Tag 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.

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.

A Driving Force

Alongside the restoration and conservation of Battle Bus (B-type B2737) London Transport Museum is also running an in-depth learning and engagement programme. Throughout the centenaries of the First World War, the programme will work with different groups of volunteers to investigate new perspectives of the Battle Bus and bring to life the stories of those affected by war and the role of transport within it.

In 2015 our focus was the experiences of women. At the outbreak of war in 1914 thousands of men from the transport industry volunteered to take on military roles. The industry lost a significant proportion of its workforce, and it wasn’t long before women were called upon to fill the roles that men had left behind.  In the bus industry, one of the roles undertaken by women was as conductors, ‘clippies’ or ‘conductorettes’ as they were sometimes called. They received mixed reactions from the public, simultaneously a symbol of women’s important contribution to the war effort as well as a target for derision by those who felt that women were not capable of carrying out such responsible jobs.

Working with over 40 female professionals currently employed in the transport industry we explored the stories of these first ‘conductorettes’ in more detail. We looked at the experiences of these women and how they contrast to that of women working in the bus industry today, how the role of women has changed over time, as well as asking if women today still face the same prejudices as counterparts from 100 years ago.

This film is taken from the exhibition. Sarah Liles, a Bus Driver, and Liza Maddocks, an Employee Relations Assistant, talk about their experience of working in the bus industry today. 

The stories all contributed to a final exhibition, ‘A Driving Force: 100 years of women in transport’. As well as the film shown above the exhibition included oral history interviews, artwork and a timeline of key milestones in the story of women in transport from 1915-2015. In the Summer and Autumn the exhibition toured cultural and community venues throughout London, including Catford Bus Garage, London Transport Museum Depot in Acton, Westminster Music Library and Victoria Coach Station.

London’s Buses on the Western Front

Poperinge WW1

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.

[envira-gallery id=”4264″]

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.

Bustastic – Volunteers Please!

So, it’s official, 2014 is the Year of the Bus (in London anyway). There’s at least three reasons: it’s 100 years since B-types took troops to the Western Front, 75 years since the RT first appeared on the streets of London, and 60 years since the first Routemaster made its debut at the Commercial Motor Show. As you can imagine, a significant programme of major events is planned to celebrate.

LTM_Volunteer_day_March_2014_008_1Amongst many other things we can look forward to a number of Bus Garage Open Days through the summer, a major two day Routemaster rally in July, a restored B-type being adapted as if going to France in 1914 and a unique bus rally in Central London, also in June. The programme is noteworthy for being delivered by the many different organisations and individuals which either own heritage London buses or are involved in providing services today. Inevitably this means a major contribution from the Museum, owning as it does many historic buses. If the Museum is to make the fullest contribution to the Year of the Bus a significant volunteer effort will be required to support event delivery.

LTM_Volunteer_day_March_2014_012_2To help muster the necessary forces, the museum and the Friends of the Museum held a joint volunteer recruitment event at the Acton Depot at the end of March. I went along to cast a discerning eye over the opportunities available – and there are some good ones! Before events buses need cleaning, preparing and driving (only by the properly qualified, of course). At the events there’s a lot of stewarding of people and vehicles required, a large element of which concerns providing context and history to the public.

LTM_Volunteer_day_March_2014_006_3The Underground hasn’t been forgotten: following the hugely successful Underground 150 anniversary celebrations in 2013, a small number of steam outings are planned on the network for 2014, requiring volunteer support. The architectural and design legacy hasn’t been forgotten either in the public programme, for example with further tours of Aldwych station. You’ll be delighted to know that I put my hand up for a number of activities!

Post Written by Dave Olney, Volunteer

To get in touch with London Transport Museum about volunteer opportunities this year contact opportunities@ltmuseum.co.uk

Becoming a bus driver…100 years ago!

bus driver training

Everyone at London Transport Museum is getting excited about the restoration of the B-type bus. It will be some sight to see it driving the streets of London, and northern France and Belgium, to commemorate the beginning of the First World War. Bus drivers today require special licenses, but what was the situation over a century ago when B2737 was new in public service?

For ordinary vehicles, driving licences were introduced courtesy of the Motor Car Act in 1903. Initially issued by County authorities, it was not until 1930 that they were accompanied by competency tests. However, prospective bus drivers had to complete an extensive programme of training and testing before they were allowed on the road.

Predictably, if you wanted to drive a bus you had to fulfil the criteria for an ordinary driving licence. For example, any applicant had to be a minimum age of 21 years, have a certificate of good conduct for the preceding three years, and provide a medical certificate of personal fitness. It was down to the particular bus companies to enforce more stringent rules to assist with selection. London General Omnibus Company enforced a number of supplementary rules. It raised the minimum age, extended the good conduct requirements to five years, selected married men in preference to single men and selected men with previous driving experience in the streets of London.

Applications were made by letter and likely candidates were interviewed. If a candidate did not already possess an ordinary driving licence he was required to obtain one immediately. Subject to a successful medical, the applicant travelled down to Scotland Yard to apply for a Stage Carriage Licence (to supplement the ordinary driving licence).  The police, in turn, required the equivalent of a P45 and two references.

Once these requirements were successfully negotiated, the candidate would finally go to a garage for training. However, there was still no guarantee of a job afterwards and he did not get paid. Training was spread over about five weeks, with a combination of practical and theoretical teaching. Prospective drivers learned about mechanics, road rules and driving in different environments. Once trained, drivers took police tests and the Public Carriage Licence test. If successful, the driver was finally allotted to a garage for employment where he continued to train and learn.

New Apprentices Visit Battle Bus

On Friday 21 February, Richard Peskett and his restoration team hosted an event for a range of Museum stakeholders to see the progress being made with the restoration of the Museum’s B-type bus. In attendance were key representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the London Transport Museum Friends, Transport for London, bus operating companies and historians. The event was the perfect way to showcase how the restoration of the bus has progressed over the last few months.

FretworkIt was also a chance to get to meet the team behind the restoration and hear more about its fascinating story.  A number of discoveries have been made since the restoration began including several tickets and newspaper clippings found tucked behind an original seat in the bus body. Also in attendance was a group from the HLF, who had travelled down to take a look at the bus and to meet the apprentices who had started a few weeks before.

The Museum’s Director Sam Mullins introduced the background to the project and the Museum’s programme for the year ahead, while the restoration team spoke on a range of subjects including how the team uncovered the bus’s unique fleet number B2737 and the work to return the engine to operational working order.

engineAlthough the body had not yet been mounted onto the chassis, the visit provided us with a wonderful opportunity to see the beautiful restoration work undertaken on the chassis and the engine. It was thrilling to see parts of the vehicle which won’t be visible when the body is reinstated, such as the gear box and the engine. We were also given the opportunity to see an original seat removed from the body during the restoration, as well as the seating moquette that will be used on the new seats when they are fabricated and the fret work that will accompany them inside the body of the bus.

bus stakeholder visit 3The event was also an opportunity for myself and Gianna Fiore, as the Battle Bus project apprentices, to witness the project for the first time. We collected feedback from the visitors and both thoroughly enjoyed the event and the chance to meet the key stakeholders in the project.

Even though it is not completed yet it was still impressive to see the bus chassis and the body mid restoration. It was the first time I had seen the bus and after weeks of hearing about it and seeing pictures it was a real thrill to see it with my own eyes. It was equally fantastic to meet the people behind the restoration and hear some of the fascinating stories unearthed during the restoration process.  It was also a pleasure to meet representatives from the HLF who have funded the project, including our Project Grants Officer Laura Butcher, London Committee Member Jennifer Ullman and Wesley Kerr, Chairman of the London Committee. Having now seen the half completed bus, I can’t wait to see the bus in all its glory this summer.

Having visited Haslemere to view the progress of the restoration, Gianna couldn’t wait to get started on the upcoming project. She enjoyed the opportunity to meet all the interesting people involved in the project, incuding the project funders from the HLF (and was fortunate enough to interview some of our guests and get their views on the project.) Gianna discovered that two people had even written books about B-type buses and was excited to find one stocked in our very own library at the Museum.

Post written by Harry Young, Battle Bus Project Apprentice

What’s in a number?

ledger

The identity of a vehicle starts with its chassis and the project team has been fortunate to establish that ours used to be B2737. From scrutinising witness marks (rivet holes) on both side rails, it is evident the chassis once carried a four figure LGOC fleet number starting with ‘B2’. In addition, a second set of screw holes overlaid on top show the remains of where a ‘National Omnibus and Transport Co’ number plate was once fitted. From researching company fleet records, only eleven ex LGOC double decker ‘B’ types starting with ‘B2’ were sold second hand to the National. Of these, just the numerals of B2737 fit all the remaining frame fixing holes in the correct order.

Through answering this most intriguing question, it has been possible to research further the history of our vehicle. Within the depths of our archive there is an old leather bound ledger charting the allocation and disposal of a number of B-type buses. One page notes that B2737 was requisitioned for use by the War Department, not returning to the LGOC until 19 May 1920. It then served for several months as a ‘ Khaki traffic emergency bus’ before being withdrawn from London service on 28 January 1921. Another page notes that on 24 February 1922 our B-type chassis was joined with body number B2364, for onward sale to the National Omnibus Company. Whilst research is still ongoing, it is pleasing to note how a four digit number can help reveal such a wealth of information.

A B-type Paper Trail

b-type_tickets

Having already discovered a collection of fascinating newspaper fragments inside our B-type bus seat cushions, it was remarkable to find three tickets also tucked away.  Although we will probably never be completely sure, the tickets provide some useful clues as to the history of our bus.

The tickets are from a bus company named Road Motors of Weymouth, who were part of the Road Motors of Luton company operating in the early 1920s. Documents show that Road Motors bought a number of used buses from the London General Omnibus Company, including two B-type buses (B1616 and B2558). In addition, a number of their other vehicles had B-type bodies fitted including Dennis NM2146. The private company did not last long though, and was bought by the National Omnibus & Transport Company in April 1925.

It is feasible that the B-type bus body we are restoring was at one time used in Weymouth; or our seat cushion was switched between buses that once served the seaside town. Based on this circumstantial evidence, tracing the history of our cushions with any accuracy is extremely difficult. Despite all the guesswork, it is certain that Road Motors would from time to time, transfer buses between Luton and Weymouth and back again. This goes some way to explaining how a Weymouth bus ticket was found inside the cushion. The rest of the story remains a mystery.

Happy Birthday B2737!

StreetsceneatHammersmith
Street scene at Hammersmith, with buses and pedestrians. B-Type Bus, number B204, LGOC, Route 9, Copyright TfL

The B-type bus we are restoring, B2737, is turning 100! Introduced into service in January 1914, B2737 originally worked out of Mortlake garage in south west London and plied its trade on route 9 before being requisitioned by the War Department. Although Mortlake garage no longer exists, route 9 is still flourishing. Today it is worked by the New Bus for London as well as a small fleet of heritage Routemasters in the central London area.

The early 20th century was an exciting period, with new technological developments revolutionising how we travelled and the way we lived. Whilst the B-type bus was London’s first mass produced standardised motor bus, a number of other transport developments took place the same year it was built. The world’s first electric traffic light was introduced (Ohio, USA). Whilst in the air, the first scheduled commercial flight took place (St Petersburg to Tampa, USA). Although now a ubiquitous sight, the first road cone was invented by Charles P Rudebaker in 1914.

Recently our project engineer, Richard Peskett, also celebrated his birthday (not another centennial, I hasten to add!). He received a wonderful B-type themed birthday cake and it seems fitting to also dedicate it to our bus. Happy birthday B2737!