Page last updated 19 January 2013
John Parkin's fine shot of
RF516 on a 219 BAC Works journey south of
Weybridge Station shows at least two of the 'bullet holes' that are
the subject of Ian's story - above the rear left flasher.
'Did you ever wonder why most RFs (at least those out of
Kingston) had a number of what looked like bullet holes, about
three-quarters of an inch in diameter, across the rear panels,
about five feet above the ground? These holes weren’t
anything to do with enemy action (unless the night running shift
was classed as ‘the enemy’). Careful exanimation would show
that most were dents rather than holes, as few of them completely
penetrated the panels.
The story (or one of them) behind these holes is the way the
buses were parked up at night on the Kingston garage forecourt
after they had been cleaned and fuelled up for the following
day. As soon as nine-thirty pm arrived, all the late
terminating buses pulled into the bus station at the front of the
garage to stand across it awaiting their next journey, rather than
entering via the rear entrance in Cromwell Road and standing in
rows (front to back) as they did during the day. The running
shift shunter would then bring the ‘dead’ buses through from the
fuel pump and back them up against the wall which separated the
forecourt from the workshop at the back. So far so
good. But often the ‘shunter’ worked without the assistance
of a banksman to guide him back. No problem. When the
bus reached the wall, it naturally came to a stop (the law of
opposing forces). Job done.
But during the run-in they had to get three ranks of buses in,
and from the wall to the pavement there wasn’t really room for
three ranks so they had to keep the gaps between vehicles to an
absolute minimum – or less. And without a banksman to see him
back, the shunter occasionally (well about ninety-nine per cent of
the time), misjudged the distance. And the part of an RF that
sticks out the furthest is the three-quarter inch diameter
stud/rivet that holds the nearside windscreen wiper.
Voila! One hole per night per vehicle.
Now the shunter couldn’t always be blamed for these holes.
Occasionally the drivers were the culprits. Not me of course
because I would never do anything so childish. However, I do
recall an incident late one night at Staines West old station bus
stand in Wraysbury Road involving two 218s, when another driver did
Because the 218 running time to
Kingston was so ridiculously generous (at 10 o’clock at night it
could be done at a comfortable thirty mph in around forty minutes
instead of the hour and eight minutes given), and with a ten to
twenty minute stand and a half-hour headway, one bus often wouldn’t
depart until well after the one behind pulled in. In other words,
the drivers were leaving anything up to thirty-five minutes late
and you’d still be early in Kingston. Of course Gold Badge
Lenny Britton and his Silver Badge mate Mr Wiggins were well aware
this sort of thing was going on and did their best to put a stop to
it, but they couldn’t be everywhere and they had a big area and a
lot of routes to cover.
However, to return to the incident at Staines West: I was
sitting in the cab of a 216 taking my
stand (the running times were less generous on the 216s and
therefore we didn’t push our luck to quite the same extent) with a
218 parked over to my left in complete darkness (the driver had
gone ‘up the top’ for a cup of tea). 'Up the top' at Staines
West was an expression we used when going off to find liquid
refreshment. There was a cafe up the hill in Bridge Street
(just before the foot of Staines Bridge). My wife's late
uncle (George Hook, a long serving conductor at Kingston) always
said; "a good busman can always find a cup of tea no matter what
the time of day or night". Mind you, it wouldn't surprise me
if some of them found something a little bit stronger although, as
a teetotaller, I couldn't attest to that.
A second 218 arrived and swung round in the forecourt and pulled
up behind the first, but at a slight angle. From somewhere, a
voice shouted out something about running up the a**e of the one in
front. We all knew about the little dents that would appear
as if by magic if you did.
Thereupon the second 218 inched forward until it made contact
with the one in front . . . with disastrous results. Because,
unless the two buses were in an absolutely straight line, the
leading part of the second bus was not the round rivet holding the
nearside windscreen wiper, but the offside mirror bracket . . .
which was made of chunky, heavy duty metal. So, on this particular
occasion, instead of an almost inaudible bump, there came the sound
of shattering glass, as the bracket went through the rear offside
window of the bus in front.
"Now what am I going to do?" asked the recently-arrived driver
in dismay, upon realising what he’d done (by this time the
instigator had gallantly declaimed all responsibility). The
driver of the first bus was equally distraught when he returned
because they knew that one or other of them was going to get the
blame and be required to ‘sign up for it’. (More than three
signatures in a year and that was the end of your £200 annual
"Not a problem," said I, who should already have departed before
the second 218 arrived (and could therefore not be called upon to
perjure myself as a witness, even if I could invent a good story).
"It goes like this: As you pulled into the stand there was a group
of youths throwing stones near the bus. They ran off as you pulled
up so you didn’t get a good look at them, but when you got out, you
spotted that the window of the first 218 bus was broken, so it must
have been the youths. I’ve no doubt that if you look inside the bus
you’ll probably find a large pebble." And it just so happens
that that is exactly what they did find.
And so neither lost their Christmas bonus that
year. I never did find out if they claimed the fifteen
minutes overtime docket, to which each driver was entitled for
filling in the occurrence reports...'