How London managed to keep its public transport networks running during wartime is the topic of a new permanent exhibition at the London Transport Museum.
It takes in a broad sweep of both WW1 and WW2, looking at how London’s transport coped with the absence of men, the wartime damage, and the usual tasks that the transport network was put to.
The evacuation, the use of buses as mobile canteens, the use of bus garages to build bomber planes. And of course, the rise of women workers in the male-dominated field – and how they were dismissed back to the kitchen after the war.
There’s a series of posters produced during WW2 called “Back room boys – they also serve”, even though many of the workers featured in the posters were women. There’s a section given over to a little-remembered incident during WW1 when 17,000 women went on strike as they were denied the war bonus offered to men. They finally got the bonus, but were never offered equal pay.
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The deprivations of war on the transport network are also highlighted, such as the need to reuse paper, with many documents written on both sides or invoices printed on the back of letters.
A video room behind the main display has a neat mirror trick, sending a railway track running around a corner into infinity, although that may prove a bit too distracting for some younger visitors.
As an exhibition, it’s mainly a collection of photos and signs from the era, with notes explaining their significance. It can be described as nuggets of information that may spark interest in digging deeper into the stories.
It’s open now, as part of the permanent displays at the London Transport Museum. It’s included in the standard entry price.