ENTHUSIASTS are painstakingly restoring what will become the world’s only working First World War Battle Bus, exactly a century after they transport troops to war. The iconic bus, which ferried hundreds of thousands of British soldiers to the front line, is being built using original parts salvaged over ten decades. The Heritage Lottery Fund-financed project will see the B-type bus become the centrepiece of shows and displays to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War. Described as the Routemaster of its day, B-type buses were London transport workhorses requisitioned on the eve of war to take troops and equipment to the western front. In little over a year, London Transport Museum will transform B1056, the bus being brought back into service, from a heap of thousands of spare parts to a fully-restored vehicle in its original wartime livery. It will be used to tell the moving story of how it helped win the war and change attitudes to women.
The bus in wartime (London Transport Museum)
Martin Harrison-Putnam, who is leading the project, said: “There are few things that say London quite like the buses made famous by the city, so this project is vitally important. “During the First World War the London bus was iconic but it was also the vehicle that ferried hundreds of thousands of people to the frontline. Of course, many never returned. “The story has got a little lost in history but we want this to resonate with people. “The B-type bus was the Routemaster of its day and we want to bring history to life again, reconnecting people with the amazing story about how London buses, drivers and conductors did so much to support the war effort on both home and fighting fronts.” Unmistakable in sight and sound, the B-type bus was still in its infancy when war in Europe erupted in 1914. But such was its early reputation for reliability, around 1,500 vehicles were rapidly pressed into military service. The vehicles became the workhorses of the Army Service Corps and were used to lug heavy equipment and turned into ambulances and makeshift hospitals.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded London Transport Museum £700k to fully restore the bus
Some were even converted into pigeon lofts enabling a crack team of messenger birds to carry vital information to and from the frontline. Experts have never underestimated the role the much-loved Battle Buses played in the war effort but very few have seen a fully-working vehicle, let alone experienced the thrill of travelling in one. The London Transport Museum was awarded £700,000 to make the B-type bus the centrepiece a fully-working wartime relic and teach a new generation of children one of the most important stories of British social change. The motorised B-type buses were operated by the London General Omnibus Company as the answer to the Tube. From 1907 they painted all their buses red, a tradition that is still alive today. The first 60, made in 1910, quickly proved themselves better and more reliable than any other contemporary London bus. By 1913 2,500 had been produced, heralding the end of horse buses. The War Office requisitioned more than a third of the fleet and almost 1,500 were sent overseas to the battlefront, driven by volunteers drivers. Women were employed for the first time by the transport companies as conductors, clerks and cleaners while the men were at war and their roles paved the way for a social revolution. By 1915, 60 per cent of bus staff in London were women but they were sacked at the end of the war, since jobs had been kept open for returning soldiers. Heritage Lottery Fund chairman Dame Jenny Abramsky said: “It is fantastic that support from the Heritage Lottery Fund will now restore one of the last-known surviving B-type buses so it can tell the story of the Britain’s wartime bus fleet and their brave civilian drivers to a new generation, as we prepare to mark the centenary of the War.” * Next month the Heritage Lottery Fund will launch First World War: Then and Now, a £6million small grants programme to help communities commemorate the landmark anniversary. The charity is making £1million available every year of the programme, which will run until 2019, providing grants between £3,000 to £10,000 to projects exploring the impact of the conflict on their communities. For more information and to apply visit www.hlf.org.uk Source: Express Via: Forces War Records Blogs.