The Role of the Women

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Buses were the most widely used form of public transport.
Before the war, horses had pulled buses, but London's last horse bus was replaced just as the war started. Motor buses took over from horses
Buses were open-topped and had two decks. A conductor rang the bell for the driver to stop. When everyone was on board, the conductor rang the bell again to tell the driver it was safe to go.
The bus which one soldier took to Ypres was the same one, with the same driver, which he used to catch to get to work every morning before the war.

The conductors wore a ticket machine and a moneybag on straps round their neck.
Within a few days of war being declared, the streets of Britain began to change, especially in London. The streets started to sound quieter.
Almost 300 buses had stopped carrying people to work and the shops. Now, with volunteer drivers, the buses were on a different route - taking troops to France and Belgium.
The buses that remained in the towns and cities were very overcrowded. Just as for other types of transport, women took up the jobs left by men. The women who worked as conductors were often called Clippies.

Battle Buses

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The end of the war would involve almost 1,000 London buses involved in war work. Some were used as ambulances to carry wounded soldiers to safety.

Some even had special boxes built on top to bring homing pigeons to the front line. These were birds used for carrying messages. Three years before war was declared, Leeds was the first British city to have trolleybuses.

These looked like trams but did not need tracks or tramlines to run on as they had tyres. Poles on the roof making contact with overhead electric lines powered them.
During the war, the trolleybus service stopped working because the parts needed to maintain the vehicles were made in German and there was no way British companies could get hold of them.

Florence Cordell was one of the first women to work as a bus conductor in Britain. She, along with hundreds of other women, worked as a ‘conductorette’ for LGOC during the First World War, replacing the men who had left their jobs for war service.
Before the First World War, she earned 16 shillings a week making luxury lampshades, a skilled job. After the war began, it became clear that she would soon be out of work: people no longer needed such extravagances.
In 1916, she started her training as a bus conductor, strictly a man's job until that point. She was hired to replace a man like her husband who was a bus conductor. He had gone to France to fight in the war. Cordell was 31 years old.
The fortnight's training took place at the London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C) Training School at Millman Street in Chelsea. First, however, Cordell had to pass the medical, an I.Q. and a maths test, to prove she was fit to, and capable of, doing the work.

Cordell completed the training and qualified as a bus conductor. She and two other women were based at Willesden Garage, since this was close to where they lived. The three of them did not have a regular bus but did 'spare work', filling in for other conductors. The three women became close friends. Cordell remained friends with one of the women for the rest of her life.
While they worked at Willesden, the women bus conductors were paid 5 shillings a week less than their male counterparts for the same work. Both men and women disagreed with this. Eventually the bus conductors went on strike to gain equal pay. The men had an interest beyond simple fairness in supporting the cause. They did not want the women's wages to undercut theirs in case theL.G.O.C. kept women on after the war ended, putting the men's jobs at risk.
Florence Cordell remembered the men being 'not too bad to work with'. She was now earning £2-3 a week, which was very good money for a woman then.
As with all women who worked on the buses during the war, the end of the fighting in 1918 meant Cordell lost her job as the returning men replaced her.