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Revealing the story of London’s Transport At War 1

Illuminated Underground sign and London's Transport At War

Courtesy London Transport Museum

Matt Brosnan, Head Curator at London Transport Museum, on their new London Transport at War gallery

Through both the First and Second World Wars, London’s transport played a vital role in contributing to the wider war effort. It provided people, vehicles, industrial expertise and underground spaces to both the armed forces and the home front.

The newly refurbished London Transport at War gallery at London Transport Museum tells the stories of the transport workers who kept the city moving during those uncertain and dangerous times.

During the First World War, many male transport workers volunteered for the armed forces. Some enlisted independently, while others did so with their employer’s support.

They fulfilled a variety of military roles, with some using their specific driving and mechanical skills, such as bus drivers taking their buses to transport troops on the Western Front.

black and white photo of WWI soldiers crowded onto a double decker bus

Troops on a converted bus on their way to the front, 1914. Courtesy London Transport Museum

a museum display case with a Princess Mary tin, medal and photographs of veteran bus driver

A display featuring photos and objects relating to bus driver, Charles Lee, who took his bus to the Western Front. Courtesy London Transport Museum.

photo of four soldiers marching past parked double decker buses

A corporal and 3 soldiers of the London Transport Home Guard, 1941 copyright TfL care of London Transport Museum

In both conflicts, women fulfilled an increasing variety of jobs on the network. In the First World War, around 18,000 women worked for London’s transport companies.

This set a precedent for the Second World War, when 20,000 women worked for London Transport in an even greater variety of roles. Women worked on vehicles and at stations, serving as conductors, guards, ticket collectors and lift attendants.

They also performed a variety of jobs behind the scenes, including in engineering and maintenance roles.

photo of a woman bus conductor next to her bus

One of London’s first woman bus conductors, Mrs G Duncan, employed by Thomas Tilling in 1915, poses in front of a Tilling bus. Courtesy London Transport Museum

poster featuring a female clippie - or bus ticket collector

Seeing it through, 1944 copyright TfL care of London Transport Museum

a photo of a girls in school uniform boarding trams

Schoolgirls being evacuated in 1939 (C) TfL from London Transport Museum collection

In the Second World War, London Transport played a major role in building bomber aircraft, and stations on the Underground provided much-needed shelter from air raids on London.

During the Blitz between September 1940 and May 1941, the Underground’s deepest stations were used every night by shelterers. London Transport was also tasked with constructing eight deep-level shelters, which were used from 1944 when London came under renewed attack.

wartime photo of people on a tube platform during the Blitz

People sheltering on a platform at Picadilly Circus (C) TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Black and white image of a group of people sheltering at Aldwych Station. People are sleeping on both the tracks and the station platform.

Shelterers at Aldwych Station 1940. Photo Associated Press. © original copyright expired

blackout poster with a face peering through a triangle

In the Blackout, 1943 copyright TfL care of London Transport Museum

display with poster in the blackout show a hand

London’s Transport at War Gallery. Courtesy London Transport Museum

Above all the wartime contributions of London’s transport services, perhaps the most essential was their ability to keep the Capital moving in the most challenging of circumstances.

Despite air raids, an altered workforce, requisitioned vehicles and a lack of resources, the Tube trains, buses and trams still ran, and Londoners were still carried from A to B.

Gallery shot showing display cases posters and artefacts

London’s Transport at War Gallery. Courtesy London Transport Museum

The newly refurbished London Transport at War gallery is now open at London Transport Museum www.ltmuseum.co.uk/visit/museum-guide/londons-transport-war

Read more about London’s transport during wartime in their Collections online www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/stories/war

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London Transport Museum

London, Greater London

London Transport Museum explores the story of London and its transport system over the last 200 years, highlighting the powerful link between transport and the growth of modern London, culture and society since 1800. We care for over 450,000 items - preserving, researching and acquiring objects to use in our…

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