Red & White Services Ltd – 1919-1950

The history of Red & White Services Ltd is extremely complex, and it is perhaps not surprising, but nonetheless regrettable, that there are few publications currently available dealing with this fascinating operator.

The story goes back to 1919, when the Watts brothers of Lydney in West Gloucestershire began operating bus services in the immediate post World War 1 period – as did many others. However, their approach was different, in that they recognised the benefits of working together with other like-minded people, and forged alliances of various forms to grow their business. However, this was not just exploitation of economies of scale, but the development of a multi-faceted business – in a manner that has been repeated in recent years by the large groups such as First and Stagecoach, but had few imitators in the years from 1919 until the sale of the UK bus interests to the BTC in 1950. The Watts were perhaps visionaries in that respect, and possibly in another as well.

The R&W group decided to sell their UK bus interests to the state (in the form of the British Transport Commission) in 1950, fearing that they would be compulsorily nationalised. In practice, that probably would not have happened – the other large independent operators (Barton, Lancashire United and West Riding) were left to remain in private hands. However, in view of the fact that most bus operators started to experience the gradual decline in traffic from the early 1950s, the timing of the sale was about as perfect as possible. That’s looking at it with the benefit of hindsight, but perhaps the directors could see what was happening already?

A published history of Red & White in book form is currently awaited; and the PSV Circle has also recently published a fleet history covering the period to the end of the Second World War. There are also some resources on the web that provide additional details. An article from the “Commercial Motor” in January 1950 describes the company at that point, just before the sale to the BTC, and can be read in the online archive at:-

Richard Smith has also created a site covering the history and fleet details for Red and White, at:-

Richard Waters has also setup a website, and he includes a lot of information about the route developments:-

A collection of photographs, principally from the pre-nationalisation era, can be found here:-