Battle Bus

"We started our engines, our hearts in our mouths. Bang! Crash!! Nearly on us. Nine men killed and 14 wounded only 50 yards away. My engine would not start so there we had to stay and repair it, shells pouring around us." William Mahoney, ASC bus driver 1916-17

During the First World War, over 1,000 London buses, their drivers and mechanics were commandeered to transport troops and equipment to and from the battlefields. They worked day and night in appalling conditions and some were among the 1,429 transport staff who lost their lives.

The restoration of B2737

To mark the centenary of the First World War, London Transport Museum has restored one of the last surviving London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) B-type buses into working condition. On 12 June 2014, B-type Fleet No. 2737 was unveiled on Covent Garden Piazza, resplendent in its red and cream livery, and featuring advertisements from the pre-war era - including Camp coffee, Veno’s cough medicine and Wright’s coal tar soap.

Full press release

B2737 will take part in a number of celebratory events for Year of the Bus throughout the summer. Read our Battle Bus Museum blog and see images of the restoration in progress on Flickr.

The restoration was made possible by the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, London Transport Museum Friends and individual donors.

From London Bus to Battle Bus

From 8 to 11 September, B2737 will be transformed into its military appearance to commemorate 100 years since B-type buses were commandeered for war service along with their civilian drivers. The conversion will take place at London Transport Museum and the public will have the opportunity to witness the process (museum admission applies).

Commemorative journey to the Western Front

From 18 to 29 September, B2737 will be travelling to the battlefields of France and Belgium to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by transport workers during the war. The bus will be visiting key sites including Poperinge, Ypres, Zonnebeke, Peronne and Albert.

Our crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the journey has now ended and we would like to thank all those who contributed.

You can still help us get Battle Bus ready for its journey to the Western Front by supporting our Help us get Battle Bus back on the road campaign . Your donation, big or small, will help us pay tribute to the drivers, transport workers and troops who lost their lives during the First World War.

The B-type: A Brief History

Introduced in 1910, the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) B-type was London’s first successful mass-produced motorbus, able to cope in the chaotic and overcrowded city.

After the outbreak of the war in 1914, London buses, along with their drivers and mechanics, were commandeered for the war effort. The first B-type buses to reach France still bore the red and white livery of LGOC, complete with destination boards and advertisements. Later they were fitted with protective wooden boarding and painted khaki for camouflage.

They transported troops to and from the Front Line and were put to use as ambulances and even mobile pigeon lofts. Over 1,000 LGOC vehicles went on war service, most to France and Belgium, with some travelling as far afield as Egypt. Many of the B-types which were not sent overseas were allocated to home services such as London defence, hospital and convalescent home duties.

After four years of heavy use in appalling conditions, a few B-types were overhauled and returned to London’s streets. They were finally retired from service in London in 1928.

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