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Dennis Lance, 1936-1940
at Aldershot & District
by E.L. Nixon

The first Lance double deck chassis was delivered to Aldershot & District in 1936 and was registered AOT 580.

Dennis Lance AOT 580
The unique appearance of the prototype Dennis Lance AOT 580 is obvious in this view of the tilt test being carried out at London's Chiswick Works.
(P. J. Holmes collection)

According to the official Dennis records this chassis was delivered to A&D without an engine. The chassis was of forward control type i.e. driver sits alongside the engine which was a Lanova pre heat type diesel. It is thought that the engine was fitted in the Company's workshops by German engineers.

A five speed gearbox was fitted, the fifth gear referred to by Dennis as 'super top'. A cast radiator shell very much like the post war K3 type was fitted, flanked by two mudguards pointed at the front edges.

The chassis was despatched to Strachans where a lowbridge body was fitted out for 48 passengers, being 22 over 26. The body was sloped gently at the front and rather upright at the rear. The front destination boxes were two narrow oblongs one above the other, with the number box to the right. This was repeated on the side above the entrance, except the number box was fitted underneath the two lined boxes. The livery was light green with three cream bands edged with black lining out. The wings and wheels were black and the roof silver including the front dome. It is thought the bus operated on the 31 service Farnham to Guildford. This did not last long, however, as the bus was withdrawn late in 1936. However, it was to reappear like the phoenix rising from the ashes in 1937 but with new registration CC 6188. This came about as the chassis of AOT 580 had been removed from the body and a new chassis inserted. (What happened to the chassis of AOT 580 is unknown). The new chassis had a Gardner 5 cylinder diesel engine, it was possible, that this body was slightly longer than the original body as a hump was inserted just under the windscreen to marry up with the dash panel. A new style radiator was fitted, being straight sided and nicely rounded at the top and bottom. The front wings were neatly shaped at the lower edge to mould into a panel designed to take the registration plate.

A few minor modifications were made to the body, these included the destination displays. A narrow top box containing the final destination was mounted above a larger oblong box containing the route number to the lower left corner plus a number of via points.

1936 saw the second chassis delivered, this time fitted with a 5 cylinder Gardner engine from new. The front styling was very similar to CCG 188 except that the hump had gone and in its place the lower dash panel was kinked forward towards the bottom and a small box fitted to cover the lower part of the steering column. This vehicle was registered BAA 386. The body chosen for this chassis was once again of Strachan manufacture. The front of the body was tapered sharply backwards, and the top of the cream band over the canopy was arched at the top edge. The rear was very rounded, two rear windows were fitted to the lower deck. The offside one was of frosted glass with the registration plate painted on the upper section. A rear light was mounted on the panel beside the registration plate. The destination boxes were of the same style as the previous vehicle but were set much lower. Eight half drop windows were fitted to the upper deck and six on the lower. One of these was fined to an emergency door, which was mounted just behind the driver's door. A further emergency door was fitted to the upper deck with two glass panels. A sixth window was mounted on the offside, this being on the staircase.

Dennis Lance BAA 386
The second Lance obtained by A&D was BAA 386. Its body design was again unique, though the production batch (CCGs) retained the minute windscreen. It is seen nearing the end of route 12, outside Holmes,s in Reading in 1937.
(The Omnibus Society)

During 1937 and early 1938 a further 41 vehicles were delivered, these being registered as CCG 311 to 351, this allowed a lithe H and HV buses bought in the early 30's to be retired in one fell swoop. The fast mentioned CCG 351 was exhibited at the 1937 Earl's Court Commercial Show, The entire batch were fitted with Dennis's own 4 cylinder diesel engines and 5 speed gear boxes. The bodywork was once again supplied by Strachans of Acton London. The new bodies were again 48 seated but differed in a number of ways from BAA 386. The front although sloping was not so pronounced and was slightly v'd. The back was more upright with less curve, the destination boxes were of the same style but had been raised to finish with the lower edge above the centre cream band. The rear registration plate was fitted into a square box let into the right hand corner of the flat panel. A rear light was placed directly above, which illuminated the registration plate at night. The seats were to the standard A&D pattern, being grey flowered moquette with blue leather facings. Dark wood fillets surrounded the windows which were wind down half drop type. A small pan about three quarters of an inch deep was inserted into the ceiling of the lower deck at the front, this increased headroom, the raised section was under the front seat on the upper deck.. The emergency door behind the driver was dispensed with, but the upper deck one was retained. At this time the upper deck roof was of single skin and in winter condensation would drip down on to passengers heads. Two large boxes, one each side of the entrance of the platform on the lower deck, were fitted. These presumably were to cover the rear shackles of the road springs. The vehicles weighed in at 6 tons 16 cwt. 0 quarters.

Dennis Lance CCG 317
Before it received advertisements, brand-new Lance CCG 317 was posed for a publicity photo in front of the Chief Engineer's residence, Rink House, in the middle of the Halimote Road site.
(P .J. Holmes collection)

1940 saw the arrival of six more new Lances, DOT 478-83. These were the last to be delivered until after the war, but that is another story. There were a number of differences to this batch, firstly the Dennis 4 cylinder diesel engines were replaced by 5 cylinder Gardners. The body frame was of teak construction. The windscreen was curved downwards at the lower edge on the offside, this gave better, visibility to the driver. The rear number plate had been raised slightly to allow double chrome bumpers to be fitted underneath. The seating capacity remained at 48.

Dennis Lance  852 (DOT 479)
In its later years, 852 (DOT 479) is pictured in Aldershot bus station on the special service to Frensham Pond.
(D. T. Sharwood)

Rebuilding and Rebodying

In 1941 it was decided a number of Lances had become worn and tired. A programme of rebuilding and rebodying was therefore put in hand. The first vehicle treated was CCG 188, the chassis was taken from its body, stripped and rebuilt in A&D's top shop, the chassis then like new was despatched to Strachans where a new body similar to the DOT series was constructed. The only difference was that no side or rear destinations were fitted. A single large box was fitted into the front panel incorporating final destination, via and route number, this was possibly done as tightening of body building was starting to take effect owing to the war. Just after this all body building was stopped for a short time. The next five vehicles were rebuilt in 1944, one BAA and four CCG's being chosen. At the same time 5 cylinder Gardner engines were fitted. This time the bodybuilder was to change. East Lancs, who had only built two buses for the Company previously, were chosen. It was surprising that the East Lancs bodies were more or less to pre war standard, nicely shaped at the front and rear. Half drop windows were fitted, eight on the upper deck and six on the lower. It is possible that parts from the original Strachan bodies were overhauled and used on these bodies, i.e. windows and seats as these were of the original pattern, varnished ash wood fillets surrounded the windows and white handrails replaced the pre-war black style (this was probably to help in the blackout). Small batches were turned out each year until 1948 when the last three were delivered. These three differed slightly from the rest of the batch, resembling strongly the K3 type as per GOU 845, the preserved vehicle. There was no order in which the vehicles were selected for rebuilding and rebodying. It is possible they were taken when their certificates expired or the bodies needed too much attention. Further to rebuilding and rebodying, some of the DOT's, if not all of the batch, were sent to Portsmouth Aviation Company where some bodywork was undertaken.
Dennis Lance CCG 188 (formerly AOT 580)
In a rare view, restored by computer from a damaged print, the unique twice rebuilt Dennis Lance CCG 188 (formerly AOT 580) is seen in Aldershot bus station on service 3 to Farnborough station some time after the War, when this service had disappeared from the timetables, but still appeared on the streets as a relief working.
(T. Wright collection)

The Lances worked at sometime or other at all of the Company's main depots, but it is not known whether any of the East Lancs ones ever worked out of Woking depot. The first five re-bodied East Lancs went to Hindhead, where their larger engines would have been appreciated on the hilly terrain. The DOT batch were regular performers on the 14 and 31 services. All the original bodied CCG's and the rebuilt CCG 188 were disposed of in 1950, none of these ever carried fleet numbers. The DOT's went between 1951 and 1954 while the East Lancs rebuilds went in 1958. CCG 321 was retired in 1946 after a fire destroyed the body in Guildford. I saw the remains being towed into the Company's premises one Saturday afternoon looking very sorry for itself. The body of CCG 313 was transferred to CCG 345 when the former was being prepared for its EL body. CCG 350 was decapitated and was used for a short while as a tree cutter, before CCG 334 took up this role in 1950. In this guise it remained until 1958 when it was replaced by EOR.374, a Guy Arab II. A further Lance, CCG 339, was also decapitated (photographic evidence) but it is not known if it ever operated as a tree cutter.

The following list was the order in which the Lances were rebodied:-
 1941  CCG188  Strachan
 1944  BAA386, CCG317/24/37/43  East Lancs
 1945  CCG311/19/46/48/49  East Lancs
 1946  CCG312/26/28/36/47  East Lancs
 1947  CCG327/31/38/41/51  East Lancs
 1948  CCG313/14/30  East Lancs

These last three were slightly different from the previous vehicles, having sliding windows replacing the half drops and more modern style bodywork.

Dennis Lance 731 (CCG 328)
Looking smart in its later light-and-dark green livery, rebuilt Lance 731 (CCG 328) is shown at Guildford's Farnham Road bus station, ready for a local journey to Onslow Village on service 30.
(P. J. Holmes collection)

Further Lance Details

The 5 cylinder Gardner engines used in the rebuilding programme were stock units supplied to the Company for a further single desk order, which was cancelled owing to wartime restrictions. Some, if not all of the DOT batch lost their engines before sale, possibly for use in .he new K4's of 1954 vintage. A fair number of original bodied Lances were spotted in a yard at Mountnessing Auto Spares in Essex after withdrawal. A number when to travelling showmen, and one at least CCG 324, for further service to Margo's, the rest both original and rebuilt went for scrap. One interesting Lance, CCG 326 both original and rebuilt form was an early style of all over advertising for G. C. Bateman of Aldershot. It carried eyes both sides of the destination display very much in the style of Picture Post adverts carried on LT vehicles. All the other usual advertising spaces carried Bateman's adverts. I remember travelling, on the vehicle and seeing the same advert on kick panels of the stairs, and backs of the seats. If anyone has photos of this vehicle, I would very much like to see them. The centre cream band on the East Lancs bodies was made much deeper, to finish up level with the top of the rain water louvre. On earlier Strachan bodies this was undertaken on repaints. This, in my opinion, gave a much better appearance.

One of the Lances never rebuilt was CCG 329, which ended up behind Bradford's Garage, Farnborough. Its engine had been removed before sale for re-use, but, contrary to some reports, the chassis was intact on its wheels. October 1950.

(P. J. Holmes)

Dennis Lances CCG 329

From the Aldershot & District Bus Interest Group's Newsletter, Issue No. 21 & 22
June and September 1999

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