Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, October 19, 2020

Battle Buses

London Double-Deckers on the Way to the Western Front

A Bus for London 

Developed by the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC), the B-type was the first successful mass-produced motor bus. Introduced in 1910, it was designed and built in London. Within 18 months the LGOC had replaced its entire fleet of horse-drawn omnibuses. By 1913 there were 2,500 B-type buses in service, each carrying 340,000 passengers a year along the capital’s busy roads. 

View from the Top

At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, buses were commandeered for the war effort. Over 1,000 LGOC buses, one third of their fleet, were sent to the front. Most went to France and Belgium, some even as far as Greece. The buses served various roles. Many were used for transporting troops to and from the front lines. They were fitted with protective boarding and painted khaki. Each vehicle could carry 25 soldiers and their equipment, compared to 34 seated passengers in London. Some buses were converted into lorries, others served as ambulances or even mobile pigeon lofts. After the war, surviving buses that could be repaired returned to the streets of London. 

Note the Side Protection Added in 1915

Impact on the Home Front

Many drivers and mechanics were recruited for war service along with their vehicles. This resulted in shortages of both buses and staff on the home front. For the first time women were employed as conductorettes and mechanics to keep London moving.

Home Front Tram and Battle Bus

Between 2014 and 2018 an authentically restored Battle Bus took part in events in the UK, France, and Belgium. London Transport Museum’s restored B-type bus, fleet number B2737, served Route 9 between Barnes and Liverpool Street from January 1914. When war broke out, it was commandeered by the War Department. Returning to London after the war still in khaki livery, about 250 of B2737 was used as a "Traffic Emergency Bus" —an austere solution to postwar bus shortages. In 1922 it was sold to the National Omnibus & Transport Company for use outside London. The restoration was completed in June 2014. After a busy 2014 summer attending events in original red and cream LGOC livery, the bus was converted into a military troop carrier and taken on a commemorative tour of the Western Front.

No comments:

Post a Comment