Lady trolley drivers in the blackout

“YOU are off your trolley” is a strange expression, but there was a day during World War Two in Ipswich when it would have been apt.

David Kindred

“YOU are off your trolley” is a strange expression, but there was a day during World War Two in Ipswich when it would have been apt.

I recently published a photograph taken in the last weeks of the Ipswich trolley bus service in 1963 by Alan Valentine.

Terence Wilmot of Exeter Road, Felixstowe, has related an amusing story about trolley buses and the Duke Street roundabout in Ipswich.

Terence said: “I have been a voluntary driver for Felixstowe Area Community Transport Service for some years now and during this time have been fortunate to be acquainted with some very nice, elderly patrons. Many of these customers have interesting stories to tell about the full lives they have led.

“One particularly amusing tale was told to me first hand by a lovely lady called Gwen who died a few years ago. Gwen was a driver on the Ipswich trolley buses during World War Two.

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“I can clearly recall these wonderful ladies who served as both drivers and conductresses. Her story related to a winter's evening during the blackout, when visibility was restricted because they could only use masked headlamps after dark during the war. She was driving her trolley-bus along Fore Hamlet, when she reached the Duke Street roundabout she was amazed to see another trolley-bus emerge from Back Hamlet on her right hand side. She was amazed because there were no overhead power lines for trolleys in Back Hamlet!

“Gwen stopped her trolley, as did the other trolley driver, another lady driver who Gwen knew. This other lady was, of course, in a flustered state and explained that whilst driving along Foxhall Road towards Grove Lane she had taken a wrong turning left into Back Hamlet. Of course the poles became separated from the overhead power lines and in her panic she decided to free-wheel down Back Hamlet to the point where Gwen found her. This was not the end of the adventure! The two ladies then conferred as to what course of action they were to take and Gwen manoeuvred the front of her bus against the back of the other vehicle and pushed it to a position whereby they were able to re-connect the trolleys onto the overhead lines. The next problem was to get the other lady back onto her correct route.

“To do this, she had to drive all the way to the nearest terminal, either Bourne Bridge or Whitton, complete the loop at that terminal and then drive all the way back to the Foxhall Road terminal near St Clements Hospital, complete the loop there, and then carry on her journey towards Grove Lane.

“When they next met, the other driver told Gwen that this mishap took her three-quarters-of-an-hour behind schedule. They do not make them like that any more!”