National Express researches stories behind bus cenotaph names

National Express West Midlands has worked with local historian and teacher Doug Smith to research the names of the brave soldiers honoured on the bus operator’s cenotaph.

The cenotaph, which is located at the Transport Stadium in Kings Heath, bearsthe names of the 236 Birmingham bus and tram workers who fought and died in both World Wars.

To honour the 100 year anniversary of World War one Doug, his students and National Express West Midlands have researched the lives of those named and published a book to celebrate their achievements, lives and sacrifice.

Doug’s research has unearthed some wonderful stories of the men who left Birmingham’s public transport to fight including:

  • A tram motorman, Thomas Rafferty, who was the inspiration for the war time cartoon ‘Old Bill’
  • A member of head office staff, James Cunliffe, who was an inventor and recently patented a design for improving the flow of electricity to trams. He was also awarded a Military Cross for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’.
  • Four tram men who were recognised for bravery in a 1916 edition of the Birmingham Post and called on the photo to be published back home to ‘show the defectors’.
  • An engineer, Harold Davies, who won a Military Cross for bravery in a dog fight over enemy lines

Doug and his students also tracked down the family of Rifleman Charles Gilbert who was a conducted on the Washwood Heath services and died in action in France, 100 years to the day of his death.

Books can be purchased at National Express West Midlands travelshops, garages and the Bordesley Green head office. The bus operator is asking for donations of a minimum of five pounds for a copy of the book, every penny of which will go to the Royal British Legion.

Photoshows the family of Rifleman Charles Gilbert with Doug Smith and the National Express West Midlands cenotaph.