Each of the Big Four railways published a history of its activities during WWII, but information about the effects of the war on bus services is harder to come by. Municipal Transport Department histories, usually published in association with the abandonment of tram services, contain some information about bus service during the period. There seems to be little in print regarding non municipal bus services possibly because although there appeared to be dozens of them prior to nationalisation , most belonged to one or other of two big conglomerations – BET (British Electric traction) and Thomas Tilling. I well remember struggling to comprehend the history of the British Bus Industry 50 years ago when studying for the Institute of Transport Examinations and being baffled… Despite being nominal rivals each held shares in the other, held shares in some of the rivals’ subsidiaries and even in at least one case, holding shares in a subsidiary which also held shares in the investing parent!
To make confusion worse, the railway companies held shares in many of the subsidiaries either as a result of a railway initiated bus service being taken over or by direct investment, and appointed Directors to the bus company boards. While some useful coordination of services resulted the railway nominees were under strict instruction to act in the best interest of the bus undertaking. The LNER regularly earned dividends of 4% on its bus investments. Considerably more than its railway earnings could pay to its own shareholders!
Only two of the companies in the group operated in Scotland and one, Crossville, in Wales. The others were all located east of a line drawn between Exeter and Darlington. A couple were still also operating trams. Daimler Hire Ltd. had no buses, and spent the War ferrying VIPs around and running a private ambulance service.
This is an unusual publication drawing together information not readily available elsewhere.
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