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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’.

introducing our new gallery, Digging Deeper

Written by Simon Murphy, Lead Curator of Digging Deeper

In our new permanent tunnelling history gallery, we set ourselves a number of challenges. At the most basic level we needed to bring the tunnelling story up to date to include the Elizabeth line opening later this year. The main display was ten years old, but a large part of it – a full-size representation of a tunnelling machine from 1890 with three mannequin figures, was first installed more than twenty years ago.

Elizabeth line construction

We also wanted to highlight the individual contribution of the engineer James Henry Greathead to tube tunnelling from 1870 right up to the present. What made the project a challenge was that we wanted to tell the story succinctly in a series of videos and key objects in a new tunnel-shaped space, without the need for traditional text panels.

An additional consideration was that the tunnelling story is only one part of the larger narrative of the growth of tube railways, alongside the development of electricity and lifts/escalators. Whilst these other display elements stayed mostly the same, they were spruced up, and we added floor graphics to help visitors distinguish the different story strands.

To create a more immersive experience we built an enclosed tunnel space, that visitors enter through an arch resembling an arch from the first tunnel under the Thames, dug by Marc Brunel between 1825 and 1843. The new tunnel space extends four metres out from the original period tunnel mock-up, using theatrical lighting effects to first mask and then reveal Greathead’s 1890 tunnelling shield.

Immersive tunnel display

The main narrative video is projected into the circular tunnel shape, with three shorter videos focussing on more specific object-related stories appearing on the sides of the tunnel. Broadly, these cover Greathead’s first shield and the Tower Subway tunnel it built in 1870, the refinement of the shield from 1890 and its use on the expanding tube railway network, and the era of computer-guided integrated Tunnel Boring Machines (or TBMs) used on the extension of the Jubilee line in the 1990s and on an unprecedented scale on the Crossrail project from 2012 to 2015.

www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/year-of-engineering/digging-deeper

An original London pirate: 1924 LB5 Chocolate Express

Before the age of Oyster cards and contactless payments, Over 250 pirate buses ruled the streets of London, bringing chaos to the roads as each operator tried to sabotage on another.

The 1924 Chocolate Express, now on display at London Transport Museum represents this epic era in London’s Transport story when an explosion of independent pirate operators challenged the monopoly of the London General Omnibus company in the roaring twenties.

With its distinctive livery and old-fashioned adverts the Chocolate Express demonstrates that London buses have not always been red or green.  The bus earnt the reputation of running a reliable service and spotless appearance inside and out.

The Chocolate Express Omnibus company was compulsorily purchased with the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board, the organisation responsible for public transport in London, England, United Kingdom, and its environs from 1933 to 1948. By 1934 Pirate buses were legislated off the roads of London bringing an end to a colourful era.

In 1984, the Chocolate Express bus was discovered, derelict on a farm near Norwich by the highly regarded Leyland bus restorer Mike Sutcliffe MBE. Mike spent three painstaking years researching and rebuilding the bus to its former glory and went on to win several awards.

The Chocolate Express bus will be the only pirate bus in the London Transport Museum collection to represent this period of time. You can help us safeguard the future of this beautifully restored bus by supporting out campaign. Visit The Leyland buses appeal to find out more.

If you’d like to discover more about the 1924 LB5 Chocolate Express, Mike Sutcliffe MBE will be giving a talk and tour on its intriguing journey from being discovered derelict in 1984 to full restoration. Find out more about the event and book your ticket.

Traffic-scene                      Chocolate Express