logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Travelling on London buses
in the 1940s and 50s

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Double decker and single decker buses

1940s and 50s red double decker London bus with no doors and a pole to grab onto while climbing onto the bus.

Red double-decker London bus with no doors. Detail from a screenshot of an old film.

1940s and 1950s London bus with only one desk, suitable for routes with low bridges

The 240A bus that took me school in Mill Hill from my home in Edgware when the weather was too bad to cycle. It was a single decker because it had to pass under a low bridge.  The council provided me - and all school children - with a free bus pass because I lived more than 3 miles from the school. Detail from a photograph in London Bus Museum at Brooklands.

Edgware, where I lived in the 1940s and early 1950s, was part of the London Transport area. So all the buses were red. Most were double-deckers, but the 240A bus, which went between Edgware and Mill Hill East. was a single-decker because it had to pass under a low bridge. This was the bus that I took to my second school.

Entrance to a 1940s/1950s red double-decker London bus - small image

Entrance to a red double-decker bus, showing the grab pole, the container for used tickets and the stairs to the top deck. Photographed at the London Transport Museum. (The no-entry sign placed by the museum has been digitally removed to represent the original appearance.)

Click for a larger image which shows more detail.

The buses had no doors, just an open platform with a vertical pole to hold onto while climbing aboard. This meant that passengers could get on and off buses while they were moving, which of course was recognised as unsafe. The trick for getting off a bus before it had quite stopped was to make sure that you were facing the direction of travel. Otherwise you would be knocked over backwards.

The platform of the double decker buses led directly to the stairs to the upper-deck and to the seats on the lower-deck.

Under the stairs was a space for luggage and a lockable compartment for the bus staff.

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Comfort on buses

Having no closing doors and being unheated, the buses were effectively open to the outside, letting in the cold and the fog - although they were an improvement from the buses with no roofs in my mother's childhood of the early 1900s.

In the very cold winters of 1947 and 1963, the condensation iced up the windows, and icicles grew from the ceilings. Some were 6-8 inches long.

I don't know whether any of the icicles ever broke off, but if so it would have been perilous for anyone sitting underneath. As it was, tall passengers had to duck as they moved to a seat.

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Adverts on buses

The eyes advert for Picture Post on 1940s buses

Bus showing the 'eyes' advert for Picture Post. Photo courtesy of Peter Hambrook.

I saw a lot of buses when I was growing up because the Edgware bus terminus was so close to where I lived. My first recollection was of the buses like the one in the photo with the 'eyes'. Every bus seemed to have these eyes. They were actually advertising a magazine, but, as a young child, I didn't realise this and thought that the buses were given eyes, just as my dolls and teddy bears were given eyes. After all, buses needed to see where they were going. I was quite concerned when new adverts eventually replaced the eyes.

'Make do and mend' advert on the side of a bus during WW2

'Make do and mend' advert on the side of a bus. Photographed in London Bus Museum at Brooklands.

Another advert that deserves a place here, although I hardly noticed it at the time, was the 'Make do and Mend' one which aimed to encourage everyone to cope in the rationing and shortages of the Second World War and the years of austerity afterwards.

If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.