The Last of the Prewar Drivers
By A. J. Leadbetter
I joined East Kent as a driver in 1937 and am now the last of the prewar drivers to survive. I was with East Kent until my retirement in 1977.
I remember back to the 1920’s when Timpsons were running charabangs in Hastings. They then uprooted and moved to Catford. Maidstone & District were running Tilling Stevens Petrol Electric double deckers in the late twenties.
When my family moved to Northiam in 1927 I got to know Bill Dengate so I well remember his Napiers. He later ran two Thorney Crofts and then a 20 seater Thorney Croft with a fabric body. After them came the Dennis Lancets and the Bedfords.
When I started with East Kent the fleet was made up of Tillings. These were eventually replaced by Dennis 35 seaters and then in 1957 came the smart A.E.C. like the one pictured above.
The picture in “Rye’s Own” of the bus which had an accident in Landgate reminded me that when I was in the Mess Room in my early days with East Kent I heard some of the drivers pulling the leg of one chap about the time he ran into the building next to the Electric Palace. Was this bus one that East Kent took over from one of the private firms and sent to Rye before it was painted red? One firm was Honey & Son. Old Mr. Honey stayed on as a driver for East Kent at the Ashford Depot. His son Fred came to work at Rye. The Morris buses that East Kent obtained in the takeover they ran from Hastings to Pett and Pett Level.
I was the driver on the South Coast Express mentioned in the “Rye’s Own” article. The service part we ran was the Rye to Portsmouth stage, 208 miles the return journey. This service was operated by East Kent, Southdown and Royal Blue. Passengers could board the coach at Margate. At the same time passengers were boarding in Bournemouth. They stayed on the same coach for the entire journey. The drivers changed mid way. The East Kent driver would drive the Royal Blue to Margate and the Royal Blue driver would take the East Kent to Bournemouth.
Roland Jempson asked if anyone remembered Len Skinner. Yes, I knew Len when he lived at Beckley.
From July 2005 Issue of “Rye’s Own”
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