Tag Archives: First World War

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.

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The Kitemark on our B-type bus

British Kitemark on rear wheel

A small but intriguing discovery during the restoration has been the sight of a British Standard ‘Kitemark’ found on the rear wheels. The recognised symbol that something is ‘up to standard’ has existed since the beginning of the twentieth century. On 22 January 1901, Sir John Wolfe-Barry, who designed London’s Tower Bridge, persuaded the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers to form a committee to discuss standardising iron and steel sections. This led to the creation of the British Standard Mark in 1903, which later become known as the Kitemark. Today it can be seen displayed on a variety of products, traditionally those which require a high level of safety.

Tramway rails were the first item to be standardised, with the introduction of the Kitemark reducing the number of Tramway gauges from 75 to 5. From April 1929, the British Engineering Standards Association was granted a royal charter.

The Kitemark on our B-type suggests the sort of quality that led to its reputation for reliability. It would have certified the construction methods and materials necessary to build a safe and effective wheel. Unfortunately, after further research we have been unable to locate the record for BS850 in the British Standards Institution archive. It possible that being such an early Kitemark, the record was simply lost as the technology evolved or became redundant. It is worth noting wheels with solid rubber tyres had almost completely vanished by the early 1930s whilst the only record found relating to BS number BS850 dates from 1939, and is completely unrelated to tyres.

Employees of the London General Omnibus Company were constantly advised to put ‘Safety First’ and the doctrine ran through to the design and construction of the vehicles used by the company. This small but important sign acknowledges this early emphasis on safety in transport.

B-type decorative fretwork

Fretwork is a form of decoration usually seen on wood and metal panels. It was particularly popular in the late 19th and early 20th century as a means of adding style to architecture, furniture and household items such as radios. Interestingly, the B-type bus also had distinctive fretwork motifs inside the lower deck saloon. Situated at the end of each aisle of seats, they were constructed through a series of drilled holes.

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During the restoration process, a number of designs were discovered which differ from the fretwork present in the B-type (B340) held in our Covent Garden museum. B340 is decorated with a London General Omnibus Company emblem – the distinctive winged wheel which was the basis of the London Underground roundel.

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Other popular designs included the outline of a star, an attractive fleur-de-lis and a clover leaf. The decorations were simply aesthetic additions to the saloon area which would have otherwise remained rather plain. This kind of decoration was a legacy of the horse bus era, when such fretwork was common. The B-type was the last London bus to display wooden fretwork and the practice soon disappeared. Buses became further standardised and there was no room for the intricate and unique detailing that had been a hallmark of their predecessors.

Thanks to Antony Roskoss for additional historical information

Toyland Mobilizing for Christmas in 1914

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Tony Sarg, In Toyland, 1913 © TfL

Throughout 1913, Tony Sarg produced a series of 12 posters called ‘Humours of London’ for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London. They were issued monthly and depicted humorous scenes of London’s famous places and activities.

For Christmas 1913, Sarg produced a poster called ‘In Toyland’ representing a scene of gift-buying frenzy. Children clamber on the floor with toys in hand, and rotund gentlemen struggle to carry their spoils. Despite Sarg’s gentle mockery of London’s materialism, there is a festive, joyful exuberance to the poster.

The 1913 poster was due to be the last in the ‘Humours’ series but 12 months later, the country was at war. In 1914 Sarg duly produced a topical version of his ‘In Toyland’ poster of the previous Christmas. The image in the top half was identical to the original, but the text and characters in the lower half were altered.

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Tony Sarg, Toyland mobilizing for Christmas, 1914 © TfL

Now the text read ‘Toyland mobilizing for Christmas. By Underground to the children’s recruiting depots’. The present-laden family group which originally occupied the space is replaced by toy soldiers in khaki, horse-drawn guns and ambulances. There is even a rather graphic depiction of an allied toy soldier standing on top of a vanquished, decapitated German combatant.

The poster was issued for Christmas 1914 and this patriotic version of the original would have been seen as a popular alternative to the usual Christmas poster. There was some initial optimism after the declaration of war that it would ‘all be over by Christmas’ but by the time December arrived it was obvious that it wouldn’t be.

Interestingly, Sarg actually originated from Germany. He entered a military academy when he was 14 years old and received a commission as lieutenant at the age of 17. However, in 1905 Sarg gave up his commission to the German military and moved to the United Kingdom, before finally moving to the United States in 1915.