With only two months to go until Remembrance Day in November, London Transport
Museum’s recently restored and converted B-type bus No.B2737 ‘Battle Bus’ will
visit Folkestone Town Centre on Thursday 18 September. It will be the first stop
before the bus travels via Eurotunnel to begin a ten day tour of battlefields across
Belgium and Northern France.
The commemorative tour will highlight the contributions and sacrifices made by
transport workers during the conflict and give the public an opportunity to find out
more about the role of London buses on the Western Front. It will also offer a unique
glimpse into the past as the bus – one of only four surviving B-type buses in the world
– recreates this journey for the first time in over a century.
The bus will enter Folkestone displaying a special destination board made of tulip
wood and carrying the name of the town, which will be presented to the Worshipful
Town Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Alan North to mark the commemorative visit.
The bus will then make the short journey to the Eurotunnel for the journey to Calais,
where it will be transported by a low loader provided by KBR – FTX Logistics, which
will manage all long distance movements of the Battle Bus during the tour.
Itinerary: Folkestone and Eurotunnel
08.45 The Leas: the bus will arrive for a ten minute photo call at the Step Short
Commemorative Arch, which sits at the top of the Road of Remembrance on
The Leas in Folkestone.
During the First World War, service personnel marched down the Road of
Remembrance on their way to the harbour. The Arch symbolises the sacrifice
that these soldiers made during the Great War and ensures their memory
09.00 Short tour from The Leas to Folkestone Town Hall: the bus will depart
from the Commemorative Arch and embark on a short tour en route to
Folkestone Town Hall.
10.00 Folkestone Town Hall: The bus will be on static display and the tulip wood
bus destination board will be presented to The Worshipful Town Mayor of
Folkestone, Councillor Alan North. Local school groups and invited guests will
be given the opportunity to climb aboard the bus.
12.40 The bus will be opened up to the general public.
14.00 The bus will depart from Folkestone Town Hall to travel to the Eurotunnel
15.05 Eurotunnel Terminal: The bus will drive onto the train and depart for its
journey to Calais.
About the First World War ‘Battle Buses’
The First World War was the first time motorised transport was used in a war. The
converted ‘Battle Buses’ would be driven to the Western Front, often by the same
men who had driven them along the streets of London only weeks before.
The buses were camouflaged by removing advertisements and signage, boarding up
the windows and painting the exterior khaki. Military markings were stencilled onto
the body, War Department headlamps fitted and each bus was equipped with a
pickaxe and shovel.
The buses were used to transport troops behind the lines and also served as
ambulances, anti-aircraft gun carriages, freight lorries and even messenger pigeon
lofts. The ‘Battle Buses’ often got into difficulties on narrow muddy country roads,
and usually had to travel by night because their height made them so visible. Despite
this, they were extremely reliable, and as London’s first standardised bus with
interchangeable mechanical parts damaged vehicles could more easily be salvaged
Often the Battle Bus drivers and mechanics would work under perilous conditions.
William Mahoney, an army driver between 1916 and 1917 recalled “Bang! Crash!!
Nearly on us. Nine men killed and 14 wounded only 50 yards away. My engine would
not start so we had to stay and repair it, the shells pounding around us”.
Transformation of B-type Bus No. B2737 into a ‘Battle Bus’
B-type bus No.2737 was restored to its former red and cream 1914 livery at the end
of 2013. In September 2014 it was transformed into First World War ‘Battle Bus’
appearance. Advertisements and signage were removed, the windows were boarded
up, military headlamps fitted, the body work painted khaki and the interior equipped
with a pickaxe and shovel.
The restoration and conversion have been made possible through a Heritage Lottery
Fund (HLF) grant which will also cover other activities including an apprenticeship
and community outreach programme. The project has also been supported by
London Transport Museum Friends and public donations.
Battle Bus tour of the Western Front
The bus will visit the following destinations on the Western Front:
19 September Poperinge
20 September Ypres
21 September Zonnebeke
23 September Arras
25 September Peronne
26 September Albert
Sam Mullins, Director of London Transport Museum said, “The London bus drivers’
contribution to the war effort of 1914 – 1918 is a little known aspect of the First World
War. Just behind the fighting lines, London Tommies would have found columns of
buses, those most ordinary symbols of everyday London, which like themselves had
gone from the streets of the Capital into the turmoil of war”.
Graeme McKirdy, Development Officer for Heritage Lottery Fund South East
England, said: “This legendary vehicle quite literally links the Home Front with the
Western Front. It is now about to embark on a journey through time from Folkestone
to Flanders fields as a superbly restored testament to the courage of London bus
crews – civilians pressed into service along with their vehicles – who gave unstinting
support to the war effort a century ago.”
Goodbye Piccadilly – from Home Front to Western Front
As part of the First World War centenary commemorations a special exhibition –
Goodbye Piccadilly – from Home Front to Western Front, which runs until March
2015, is on at London Transport Museum. It explores the contribution of London’s
motor buses and their drivers and mechanics in the First World War and the lives of
people living and working on the home front in London. Goodbye Piccadilly presents
a unique perspective on the First World War, exploring how the conflict accelerated
social change, how it impacted on the lives of Londoners, particularly women, and
the essential role made by bus service staff and buses to the war effort at home and
on the Western Front.
The B-type No.B2737 Battle Bus
· One of only four surviving B-type London buses, bus No. B2737 was built at the AEC Works in
Walthamstow in 1914 and served on route 9 out of Mortlake garage in south west London operating
between Barnes and Liverpool Street. At this time a single ticket cost 3½d.
· The B-type bus No. 2737 cost around £250,000 to restore and was made possible with a grant from the
Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with additional funding being provided by the London Transport Museum
Friends and public donations. The restoration is part of a five year First World War commemorative
project which includes an apprenticeship programme and collections support, as well as a programme of
learning and participation which will ensure that communities across London will have the chance to see
and learn about B2737, B-type buses and their role in the First World War through community exhibitions
and a touring programme.
About London Transport Museum
• London Transport Museum is situated in the heart of Covent Garden and filled with stunning exhibits;
the Museum explores the powerful link between transport and the growth of modern London, culture
and society since 1800. Historic vehicles, world-famous posters and the very best objects from the
Museum’s extraordinary collection are brought together to tell the story of London’s development
and the part transport played in defining the unique identity of the city.
• The Museum is an educational and heritage preservation charity. Its purpose is to conserve and
explain the history of London’s transport, to offer people an understanding of the Capital’s past
development and to engage them in the debate about its future. The Museum’s charity number is
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
• Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a
lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient
heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment
and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 36,000
projects with more than £6bn across the UK. Follow us on twitter @heritagelottery
About Year of the Bus
• During 2014 Transport for London and London Transport Museum celebrates the ‘Year of the Bus’ – a
series of engaging events, exhibitions, recreations and activities that will reconnect Londoners with
their bus network and remind the world of the incredible role it plays in this great city. For details of
these events visit www.tfl.gov.uk/yearofthebus.
· Year of the Bus is supported by and delivered in partnership with Exterion Media, Abellio, Arriva
London, Clear Channel UK, Go-Ahead London, Metroline, RATP Dev UK, Stagecoach, Wrightbus,
Optare and telent Technology Services.