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Dennis Lancet Coaches 1938 - 1953
at Aldershot & District
by E.L. Nixon

Although the first Lancet coaches had been delivered to the Company in 1932 and further deliveries in 1934 and 1935 I will not be reviewing these as I have done so in detail in an earlier edition. We therefore take up the story in 1938 when a batch of 13 Lancet II's with Strachan 32 seat bodies reg COR 151-63 arrived. These were the first diesel engine coaches to arrive and were delivered with four cylinder engines with 5 speed gear boxes.

1937 saw the first coach, COR1 51, exhibited at the Commercial Motor Show inside Earls Court.

Dennis Lancet COR 153 (767)
Although by then ousted from London express duties, COR 153 (767) looks magnificent in its old familiar location in Castle Street, Farnham, on an excursion, 4 September 1952.
(P. J. Holmes)

The coaches differed from the COR bus chassis in that the dash panel at the front was straight, not having the kinked out section at the lower edge. The steering wheel was more upright, allowing the driving seat to be brought forward. This in turn allowed the interior bulkhead to be moved further forward to give more space in the passenger area. The body was very rounded, with a cream band starting at the front and sloping gently down towards the rear end, where it curved round the back and then curved up again under the rear window. The rear window was of a very large semi-oval type with an oblong number plate fitted in a glass panel below it. A light was fitted either side, one being a rear light and the other a rear brake light. A large luggage boot was placed below it. The front mudguards were swept back to join the lifeguard rails, the rear mudguards were swept back in the opposite direction. The front canopy held two destination indicators, one set over the other in a chrome-plated frame, the lower box being wider than the top one. A metal sun visor was fitted over the driver's windscreen: this was never repeated on other A&D coaches. The only other coach to have this feature was CPH 130 taken over with the business of Locke, Blue Saloon Coaches. Entry to the coach was by an inward sliding door fitted just behind the nearside rear wheel. The floor area was built high up giving good visibility to the passengers. Five high backed coach seats were fitted across the back. A small luggage platform was fitted over the nearside wheel arch with a single seat placed beside it. The rest of the seats were in pairs all facing forward. All the seats were of the high backed spoon type trimmed in grey flowered moquette with blue leather facings. Rug rails and ashtrays were fitted to the moquette-trimmed backs. Full drop wind down windows were fitted, capped with dark wood fillets. The lower bulkhead and domes were trimmed in moquette. The upper section of the bulkhead was covered in dark wood and carried a clock and mirrors. A Clayton heater was installed centrally an the front bulkhead. Lighting was by pillar lamps and ceiling lights. The ceiling was veneer wood covered and carried three roof opening ventilators. There was also one situated in the drivers cab. The floor was covered in blue linoleum.

The exterior was painted dark green over light green with black wheels, mudguards and lining out. Green roof boards were mounted over the side windows, which carried glass louvers. The curved roof boards carried gold lettering for the Farnham - London Express Service.

Dennis Lancet GAA 609
GAA 609, in the same location, shows its family likeness to its predecessor COR 153.
(P. J. Holmes)

In 1948 a batch of 15 Lancet III's was delivered, fitted with Dennis 6 cyl diesel engines and 5 speed gearboxes. These were Strachan 32 seat coaches. They differed in a number of ways from the 1938 batch. The chassis were slightly longer having the dash panel with the kinked out lower section and steering box cover. The headlamps were no longer fitted to the radiator shell as in the earlier type. The nearside lamp was fitted on a bracket set into the front wing, and the offside one fitted into the dash panel. The body shape was similar to the pre-war type. The side windows were built in pairs giving the impression they were one large window. As in the previous batch glass louvers were fitted over the side windows. The lower side panels were curved outwards on the lower edge where they met the lifeguard panels. For the first time a cream fish tail type flash was fitted, flanked by aluminium mouldings. A semi-oval window was fitted at the rear with a glass-illuminated panel below carrying the words 'Express Service' in green letters on a cream background. An oval cream panel was carried below this incorporating an oblong rear registration plate and rear lights.

As in previous batches a rear luggage boot was fitted together with interior roof racks. The interior was similar to the pre-war batch except for the placing of the seats. The rear seat still had seating for five passengers but instead of the single seat a seat for three passengers was fitted an the offside just ahead of the rear five. All the rest were in pairs facing forward. The rest of the interior was similar to the previous batch. Cream roof boards above the side windows carried letters for the 'Farnham - London Express Service'. A half-moon shaped glass panel lettered 'Aldershot & District' was fitted into the front canopy. An oval box was below this carrying two blinds, one for destination and the other for Express Service. All boxes were surmounted in chrome metal frames. The livery was the same as the pre-war vehicles.

Dennis Lancet LAA 224 (189)
In its first month in service (27 June 1953), LAA 224 (189) waits in Farnham's Castle Street. Most later photos of this type show the vulnerability of the radiator grille to relatively minor bumps.
(P. J. Holmes)

1953 saw the last 15 Lancets, LAA 223 - 37, delivered. Mechanically these were the same as the previous batch. They differed greatly in that they were J10 C's being 30 foot long and 8 foot wide and seating 38 passengers. The vehicles in design were very much like the earlier style, except they were fully fronted. The mouldings were to the same design except that they did not carry on round the front. The windows were still built in pairs with a thin polished strip dividing the two pieces of glass. The drives cab was separated from the main saloon by a bulkhead making a full width cab. The three destinations in the canopy were rubber glazed, doing away with the chrome plated surround. An oblong vertical aperture was fitted to the front panel with six polished vertical slats, this allowed air through to cool the radiator. One photograph shows one of the vehicles with horizontal slats. A central number plate was flanked by two chrome bumpers. Cream roof boards were fitted. The interior was similar to the GAA batch, the seats fitted in similar style. The livery was the same as the previous batch except the wheels, mudguards and lifeguard rails were painted dark green instead of black. The vehicles were built with metal frame bodies instead of the previous wood type. All vehicles were fitted with Clayton Dewandre heaters, and chrome wheel discs to the front wheels.

LIFE OF THE COACHES
The COR coaches were put to work on the Farnham to London Express services. This was only to be for a short period as the war put an end to the service in 1942. The vehicles were withdrawn and stripped of their luxury seats and interior luxury fittings. The seats were replaced with standard bus type, the metal lifeguards removed and wooden ones replaced them. The roofs were painted grey after the removal of the roof boards. Wartime white markings and light shields were fitted as required. (blackout regulations) . The vehicles were then used on bus services during the war years. After hostilities had ceased they were refurbished by the Company after the luxury seats and fittings had been replaced. They were then returned to the London Service until the new coaches arrived in 1948. After this they were put on summer coastal services and private hires, until finally being disposed of in 1953/54.

The GAA (609-623) batch of coaches worked mainly the same type of duties as the pre war vehicles, up and down to London, and then when the newer vehicles arrived they were demoted to coastals and private hires, some being de-licensed and stored during the winter months. After the summer season of 1961 the whole batch was de-licensed and put up for sale. They were replaced on the London service in 1953 by the 15 J10C coaches reg LAA 223-237 for a short while, but in 1954 a batch of 25 AEC Reliance coaches appeared. As usual the Dennis's were to be demoted to coastals and private hire duties some even went on to bus work, working on 75's and duplicates on the 31 service for instance. The final destination was displayed in the upper box, while the number was displayed in the lower one. They were not ail that popular with crews, some drivers describing them as' sweat boxes'. The conductors found fare collecting was not easy as the large coach seats made it awkward to get up and down the gangways. Other duties for this batch were as Royal Blue relief's and they could often be seen in The Borough at Farnham on Saturday mornings during the summer months. None of these were ever re-engined, as the largest part of the batch were stored during the winter months, and therefore did not run up a large mileage. 1 am sure the fitters were pleased they did not have to re-engine these as changing the engine with a full front would not have been an easy task. All the batch was de-licensed and disposed of in 1963.

PAINTING AND MODIFICATION
All the GAA and LAA batches were repainted with dark green lower panels and light green upper work at repaint. The GAA batch received dark green wheels, lifeguards and mudguards. All small lettering including legal writing was changed from white to yellow at the same time. Some of the LAA batch had their rear name glasses removed, along with the rear light arrangements and the aperture panelled over. The LAA coaches received flashing indicators front and rear later in their lives. The GAA coaches were sold for £150 to £200 each and the LAA batch between £200 and £250 each. Most of the COR batch went to travelling showmen, some being fitted with roof racks to carry bumper cars, etc. MacDoweils of Aldershot being one customer. Of the GAA batch a number went to contractors, such as Sir Lindsay Parkinson and A A Stuart, one luckily is being restored, namely GAA 616, which has had a chequered career in preservation. Regarding the LAA batch a number went to

Margos of Streatham, the coach operator, some being lost in a fire. Others went to Contractors, such as Kennedy of Ipswich, Bovis and Hewitt, contractors of Cranleigh. Two went to church organisations, Assembly of God, Maidstone, and the other, LAA 231, to Bible Training College. Burgess Hill. This vehicle was later found in a scrap yard by one of our members, and is slowly being restored.

Dennis Lancet COR 151
This picture of COR 151, in original condition, shows a number of unfamiliar features. The starting handles disappeared from all the batch early in their lives. A cream stripe appears above the windows. There is no visor above the windscreen. (NOTE. Has anyone cot any early photos of this or any other COR coaches in service with out the visor? If so, please let us know) Finally, there are metal mouldings, rather than black ones, to the cream bands, and one of these is continued round the front of the roof. (Again, did COR 151/2 go into service like this?)
(R. Marshall)


From the Aldershot & District Bus Interest Group's Newsletter, Issue No. 23 & 24
December 1999 & March 2000

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