A recent transfer of records from the City of Belleville included an intriguing framed item from the British Travel Association, bringing warm greetings to the Mayor and People of Belleville through the medium of the Good Will Caravan of London Buses. The item has been duly added to the Community Archives (reference number CB 6/09) and we have done some more research online and in our newspaper collection to tease out its history.
Tourism from North America has always been a significant source of income to Great Britain, as this article from the Ontario Intelligencer in 1952 makes clear:
Visitors from Canada, States Spent 22,500,000 Pounds in Britain in ’51
By JACK GOLDING
Canadian Press Staff Writer .
LONDON (CP)—Visitors from Canada and the United States spent an estimated 22,250,000 pounds in Britain during 1951, not including fares, says the 24th annual report of the British Travel and Holidays Association.
Tourist traffic again represented one of the country’s chief sources of earning Canadian and American dollars. One-third of Britain’s total tourist receipts came from the United States or Canada.
Some 36,000 Canadians visited Britain in 1951, an increase of 5.7 per cent over the previous year. The report notes, however, that there was a tendency for them to spend more time on the continent
than previously. Canadians entering the United Kingdom in 1951 spent 5,950,000 pounds, including fares.
U. S. visitors spent 26,400,000 pounds including fare payments, a sum greater than any of Britain’s visible exports to the United States and equivalent to 20 per cent of all Britain’s physical exports there.
In order of importance in earning U.S. dollars for Britain are: tourists, whisky, woollen yarns and manufactured products, vehicles, other textile manufactures (excluding silk), machinery, . pottery, glass, cotton yarns and manufactures.
Britain expects to make 120,000,000. pounds from the tourist business during 1952 largely in Canadian and U.S. dollars.
The Good Will Caravan of London Buses was part of a campaign by the British Travel Association, in co-operation with London Transport, to encourage more Americans and Canadians to visit the United Kingdom. In 1950 a similar tour had visited European countries to promote the 1951 Festival of Britain, travelling 4,000 miles/6,500 kilometres.
The 1952 tour had started in America in March. This British Pathé news item shows the arrival of the three brand new London Buses in New York:
The buses travelled west to Los Angeles and San Francisco via Cincinnati, Dallas, and Albuquerque, then east again via Salt Lake City, Denver and Chicago. While still in America, it was decided to extend the 8,000 mile/13,000km tour to include eastern Canada. The buses visited London, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
The buses arrived in Trenton on July 30th, 1952 and in Belleville on the following day. An advertisement in the Ontario Intelligencer on July 30th promoted the Belleville visit:
Three of London England’s
Famous Double Deck Buses
Will visit BELLEVILLE
ON SHOW JULY 31
from 10.00 a.m. till 12.00 noon
They bring to you greetings and good wishes
from the heart of the Commonwealth. To some
of you they are old friends, turning up where
least expected. To many they are just something
you have read about. But old friends or new
acquaintances, they are an interesting part of old
London, and you will like to see them and
perhaps ride in one of them.
You will like the Cockney Crews that bring
these buses to you. Come along and meet
them. These Crews and thousands like
them braved the blitzes and the blackouts
and they have already driven from
coast to coast to come and
see your town. The British Travel
Association and the London
Transport Executive are
delighted to send you this
goodwill Cavalcade and their
The newspaper reported on the visits the following day:
British Buses Stop in Town – For Short Visit
TRENTON. — Speaking of big ones fishermen Charlie Hilton and Bill O’Malley of Trenton, caught a salmon trout worthwhile bragging about. They were fishing at Buck Lake the other day and hooked a 15-pound beauty. They were surprised at, the size of the huskie and the fight it put up. It took them just three minutes to heave the big fellow over the side and into their boat. They were using copper line about 150 feet down.
The three British buses travelling United States and Canada arrived here yesterday afternoon, after making a 60 mile detour at Brighton. They came by the back road from Stirling because the bridge crossing the Trent river is not high enough to allow double decked buses to pass.
E. T.Bonny, Osterjey, Isleworth, Middlesex, and a crew driving and maintaining the trams, were greeted here by Mayor Kenneth J. Couch and a delegation from, the town. Mr. Bonny said it. was interesting to note that in London, Canada, the entourage had received the biggest reception. Some 2,800 persons were taken for rides during the stopover there. The expedition was sponsored by the British Travel Association.
Already the three buses with accompanying maintenance vehicles have travelled 9,500 miles across the United States from New York to Los Angeles and back across the country into Canada. At the “hole in the wall” on No. 2 highway at Newcastle the buses scraped through with a half inch to spare.
In Trenton several hundred were taken on sight seeing tours.
Double Decker London Buses, Personnel on Goodwill Tour Of Ontario Welcomed by City
Double decker London Transport buses on the final lap of a 10,000-mile goodwill tour through United States and Canada provided a tinge of nostalgia for many Belleville and district residents from “over home” when they stopped in the city overnight.
The three double decker buses off the streets of Old London arrived in the city last evening and this morning were viewed by several thousand local residents. Many took the advantage of a short ride in one of the buses and a big percentage of the people. viewing the buses were former English people who had come to Canada to live.
It was a bit of Old England as the Cockney voices answered questions of dozens of interested persons who crowded into the market square area while the buses were on display. People who had visited England or former residents who had not been back home in years sought out the English drivers and conductors with questions relating to “over home” or about the tour.
Kiddies Get Big Kick
Local kiddies got a big kick out of their upper deck ride about the city and the bus did a roaring business during the several hours, in which free rides were offered.
One of the buses was fitted out as a display vehicle with the top deck fitted out with colored pictures of typical English scenery and other points of interest.
Travelling with the buses is a personnel of 22 including drivers, mechanics and representatives of. the British Travel Association, which with London Transport, are joint sponsors of the tour.
The party left England about the middle of March and toured the United States and are returning by way of Canada. They will be away from England about five months.
“Not a holiday, but a real experience,” was the way one of the Cockney drivers described
At a civic reception tendered the touring personnel held at the city hall. Mr. Harry Price, public relations representative for the tour, explained that. insofar as Canada was concerned the trip was a goodwill tour. “The American phase of the tour was more of an educational nature,” he said;
Welcomed by Mayor
Mayor A. M. Haig expressed the official welcome to the tdUr personnel and assured that anything concerning England was dear to the hearts of most residents of this city and district.
Attending the reception were most of the city aldermen; heads of civic bodies and presidents of various service clubs and other organizations. Coffee and doughnuts were served by the ladies of the city hall staff.’
Following their arrival in the city last night, Mr. Price, Edwin Hills and Edwin T. Bonny, mechanical supervisor, were entertained to dinner by the Industrial Commission.
The high double decker English buses are not built for Canadian highways, it has been found by their drivers, who have to make numerous; detours around low bridges and subways.
Had to Make Detour
For instance they could not get under the highway bridge at Trenton and had to go north around by Campbellford to get across the Trent River.
Double, decker buses are favored in England because of their high seating capacity-56 passengers—with compact dimensions. It is explained that short highly manoeuvrable vehicles are essential in many of England’s old cities and towns with their traffic congested, narrow winding streets and sharp corners.
They are powered with 125 horsepower diesel engines. London Transport has 7,250 double deck buses, and another 1,000 single deckers.
The buses returned to England in August 1952 and entered normal service in London. One of the buses was acquired by the London Bus Museum in 1977 and has been restored to its condition at the time of the 1952 tour. It is now on display at the museum.
Does anyone remember the visit of the buses to Trenton or Belleville?