Surveying the list of non-Aldershot & District vehicles at the back of each issue of the Bus Owners' magazine, you might suspect a recurring error. Looking at the East Kent J3s you will see that CFN 136 (new 1947) and CFN 154 (new 1948) fit a logical sequence, but CFN 121 (new 1949) does not. An unlikely situation, you might think. Unlikely, yes, but correct.
East Kent ordered 72 Dennis Lancet J3s after the war, and they were registered CFN 110-169 and CJG 988-999. All were eventually fitted with new Park Royal B35R bodies, but this was not the original plan. CFN 110-121 were to have received second hand bodies and, indeed, CFN 110 was, at first, so fitted. This part of the story goes back as far as 1928. In that year, East Kent took delivery of 25 Tilling Stevens B10C2 saloons, FN 9001-6 with Beadle B37R bodywork, and FN 9007-9025 with Brush bodies of the same capacity. After 5 years service, the bodies on FN 9001-6 were replaced by new Park Royal B32R bodies. One year later, six more similar bodies were fitted to FN 9007-11 and JG 1431, this latter vehicle being a 1931 Tilling Stevens B49C2 which had suffered accident damage. Most of the displaced bodies from FN 9001-11 were refitted to 1926 Tilling Stevens B9As which were all sold by 1936.
It was the twelve Park Royal bodies of 1933/4 that were originally intended to have been fitted to CFN 110-121. Delivery of chassis with new bodies started at CFN 122 in February 1947. CFN 110 appeared in July 1947, carrying the 1934 body from FN 9007, the chassis of this latter vehicle being scrapped. During 1948 deliveries continued up to CFN 169, followed by CJG 988-999. (It is presumed that these last twelve were an amendment to the original order for 60, for they were identical and there was no gap in deliveries between the CFN and the CJG batches).
At this point, CFN 111-121 were conspicuous by their absence, and did not start to appear until April 1949, continuing to July, two years after the introduction of CFN 110. They, like all the later numbers, were given new bodies. CFN 110 was itself brought into line in June 1949 when it was fitted with a new body to the same pattern as all the others, thus bringing all 72 buses up to the same specification.
To understand what was originally intended for CFN 110-121 in a little more detail, we need to return to 1936 when East Kent received 23 Lancet 1s (JG 6800-22) and three Lancet IIs (JG 6823-24, 7808). These vehicles were delivered with Dennis bodies, and East Kent records suggest that it was originally intended to fit new bodies to 12 of these at the same time as CFN 110-121 received the second-hand bodies from the Tillings. After the experience of fitting the first second-hand body to CFN 110, however, the plan was altered. The J3s received new bodies and the Lancet 1s and IIs received the 1933/34 bodies from the Tillings, although only 10 transfers actually took place including the body which spent two years on CFN 110, ending up on JG 6824. (There is another minor mystery here: why was there such a large gap in registration numbers between the Lancet IIs, JG 6823-24 and JG 7808, when the chassis numbers were 175106/07/05 respectively, and all three vehicles were delivered in the same month! Did East Kent order 26 buses but reserve only 25 JG 68xx numbers?)
Shortly after the rebodying of CFN 110, some pre-war Lancets did indeed receive new bodies. Thirteen of the 1937 Lancet IIs from the batch JG 8702-25 and JG 9906 were fitted with new Park Royal bodies of a noticeably more modern design than that which went onto the CFNs. It is interesting to compare preserved JG 8720 of this batch with one of the surviving CFNs. (In this case, it is clear why there was one vehicle with an odd registration number. JG 9906 was an exhibit at the 1937 Commercial Motor Show and arrived with East Kent some months after 8702-25).
In the early post-war years it made sense to re-body sound pre-war chassis. But why did East Kent do this when, at the same time, pre-war bodies were going to be fitted onto post-war chassis? It is believed that the original plan was to fit coach bodies to CFN 110-121, and that the first 12 registration numbers were chosen so that they followed on from the coach bodies Leyland PS1s. Post war, it was not initially possible to obtain new coach bodies, so the use of second hand bodies was a short term measure. In the event, the work needed to transfer the bodies was so great that after CFN 110 was so fitted, the scheme was abandoned. At some point, a decision was made to order the bus bodies from Park Royal, thus making CFN 110-121 standard with the rest of the batch. As a final footnote, in 1951 the batch were down-seated to B32R, repainted and used as coaches for a couple of years, before being returned to B35R and standard livery in 1953/4.
Some further thoughts on the delivery of the East Kent Lancets have been offered by Nicholas King of the M&D and East Kent Bus Club. An extract from his thoughts is included below. He writes "We will probably never get fully to the bottom of what happened and the Board minutes are not terribly helpful.
CFN 110-169 were ordered as a batch of sixty vehicles of which the first twelve were to be coaches, with registrations following on from a batch of Leyland Tigers. There was a certain amount of Government control during this period and it seems that East Kent were told that they could not have their coach bodies until 1949. They, therefore, took the first chassis which had already been laid down and planted an older body on it until a coach body was available.
It was planned to do the same with the other eleven, but it quickly became clear that this was a costly way of achieving a short-term need. The plan was, therefore, abandoned and the registrations for the other eleven were held in suspense until new bodies were available, so as to preserve the sequentiality with the Leyland Tigers - a reflection of the 'Army mentality' which was always a hallmark of Stanley Loxton's work. The chassis which would have been CFN 111-21 were shunted down line to become CFN 122-32, and so on through the batch.
The rebodying of JG 68xx and JG 87xx chassis were rather different. The JG 68xx vehicles had relatively high mileage, and had been somewhat neglected during wartime loans. Their bodies were beyond salvation but the FN 90xx bodies were in a reasonably good condition because the age of the chassis had meant that the vehicles had only seen summer service. The two elements seemed to fit although, in the end, only ten of the planned twelve re-bodyings were viable.
I have been reading Nigel Tilly's articles about East Kent's Dennis Lancets on this page with interest and feel that I can add some more details to the history of the Lancet IIs.
At about this time, compression injection heavy oil engines were being developed and used in lorries, so East Kent must have decided to trial some in their Lancets. As a result, Customer Order numbers 35408 and 35409 were amended. These would have been JG 6812 and JG 6813 if they had not been altered, but became the two Lancet IIs fitted with Gardner 5LW engines, appearing as JG 6823 and JG 6824 (Lancet II chassis numbers 175106 and 175107), delivered on 28th July 1936.
The Dennis Customer Order book also shows that East Kent ordered a further batch of 25 Lancets in December 1935 for delivery during 1936. These were Customer Order numbers 35459 to 35483. However, these orders were not delivered until 1937 (appearing as JG 8702 to JG 8725). Note also that JG 8702 to JG 8725 only makes up 24 vehicles, although 25 were ordered.
This discrepancy can be explained as follows:-
What actually seems to have happened is that the first of the second
order for 25 Lancets (35459) was fitted with the new Dennis O4 engine and
the rest of the order was put on hold until East Kent had compared the performance
of the Dennis O4 engine with that of the Gardner 5LW engine.
As noted above, the three "oilers" were delivered in July 1936. The archives indicate that JG 6823, JG 6824 and JG 7808 had route boards ordered for Rye depot, lettered for Rye & Hastings via Winchelsea, Guestling Green & Ore, so presumably the comparison trials were carried out there.
Following the trials, East Kent selected the Dennis O4 rather than the 5LW. Does anybody know why? Was it purely on fuel consumption figures? Consequently, the remaining 24 vehicles from the second order were built to the same specification as JG 7808, finally appearing as JG 8702 to JG 8725 between 30/4/37 and 16/7/37.
As the first Dennis O4 diesel engined vehicle, JG 7808 would have been a good candidate for preservation if it had survived long enough. Unfortunately it didn't last very long at all, being recorded in the East Kent fleet history as "Destroyed by enemy action at Canterbury, 31/5/42".
JG 9906 is shown as Customer Order 41751, specified for delivery in time for the 1937 Commercial Motor Show. Several other operator's Lancet IIs were specified for delivery in time for this Show as well, including an Aldershot & District vehicle to be bodied by Strachan and displayed on their stand (one of these survives and is awaiting restoration). There are further Customer Orders from East Kent (41860 to 41878) that relate to Lancet IIs AJG 41 to AJG 59 (but not in that order).
Within the archives, there is a lot of detailed correspondence between East Kent and Dennis regarding the exact specification of their Lancet Is and IIs. As I was restoring JG 8720, I found this both fascinating and relevant. I have recorded some of this information verbatim and stored it as a Word document. I could e-mail this document to interested parties. I spent several days in the archives, but found I had to limit my research to what I needed to know. There is a lot of detailed information about all kinds of Dennis vehicles if you have the time to search it out!
The Order book shows that 681 Lancet II chassis were built, the last going to Aldershot & District in 1945, while the Engine book shows that 2974 O4 engines were built, though only 472 were fitted to buses, the last of these being 100572, fitted to a bus on 1/1/40. The very last O4 engine was eventually fitted to a Whitbread lorry on 22/12/60! Many of the other engines went into lorries for the Ministry of Supply, the RAF, C.o.D Chilwell etc, during the war period. It is also apparent that East Kent had all the JG 68xx petrol engined chassis re-engined with O4 diesel engines during 1938 and 1939. I suspect Dennis did the work, as each vehicle is noted individually in the Dennis engine book, with the old petrol engine number deleted and the new diesel engine number written in.