Coventry Corporation Transport Society

When 'Humpty' the AEC Went up in Flames

T W Moore


The back end of Humpty, showing the humped roof and outside staircase.

I can remember the evening that 'Humpty', the ex Halifax AEC No. 267, went up in flames just past our house in Stoney Stanton Road.  It seems like it was yesterday, but it was way back in 1948 when I was at junior school.

Now ol' Humpty was a very old bus. Driver Jack Greer, who came from Ireland to drive CCT buses, told my brother and me that it had a 'humpty tumpty' roof .... well we were in a toy shop at the time.  (Editor's note: These four AEC Regents were officially described as camel-roofed, because of the raised, or humped, roof over the central walkway of the upper saloon)  His wife owned the toy shop opposite the Coventry Transport Club in Stoney Stanton Road.  We used to talk to him about the buses when he helped his wife in the shop and he told us 'Humpty' had a staircase outside the bus.

Way back then, we used to sit on the doorstep of our Victorian terraced house and write down the numbers of all the buses that passed the house after the evening peak.  They all were going to Harnell Lane bus depot or to Bell Green and, sure enough, 'Humpty' came by and we wrote its number in our book.  We soon found out we had written its number lots of times and now we knew all about the bus.  We got to know all the buses, the Daimlers, Guys and the few AECs.  On one occasion we spent all day on our doorstep.  We had lunch and dinner on our laps and were allowed to stay up so we could find out the bus that went passed the house the most times.  I stayed all the time but my brother left for 15 minutes so he could listen to Dick Barton, the private detective on the radio at 6.45pm.  It was the Daimler bus No. 365 that won our day long vigil; we wrote its number down the most times.  It was on Service 21 to Bell Green that went all the way up the Stoney Stanton Road.

We were there the evening when Stoney Stanton Road was full of smoke.  We could see it as far as Harnell Lane East and the Woodbine pub and it was coming from ol' Humpty that was coming toward us, smoke pouring from the engine and going under the bus and out the back; it was really thick and black when it passed us.  It stopped outside Mrs. Hintons Grocery shop and the toy shop and then we could see all the flames going up.  We took off, running to get a closer look.  Whow!  The flames were coming from the engine and going up the front of the bus, there was lots of smoke too.  Lots of people came to have a look, then the police came in their pre-war black police cars and were telling us to "Get back! Get back!".  Soon we heard, then saw, the fire engine racing up the road.  It was one of those pre-war Leylands with big chrome radiators; the hoses all came out and the firemen pointed them at the bus.  All the water gushed over ol' humpty until it was all steaming and wet.  Steam was going up like the flames did, exciting, whow!  We had never ever seen anything like it.  Then the big AEC tow wagon came out of Cambridge St and the police shouted "Get back! Get back!" again.  Everyone was chattering, the crowd became so many, the police were pushing us back to the shops.  We were at the front and we were not going to miss a thing.  Talk about being excited ... we watched every move of the men as they prepared to tow ol' humpty down Cambridge St and into Kepple St to the depot's back gate.  We followed and watched the back of the bus disappear into the depot.  What a tale we had to tell Driver Greer when we saw him.  We told everyone!  We never saw ol' Humpty again but his memory will last forever.

Back in the adult world, I can tell you now No. 267 was one of four AEC Regent 1s hired from AEC in late 1938 that ran in the city in Halifax colours.  They were repainted in CCT livery in March and April 1939 and were purchased on the outbreak of the war in September.  However, the PSV circle, in their publication PD12 Coventry and Burton Upon Trent fleet histories, record they were purchased in April 1940.  They cost £25 each, the four were numbered CP 8010-8011 and CP 9070 and 9077.  They became Nos. 4,5,7 and 1 in the fleet, and three of them were in service in the city for over 8 years (and a bargain at the price!).

1 and 7 were new in 1930 and came from Halifax Joint Omnibus Committee fleet.  4 and 5 were new to Halifax Corporation in 1929.  They were all fitted with Hoyal 'humped' roof open staircase bodies seating 50.  No.1 was scrapped for spares in 1942, but its chassis remained at Watery Lane and has been mentioned in the CCT Buses as Caravans topic in the CWK205 forum.  Nos. 4 and 5 received new 56 seat Brush utility type bodies in 1942 and No. 7 was reconditioned by Coventry Steel Caravans, Leek Wootton, in 1943.  Retaining its open staircase, it was unique in the fleet.  In 1946 the three were numbered 264,265,267.

After the fire, 267 was sold, along with 264, to Roach Bros' scrapyard in The Buttts, Coventry and 265 went to a Mr. Bates.  All three ended up with Taylors of Bicester by 1949.