Shamefully, sometimes this blog doesn’t quite live up to its name. To rectify this, we bring you two singular cases of omnibuses related criminality designed to stun the mind and bemuse the senses. Sort of.
One night in August 1932, Leonard Close was driving his omnibus between Ramsbury and Marlborough. Around 11pm he noticed a man standing in the middle of the road, facing away from him, waving his arms as if signalling the bus to stop. Close changed gear and began to slow down. When the bus had closed to within three feet of the man, he suddenly swung round, revealing himself to be masked and pointing something at the driver. What this 1930s Dick Turpin had in mind, however, Close had no great desire to find out. He swerved the bus to miss the man, who then hurled a large stone through the bus, smashing two of the windows. Arriving at Marlborough, Close alerted the police, who then searched the neighbourhood for the offender until 4am. The best the police could do, however, was stop several drivers and interrogate an innocent passing tramp. The mysterious offender disappeared into the night, with the police simply stating they were looking for a man ‘over 5ft’ ‘very round-shouldered’ and who had ‘a peculiar walk’.
While that would-be omnibus pirate met with failure, four years later there was a far more successful endeavour. On a Monday night in September 1936, one of the staff at the London Transport Swanley Garage in Dartford was approached by a man. The man asked when the next omnibus to London was due. The member of staff told him that he was unlucky, and that the last omnibus had already left. The man disappeared. Problematically for the staff at Swanley Garage, so did one of their buses.
The following morning those at Ealing Police Court were somewhat bewildered to find an abandoned omnibus parked out front. The bus happened to match the description of a bus which had been stolen from Swanley Garage. Detectives hatched a cunning plan, waiting around the omnibus in the hope that the thief would return and allow them to pounce on him. Their quarry, however, clearly satisfied with having gotten back to Ealing from Dartford never returned. The detectives had to be content with driving the omnibus back to Swanley Garage.
Clearly, The Times somewhat gleefully noted, there was more than one way of ‘taking a bus’.