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My National Service, during the latter part of WWII was as a trolley bus woman conductor, by Georgina Lawson


My National Service, during the latter part of WWII was as a trolley bus woman conductor. I was directed, as all 18 year olds were. Firstly, I went to the GPO to try to become a telephonist, as I had learned the PBX board at Daniel Neals where I had worked from 15. However, they throw me back, as I was too short at 4 ft. 11 inches. You had to be at least 5ft.

I was then sent to London Transport and trained at Chiswick to conduct a trolley bus. The amusing thing was that, although I was considered too short to operate a switchboard I could conduct a trolley bus- even though, when standing in my correct position in the stair-well on the platform I could not reach the bell to send the bus off, but had to step inside the bus.

One of the procedures we had to perform was to take the 'poles' down and reset them on the 'wires' these had extremely strong springs to keep them in contact with the electric wires when in motion. The instructor told me to "tuck the long bamboo hook under your right arm-and take two steps back". This I did and as I only weighed 7 st 7 lbs at the time, when the spring was released the "pole" went straight up in the air with me hanging on to the bamboo hook for dear life. Other trainees grabbed me, otherwise I would have been flying over the wires bus and all! Needless to say, that was the one and only time I touched a 'pole'. If the driver was careless enough to have them off, from going too fast around bends he put them back.

The service I was on, came out of Stonebridge Park Depot (no longer there-it is a Business Park now) numbers 662 Paddington Green to Sudbury 664, Paddington Green to Edgware 660 Hammersmith to Tally Ho Finchley and 666 Hammersmith to Edgware. When the 662 became a 664 at Craven Park on certain journeys, the conductor had to pull down a lever rather like an old fashioned bell-pull. This changed the direction of the wires for us to take the right hand fork in the road. Here again I was at a disadvantage, because of my lack of height. I had to get off the bus to do this (others could just reach over) as a consequence, over the change had been made, my driver drove away before I could get back on the bus, leaving me stranded on the pavement. I had to take the next bus along to catch up with mine. Believe me that took a lot of living done back in the depot. We did shifts from 4 in the morning until 11 at night , when the night buses took over. On early shift I used to wait at the top of the road where I lived to get the last all night service back to the depot at 19 minutes past 3 am. Sometimes it went early or even late and I had to have my 'box' ready to take my bus out at 4 am.

An old school chum drove a van, which delivered the early morning papers, and he passed along about 330 and always gave me a lift if I needed it. The 'box' I referred to held our tickets and rack together with our fleet and bad and ticket punch. We had to check the serial numbers of the tickets to be sure they were in sequence as they were classed as money and any missing had to be paid for. The same for forged money and foreign coins-Irish coins were the bain of our lives. In the dark of the inside of the bus and in a hurry it was difficult to tell until too late. We paid into a fund out of our pay-just coppers to claim back any dud coins. We used also to issue 'Workmens Return' tickets these were valid each morning up until 8am an should be clipped on the return journey to cancel then, it was the Devils own job to prize these away from some of the old boys on the top deck. They looked on them as a season ticket and kept them in their tobacco tins, allowing only a brief glimpse. With a full bus and twelve passengers standing downstairs, you had no time to argue.

Two other incidents I recall other than the usual dash under the bridge a Ravenscourt Park, the siren always sounded when we reached that point, and as it was the conductors responsibility, the driver would call out to ask if I wanted to stop and shelter or carry on. As we were right beside a railway line which was a frequent target my answer was "leave" and at the double too! I was at the Tally Ho Corner when the Buzz bombs fell on Smithfield Market and buses, which were in that area came in the station there. You would have thought they had been in a battlefield. Pasted up windows all blown out, great gashes in the sides and the conductors and drivers bloodied and bandaged. They were given 3 days off to recuperate. The other incident was not so traumatic. I was on 4 hours on, 4 hours off and 4 hours on again. I went to Daniel Neals to see my old mates, and came back on the underground. When we reached Kensal Green, a bomb had fallen on the line and trains went no further, so everyone else I went out to continue my journey by bus. Because of the delay I was four minutes late taking out my bus so it was gone! A relief crew had been put on it and I lost the rest of the day's pay. On my day off I was summoned to Manor House to give an account of my late arrival. However, I was not excused as I was not injured, merely had my journey interrupted. What a difference to today's service. No one seems to care if the buses run on time, or even if they run at all.