created by artist Jacqui Symons was commissioned to remember the thousands of transport workers involved in the First World War and comprises over 100 flowers to represent the hand embroidered postcards that soldiers sent to their loved ones from the front lines.

Find out more about the project from Jenna and Kamiah from our Learning team who commissioned the project and the artist who created it:

Kamiah and Battle Bus underneath the Forget-Me-Not installation

How was the installation created?

Kamiah and Jenna: As part of the Battle Bus project, we commissioned artist Jacqui Symons to work with us on creating a new installation that would hang over Battle Bus. We wanted this work to be co-created with past partners and project participants who had been involved with Battle Bus over the 5 years of the project.

We held workshops at Lancasterian Primary School in Tottenham, Holloway bus garage and Walworth bus depot, as well as a drop-in session for staff and volunteers who had been involved with the project.

During these workshops, participants drew pictures inspired by images from our collection of the B-type buses during the First World War and the role of transport workers, both men and women, during this time. Some of the participants also then created a mono print of their picture. Jacqui used all of these illustrations to decorate the flower shapes that make up the installation.

What inspired you to get involved, Jacqui?

I have been making suspended installations for almost 10 years and I jumped at the chance to do one for London Transport Museum especially as the theme of the exhibition and the suspended installation really inspired me. I found the history of the Battle Bus and London transport workers through the First World War really interesting – I especially liked that women became mechanics and conductors for London’s transport during this time.

What was your inspiration for the piece?

The initial inspiration for the Forget-Me-Not installation were the embroidered postcards that soldiers sent back to their loved ones from the front line during the First World War. Many of these featured flowers and used Floriography (the language of flowers) to send messages of love, hope and remembrance. These flowers now make up the installation, recreated in wonderful colours and suspended in the shape of three flying postcards.

Working with groups and communities is a large part of my practice and it was important to me to include exact versions of people’s artwork within the final piece, so each flower features drawings created by workshop participants around the theme of remembrance.

How were the flowers made?

The flowers are made from laser-cut plywood and screen-printed with participants’ drawings.

Over several months, we worked with various groups to create drawings and monoprints using the theme of remembrance and the Battle Bus as inspiration. We got hundreds of great drawings and prints which were scanned in and exposed onto large scale silk-screens ready for screenprinting.

Once we had agreed on the final flowers to include in the installation, I drew them up on the computer and they were sent off to a laser-cutting company along with 12 large sheets of plywood that I pre-painted in 12 different colours. These cut-out flowers were then individually screen-printed with drawings from the creative workshops.

Do you have a favourite illustration incorporated within the flower design?

Too many to mention! I love them all really. Once you have worked so long with each drawing (scanning them in, creating layouts, optimising them for screen-printing, then printing all the designs) you become intimately familiar with them and appreciate each one for its character and style.

What do you hope LTM visitors will take away from seeing the Forget Me Not display?

The installation was created to remember the thousands of transport workers involved in the First World War, including over 1,400 individuals who sadly lost their lives. We hope that we can share this story with visitors through the installation and the Battle Bus, so that they are still remembered as the centenary of the First World War approaches.

We also hope that visitors will come away with an interest in and some newfound knowledge of the Battle Bus and London’s transport workers and an appreciation of the installation and the meaning of flowers.

Also, hopefully, it will inspire visitors to do some drawing once they have seen all the wonderful artwork on the flowers!

Come and see the Forget Me Not installation at London Transport Museum, to help us remember the important contribution made by London’s transport workers during the First World War, one hundred years ago.

battle-bus-remembrance

Battle bus will be participating in the civilian procession  – A Nation’s Thank You – on Sunday 11 November, to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by London bus drivers who left their regular routes to enlist and serve on the Western Front. Find out more on our website.

After Remembrance Sunday, bus B2737, known as Battle Bus, will return to London Transport Museum where it will be on display until spring 2019.

Poppies

Join us at the Museum on 10 and 11 November between 11:00 to 15:45 to learn more about our B-type Battle Bus which played an important role in the war effort. Then join us to make simple poppy pins as part of the remembrance weekend commemorations.

BATTLE BUS RESEARCH VOLUNTEER PROJECT – The Final Session

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.

The Final Session

The research volunteers presented their findings to the rest of the group, before a well-deserved ‘Well done and thank you’ from the Battle Bus team. Volunteer Eithne Cullen rounds up the final session of the Battle Bus research project:

The last session brought together all the interesting research we’ve been doing over several weeks. The volume of information and the depth of people’s research were impressive. Everyone had loved using the T.O.T staff magazine to learn about transport workers’ experiences. Others have been to The National Archives at Kew in southwest London and the British Library in central London to extend their knowledge and understanding of the role of the B-type buses.

We took turns to sum up the research that we’d done. We looked at how the buses became involved in the First World War, going back to the months before war broke out, when Thomas Clarkson demonstrated the way his Chelmsford bus could move at speed. We learned about how the buses were requisitioned for war service and the varied work they were engaged in from carrying troops to acting as pigeon lofts.

Research-presentations

Of course, recruiting the buses also meant signing up the drivers for active service and they travelled with their vehicles throughout the conflict.

The letters in the T.O.T staff magazine gave a great insight into the LGOC employees and their families during the war. We learned about the soldiers’ relationships with their buses; they called them ‘old tub’ and ‘old girl’ in their letters home. This personalisation highlighted how buses were a reminder of home and how their crews had real concern for their vehicles, even referring to them as ‘wounded’.

B-type-bus-wreckWreck of a B-type bus at St Eloi, France, 1914 (1998/84919)

We were given a real insight into how buses played a part in the Balkans, moving troops from Salonika through the mountains in convoy. We learned about the importance of the buses in the war experiences of Commonwealth troops and the service of the 1.3 million Dominion soldiers. Back in London, buses also played an important part in how visiting soldiers experienced their leave in the city.

We also looked at the way LGOC workers were remembered. Remembrance is such a huge part of the First World War story. One B-type bus, ‘Ole Bill’, was nominated for preservation and was the only civilian vehicle to participate in the Armistice Day parade in 1920. It is currently on display in the Museum at Covent Garden. The T.O.T. magazine records the accounts of those whose names appeared on memorials in bus garages all over London after the war. Sadly, many memorials no longer survive.

Armistice-day-parade‘Ole Bill’ B-type bus B43 in Armistice Day parade, by Topical Press, circa 1920 (1998/75682)

The presentations gave a good overview of the journey we’ve been on, learning about these important vehicles and the contribution of transport workers to the war. We have had a great opportunity to look at the Battle Bus, 100 years on.  Now, full of enthusiasm and filled with cake before we left, we’ve all parted for the time being and are now looking forward to the launch of the exhibition that will celebrate the ‘old tubs’….the ‘old girls’.

BATTLE BUS RESEARCH VOLUNTEER PROJECT – SESSION Five and six

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.

Session five and six 

In sessions five and six the research volunteers started to organise their topics into a narrative and think about the design of the exhibition, with the afternoons spent on individual research. Volunteer Sadie Arora describes what they got up to:

Week five began with us thinking about the key message we thought visitors should take away from the exhibition. We put a brief summary of our research topic on to a sticky note, grouped these into themes and arranged the themes into an order. This simple exercise was really helpful, as we could see a potential storyline emerge, check the key messages were covered, and identify areas with too much or not enough focus. We also found out where in the Museum our temporary exhibition would be on display – in Luke’s Skills Space on Level 1.

We were then treated to a brilliant talk from Sau-Fun Mo, Head of Design at the Museum. Sau-Fun gave us what seemed like the trade secrets of museum design departments, not only explaining the process of designing exhibitions, but demonstrating how vital design is in supporting the content, and the potential for design choices to subtly affect how information is conveyed.

After explaining design structure schemes, which link every task in a project to a clear progression, Sau-Fun detailed her work on two contrasting displays in the Museum: the Poster Girls temporary exhibition about female poster artists, and the new permanent gallery about tunnelling, called Digging Deeper. We learned how approaches differ according to the scale of the space and the objectives of the displays. We were also given examples of techniques that help inform and engage visitors, such as the graphic of small images running along the entire Poster Girls display to convey the wealth of the collection that the exhibition was drawn from.

Poster-Girls-Exhibition

Sau-Fun gave us some advice on the design approach for our project. As the space is a self-contained room, she told us to think about what the space outside could communicate to visitors, and what the immediate impression of the exhibition should be when entering the room.

In week six, we discussed ideas for the exhibition space. Although we won’t be dong the design work ourselves, we wanted to put our ideas into the design brief and were keen to have a go at applying what we’d learned from Sau-Fun. On the whole, we went for realistic ideas that would engage the audience. Smoke machines and animatronics in the skills room seemed unlikely!

Design-discussion

We felt that making a clear link from the Battle Bus itself, which will be on display in the main gallery on the ground floor, will be crucial. Ideas included a trail of logos, or handing tickets to visitors to ‘continue the journey’ upstairs. We weighed up whether it’s better to divide the room into sections, or have a central feature. We’ve been so taken with the T.O.T magazines that a suggestion to use them in the graphic design was popular, as was a large map to unite the different topics. A pigeon motif was suggested, to make use of the room’s height and engage visitors with the surprising sight of B-type pigeon lofts. Simple ways for visitors to interact were also suggested, especially children’s activities and a comments board.

Style brainstorm

As we approach the end of the project, it’s sinking in that our research must form a story worthy of a museum display. That is quite daunting, but we are also hugely reassured to know that the Design department will be able to work wonders with whatever we come up with.

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

BATTLE BUS RESEARCH VOLUNTEER PROJECT – SESSION FOUR

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.

Session Four

Getting started on the research

This week the group started to research their chosen topics, which included the use of the b-type buses during the war and the role of transport workers. Research volunteer Carrie Long writes about her discoveries whilst exploring the Museum library and photo collection.

British army soldiersBritish and Indian soldiers posing on a B-type bus in France, c 1914

‘A new type of hero in war. The man of the moment at the front is the London bus-driver’, reported the Daily Mail in 1914. Throughout the First World War, bus drivers swapped their foggy routes along the Strand in central London for the ‘veritable hell of shell and shrapnel fire’ on the Western front. Many of those drivers volunteered to go with their bus when they were commandeered for the war. Publicly named as ‘heroes’ as early as 1914, it was clear that the sacrifice and mechanical skill these men were providing was incredibly important to British victory. But, in popular memory the stories of these brave London bus drivers have been forgotten, until now.

This week our research team began a mission to uncover their stories from the archives. The Museum’s photo collection in Collections online was fantastic for allowing us to see the transformation of the bright red buses to their war-time khaki colours. It was notable that the drivers maintained their cheerful smiles and spread a visible culture of ‘comradeship’. However, it was clear the change of scene from London to the Western Front was no holiday for the drivers. Photographs of vehicles transformed into military troop carriers or buses lying burnt-out in a ditch, highlighted the immense danger and high level of responsibility they played in the war.

To understand how these men and their families coped with their transformation from civilian life to soldiering, the T.O.T magazine (T.O.T was shorthand for Train, Omnibus, Tram)  proved an archival treasure trove. The magazine, published fortnightly and later monthly after 1915, was produced for members of staff serving at the Front and their families and colleagues at home. It is a fantastic resource for documenting the changes throughout the war. The editors actively encouraged soldiers to write letters and to be personal about their experience, writing that ‘saying what you mean and what you feel’ is most important. The magazine was not intended to be a public newspaper, but rather a news forum for transport workers and their families.

TOT-1914-1921

Remarkably, the magazine didn’t read as war propaganda as I expected, but instead provided insights into a diverse range of experiences and emotions. Published letters from the men reveal the attachment drivers felt towards their buses through their affectionate reference to them as ‘old tubs’, provide insight into their personal sense of loss through sometimes graphic accounts of comrades’ deaths, to sharing their joy at meeting other drivers on the road.

A personal research highlight was discovering that London bus drivers were connected to a much wider global story of war. Drivers were at the forefront of forging Commonwealth connection through transporting Indian soldiers to the front lines, driving the wounded to hospital, and facilitating days out for dominion soldiers on leave in London. The international community spirit is clear from Corporal E. Scuffell, who wrote ‘Australians, Canadians, Indians and French … we are mixed up a bit, but all of one mind’.

Research-session-four

The T.O.T was consistently described as a joy to read by soldiers. It provided them with a connection to home as they used it to communicate birthday wishes to their children, see pictures of their families on days out, and learn about how women were contributing to the war effort through becoming bus conductors in London. Today, the accounts of the T.O.T provide a permanent record of the bravery of the transport workers who went to war, and of the drivers and buses that supported them there.

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session Three

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.

Session Three

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 talk

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!

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…

Research

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.

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session Two

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.

Session Two

Visit to the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum

This week the group visited the First World War galleries at Imperial War Museum and the Society and the War gallery at National Army Museum. Here, volunteer Eithne Cullen, talks about her experience of the day.

At the Imperial War Museum, the number of deaths and the awful conditions endured by the soldiers and civilians who lived through the First World War make visiting the exhibition an emotive and powerful experience. All the people in the group felt they had the chance to examine artefacts and get a sense of the sights and sounds of war, with sympathetic lighting and a variety of hands-on displays.

The opportunity to learn about individuals’ lives and see artefacts as varied as china and crockery, newspaper headlines of the day, propaganda posters, empty bullet shells, uniforms and a reconstructed trench – all made this come to life. Individual lives were opened up too, from Edith Cavell the heroic nurse, to Siegfreid Sassoon the officer-poet who spoke out about the conditions his men experienced. Other letters and diaries provide vivid records of individual service, like Gabrielle West whose diary tells of her role in a special police service set up to supervise women workers.

Museum visit

By way of contrast, the exhibition at the National Army Museum seems like an attractive cinema entrance, where there is generous use of colourful posters and bright display cases. We saw the cultural influence of the army on our lives in a display looking at everything from representations of the army in cinema to the way army language and slang has entered everyday speech. The use of a film about the conflict in Northern Ireland know as the Troubles made some of the group feel uncomfortable because it was unexpected and felt out of place in this gallery considering the other themes. The small exhibition about the symbol of the poppy was interesting and provoked some thought about how the poppy is used for Remembrance.

National Army Museum Visit

These two contrasting displays gave us lots to think about when considering how we react to the way information is presented to us and the way we respond to it.

I was very taken by the stories of the women who worked in the munitions factories, the munitionettes. I wrote this poem in response.

Munitionette        

On Monday she’s a  munitionette

packing shells and placing wicks

the powder makes her hair and skin  yellow.

Canary girl in an opera of canaries.

 

On Monday she’s in drab brown clothes

mob cap on her head, trousers like a man

she’s not allowed a buckle or a badge

one spark and they’d be off, all blown away.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages, take away our jobs

no place for a woman in our   factory…

but the women fill the orders in this

hour of need send plenty to the front to

beat the Hun.

 

The men look down on their yellow faces

their tunics a mockery of battledress and frontline uniforms.

 

But on Sunday she puts on a dress

it’s white and it’s embroidered at the front

her sash of green and purple like her hat

and the metal brooch she wears a badge of honour

a medal for her service at the front and times in Holloway.

 

On Sunday in the park with crowds of women just like her

The explosives in this case are powerful words –

speeches and glorious cries of ‘Votes for Women!’

and the songs they sing block the awful factory sounds.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages-take away our power

the ballot box is not the place

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session One

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.

Session One

This year the Battle Bus project is focussing on ‘London’s Memories’. We are starting the programme of activities with a research volunteer project, to uncover stories of transport workers involved in the First World War.

Marta Kronberga, one of our research volunteers, describes what happened in the project’s first session:

This week we were based at the Museum Depot at Acton. We started the morning with some group activities to get to know each other better and discussed what makes good presentation skills. We then went to explore the famous Battle Bus, with curator Katariina Mauranen, who worked on the bus restoration project.

Battle Bus group activity

This amazing B-type bus was introduced in London in 1910, and was operated by the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC). More than 1,000 of these buses were sent to war, many with their bus drivers. They were used to transport troops to and from the front lines. After the war, only around 400 buses came back to London and many were in such bad condition they were just used for parts.

It was such an interesting experience. We got to hear about the story of the Battle Bus, sit on the top deck, see all the little details and some of us even got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat!

Behind the wheel of Battle Bus

After lunch it was time for some more group activities. This time each group created a presentation from documents we were given, to get us in the mood to start thinking about the Battle Bus research project. We discussed the First World War in general, remembrance of the war and stories of individual transport workers. Everybody was really interested in the postcards and letters sent from or to soldiers, and the personal stories they showed.

Battle Bus group activity

At the end of the day we were given a tour of the Depot by Keith Raeburn, the Depot Supervisor. It was a great chance to see the development of London buses. We saw everything from horse-drawn omnibuses to ones that are almost the same as the buses on London streets today. We also saw posters and objects from the collection and of course Underground trains that were used throughout the 20th century.

At the end of the day it was clear that we have a great group of volunteers with different interests and backgrounds. Hopefully this will give us some fascinating outcomes at the end of the project. Let’s see where this research will take us!

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

Connecting London’s Past and Present

The Museum’s extensive range of learning programmes, which includes work with families, schools, communities and young people, provides exciting opportunities to make connections between transport’s past and the present-day lives of Londoners.
None perhaps more so than the Battle Bus Project. Since the restoration of the B-type bus number B2737in 2014 the Museum’s Learning Team has been delving deeper into the story of London’s buses during the First World War, working with young people in Tottenham and Camberwell to bring the story of the Battle Bus back to the communities and streets of London where it all began. Vicki Pipe, who is our Family and Community Learning Manager, describes the projects in more detail.

Focus on Tottenham
In 1914 Emily Lee Graves married William Ely. During the war years Emily worked as a Clippie (a female bus conductor) on London’s B-Type buses. It was the first time women were allowed to work on the buses, and Emily was one of 3,500 females who took up the role. In May 1917 William was tragically killed fighting in France. Emily continued to work as a Clippie, raising a small child at the same time and later marrying a local tram driver Hubert Pearson.

Students from Northumberland Park Community School in Tottenham who learnt about Emily’s story visited the grave of William Ely during a trip to Fosse No. 10 Communal Cemetery in France. Maggie Bonfield, William and Emily’s granddaughter who grew up in Tottenham, met with student Serkan Ahmed after their journey to find out more about the group’s experience and to thank them for sharing William and Emily’s story with others.

Focus on Camberwell
When war broke out in 1914 1,000 buses were requisitioned by the War Office from across London, including Camberwell Bus Garage.  Life on the home front in Camberwell, as with all parts of the country, was challenging. Everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort including children, who were even encouraged to give up their pocket money to help. Young people worked hard during the war knitting scarfs and socks for soldiers, with some as young as 12 taking jobs in factories or on farms. Approximately 600,000 children went to work instead of going to school.

Young people from Lyndhurst Primary School in Camberwell worked with an artist, actors and the Battle Bus Learning Team to discover what life was like growing up as a young person during the First World War. They shared the stories they discovered through the creation of  artwork inspired by children’s comic books from the time. Their work is now on display in Camberwell library, where more young people will learn about the ‘Home Front Heroes’ of London from 100 years ago.

Young people from Camberwell

Young people from Camberwell get up close to the Battle Bus whilst finding out about their Homefront Heroes

You can find out more about the Battle Bus project, and where and when it can be seen via the link below
https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/learning/community-learning/battle-bus

Battle Bus Project 2016: Young Volunteers

During 2016 the Battle Bus community learning programme has worked with three amazing teams of young volunteers to co-curate an exhibition called From Tottenham to the trenches. These young volunteers consisted of a research team, an exhibition team and an outreach team who all had different roles to play in bringing together the exhibition.

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The project began in February with a group of 10 young research volunteers who were students recruited from universities across London. They were tasked with uncovering First World War stories linked to the events of 1916, the B-type bus, and Tottenham. Working alongside Rebecca Hatchett from S.I.D.E Projects, they met with museum professionals and First World War experts, delved into archives and went on field trips to piece together all the information needed to create content for the exhibition. You can read more about what they got up to on their blog here.

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This research was then passed on to eight Year 9 students at Northumberland Park Community School, who took on the role of exhibition volunteers. During weekly sessions with Rebecca and the Battle Bus Apprentice, Lamare, they creatively explored the research. They looked at why young men may have signed up to fight, the Battle of the Somme and the role that London buses played on the Western Front. Working with filmmaker Mmoloki Chrystie they used shadow puppets, drama and photography to produce images and a short creative film for the exhibition. You can watch their film here.

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The students also went on a bespoke three-day Battlefield tour to Belgium and France. They visited sites that had links to Tottenham and the buses, and learnt more about the Battle of the Somme and the Western Front.  The students paid their respects at the grave of William George Ely, a young soldier from Walthamstow whose story features in the exhibition. A film was made for the exhibition which documents their experience. You can watch it here.

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Then over the summer five young outreach volunteers worked alongside a spoken word artist, Mr Gee, to create original poems, responding to stories in the exhibition that they felt emotionally or personally attached to. Their work covered the ideas of home, memory, courage and conflict. As well as the poems featuring in the exhibition, they were also performed by the volunteers at exhibition launch events at London Transport Museum and Bruce Castle Museum.

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All the hard work and enthusiasm of the three teams of young volunteers culminated in the creation of the exhibition, From Tottenham to the trenches. It tells the story of London buses and the lives of young men from Tottenham who were affected by the First World War. It also marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. We invite you to visit the exhibition, which is on display at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham until Sunday 26 March 2017.

Many thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum Friends for funding the Battle Bus Project. Also many thanks to Tottenham Grammar School Foundation and the Friends for funding the Battlefield Tour.