In August 1914 the British government requisitioned over 1000 red double decker London buses and sent them to France to act as troop transports, ambulances and mobile lofts for carrier pigeons on the Western Front. Many of them drove around the French battlefields for a time in their red livery, with London locations such as ‘Piccadilly Circus’ on their destination boards and advertisements on their sides, before being eventually painted over.
Author Carol Godsmark is a journalist and publicist who was captivated to hear about the buses when reading an article about the London Transport Museum’s restoration of one particular bus, now on view at the museum.
Following extensive research at the Imperial War Museum and many other sources, her latest novel All Change tells the story of World War 1 through the eyes of Ted Digby, a middle-aged bus driver who – on an impulse – signs up without telling his wife or daughter. With him is his young co-driver, Billy.
On the Western Front, Ted and Billy join a shell-shocked pigeon handler, an ex- London wheeler-dealer and a sadistic sergeant. At home, his wife and daughter become involved in the war effort, manufacturing armament at the Woolwich Arsenal. All of their lives change forever, but who will thrive and survive? And will Ted’s reckless gamble pay off long-term?
This novel of the untold story of the iconic red double decker buses taken from the streets of London for use at the Western Front in World War 1 is available in hardback and paperback from Waterstones, Amazon and Foyles.