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Early Falcons
with Aldershot & District
by Eric Nixon

Aldershot and District returned to Dennis in 1939 for more chassis to form the basis of one-man operated vehicles. By this time the Ace had been withdrawn from production to be replaced by the Falcon. This chassis was similar to the Ace having a four cylinder petrol engine and four speed gear box, however this chassis was longer than the Ace. Unlike the Ace the front wheels were set further forward as per normal vehicles. The first vehicle to arrive at Aldershot was DHO 266, in March 1939, with Strachan 20 seat bodywork. The rest appeared between September 1939 and February 1940. This could suggest that DHO 266 was a prototype as the rest were registered in the DOT 470 – 477 series. Strachan’s had built a neat little body with sliding entrance door, a cream band went round the centre of the body and cream shaped strip over the side windows. The side windows were fitted with glass louvres. The lower panels were painted light green while the upper ones were painted dark green, with black mudguards, lifeguard rails and wheels, while the cream waistband was lined out in black. Unlike the Ace no roof luggage carrier was fitted, luggage being stored in a rear boot. The interior was fitted out with coach seats and coach type fittings with curtains to the windows. Clips for destination boards were fitted above the side windows, but it is not known if these were ever used. Chrome bonnet strips, radiator shell, wheel discs and chrome bumpers completed the luxury fittings.

Official photo of DHO 266
The official photo of DHO 266 shows it with a route board, though it had not yet been fitted with the front bumper that it carried for the rest of its life.
(A wartime photo shows it with an unmasked fog lamp. Was the bumper needed to protect this?)
(Photo P J Holmes collection)

On arrival most were stored, seeing very little use during the war years. The reason for this was probably because they were petrol vehicles, petrol being in short supply during the war, or maybe the capacity was too small for wartime use. Some of the omo routes had been converted to larger vehicles during the war, numbers 45 and 46 being two routes involved, accounting for three vehicles. All were withdrawn by 1951, seeing very little use, DOT 474 only showing 37,174 miles on the clock. The early withdrawal was probably due to their petrol engines being obsolete by that date, and outdoor storage at the Aldershot sports field had left the bodies in a sorry state. One vehicle was retained, being DOT 476. This had been converted to a Company lorry, which was finally retired in April 1960.

Service lorry 25
Service lorry 25 - a neat rebuild from Dennis Falcon bus DOT 476.
(Photo P J Holmes)

The second batch of small Falcons was delivered by 1949 and 1950, registered GOU 848 – 862. These were similar to the earlier batches except that the bodies were built by Dennis themselves. The other main differences were that they were fitted with Gardner 4 cylinder diesel engines and 5 speed gear boxes, and no front bumpers were fitted. The livery was as per the pre-war Falcons but in later life the livery was reversed, being light green over dark. Sometime after coming into use, they were upgraded to 24 seats. A change in the licensing law permitted this. The previous licensing law licensed vehicles in up to 20, 26 and 32 seat groups, the licensing being set at different prices in these groups. The vehicles were to the same body specification as the pre war vehicles. They were operated from most of the Company’s depots on omo duties, and also reliefs and private hires. They were finally withdrawn from service, the last going in 1961. Falcons GOU 848 and 862 were converted into Company lorries, being withdrawn in 1968.

FOOTNOTE Gerry Bixley informs me that there was a big gap behind the rear seats, almost like a luggage space, on the DHO/DOT batch.

Dennis Falcons DOT 477
22 May 1949: DOT 477 has brought a visiting team to Hartley Wintney cricket ground.
(Photo P J Holmes collection)
Dennis Falcons GOU 856
Photo of Falcons on relief duties are less common than those showing rural routes. Here, GOU 856 duplicates the No. 2 at Aldershot Bus Station during the period of the 1958 Farnborough Air Show.
(Photo Peter Trevaskis)
Also see
More Falcons by Eric Nixon

From the Aldershot & District Bus Interest Group's Newsletter, Issue No. 47
December 2005

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