Bus Fleets of the Red & White Group; History

Bus Fleets of the Red & White Group

History, Liveries, Vehicle Types and Fleet Lists

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Short History of the Red & White Group

In 1950 when Red & White United Transport sold its bus interests to the state, it was the largest independent bus company in Great Britain comprising approximately 750 vehicles.

The origins of the Red & White group can be found before the first world war in the Forest of Dean where John H Watts joined H T Letheren in partnership as the Lydney Posting and Garage Co. operating passenger services using horse drawn vehicles. John Watts had been apprenticed to his father's ironmongery business in Lydney which had expanded into cycles and later cars becoming a Ford agency by 1912. A small Ford bus was obtained by the partnership which from 1914 operated under the name Lydney and Forest of Dean Motor Services. After service in the forces John Watts returned to the family business and in 1920 purchased about 200 surplus War Department heavy vehicles, mostly Albions, and many spares. Watts Garage Ltd was formed on 22nd December 1920 with John Watts and Letheren on the original board of directors. Three ex-W.D. Albion chassis were fitted with bus bodies and John Watts started operating in the Tredegar area as "The Valleys Motor Bus Services". Close links were soon established with T J Jones and Guy Bown of the Griffin Motor Company of Brynmawr, and a number of operators in and around Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire were acquired by Watts or jointly with Griffin. Many of the acquisitions were continued as separate entities until they were amalgamated under the name Red & White Services on 1st January 1930. The Griffin directors joined the board of Red & White but the Griffin Motor Company continued independently of the new group.

Chronological sequence of events from 1921 to 1930:

1921  John Watts started a bus service on 21st June the routes being Tredegar-Pontllanfraith and Tredegar-Brynmawr, initially with the 3 ex-W.D Albion chassis, two having 26-seat bodies and the third with a Leyland 32-seat charabanc body.

1922  Valleys Motor Bus Services Ltd was incorporated on 3rd July to run the Tredegar business followed by the first of many acquisitions, that of Price of Oakdale. Letheren had by now sold his interest in Watts Garage of Lydney and the haulage department was transferred on 14th July to a new company Gloucestershire Transport Ltd under the management of John Watts. Bus services from Lydney to Bream, Coleford and Parkend began.

1924  Valleys Motor Bus Services fleet now consisted of 6 normal control Albions with a variety of body styles.

1925  Western Services Ltd based in Blackwood was formed jointly by Valleys and Griffin on 7th August with the objective of overcoming difficulties in expansion because the local authorities, who administered the licensing system in force at the time, tended to favour local operators rather than established companies. Dennis, Leyland PLSC Lions as well as Albion vehicles were purchased for Western Services.

1926  Wood & Co's Crimson Rambler Bus and Charabanc Service, Ebbw Vale and Cox's Bus Service, Cwm were acquired by Watts and converted to Valleys (Ebbw Vale) Ltd on 17th March, and in September Gloucestershire Transport acquired Lydney and Forest of Dean Motor Services and Walkleys Motor Transport Service of Cinderford, the combined fleet trading as Gloster (Red & White) Services. Meanwhile Hereford Transport Ltd. was acquired jointly by Gloucestershire Transport and Griffin. Hereford Transport was originally set up in 1920 as a subsidiary of Hereford motor engineering firm James Fryer Ltd. The fleet at takeover included AECs, Daimlers, Fords, Guys, Garfords, a Fiat and a Beardmore.

1927 East Mon Motor Services operating between Usk and Newport was purchased and in October Gloucestershire Transport obtained a controlling interest in the South Mon Motor Co. operating between Newport and Chepstow. South Mon Motor Co. was formed by the purchase of the route by Newport interests on 11th July from South Wales Commercial Motors who introduced the route in 1920 but whose main area of operations were centred around Cardiff and Bridgend. The operation was renamed Red & White Services (South Mon Section) or later Glos. Mon. Hereford (Red & White) Services (South Mon Section). As a result of this acquisition and the Chepstow to Newport route it was possible to provide through services between Newport and Gloucester which commenced on 7th November.

© Richard Smith 2012-17. All rights reserved.

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Some of the early vehicles that did not survive the 1930 amalgamation:

After the amalgamation in 1930, the Red & White fleet comprised approximately 150 vehicles of various types, most of which were under five years old. A new head office and works was established at a former army camp at Bulwark near Chepstow and in 1931 Red & White became a pioneer in the use of diesel engines in buses by testing a Gardner 5LW and later a 4LW in two of its Albion 28 single deckers which resulted in the fitting of all its vehicles with Gardner engines. Further developments continued as follows:

1930  G Fisher of 6a Clarence Place, Newport trading as Fishers Saloon Service was acquired together with a Leyland Lion. Fisher operated a local service between Newport and Chepstow and also a service to London and from Cardiff and Newport to Birmingham. In 1928 Fisher ran four 14-16 seat buses on Chevrolet, Dennis and Morris-Commercial chassis and two 20-seat Thornycrofts but it is unclear if these entered the Red & White fleet.

Coombes of Oakdale was also acquired (Western Services took over Thomas Coombes’ Oakdale-Blackwood route in 1926 which was transferred to West Mon Omnibus Board the same year. Thomas Coombes died in May 1926)

1931 Small operators acquired this year were Blue Bus Services, Tredegar-Troedrhiwgwair; Eckley, Abergavenny; F N Morgan, Govilon-Abergavenny-Mardy (Morgan was still operating excursions and tours in 1935); Davies Services, Llantilio-Abergavenny-Monmouth; and Paulsons, Cinderford-Drybrook-Ross.

1932  Red & White expanded its long distance operations with a number of acquisitions. Great Western Express started a daily service between London and Cardiff in 1928 and by 1932 was also serving Swansea and the Welsh Valleys. The company was taken over by Red & White in July adding 3 T.S.Ms and 7 Leyland Tigers to the Red & White fleet. The associated General Travel Agency became the London agent for Red & White and entered the tours business with the acquisition of All-British Travels which also ran a London – Chester service. General Travel Agency also managed the facilities and booking arrangements of the London Terminal Coach Station at Clapham which itself was later acquired by Red & White.

P B Davies of Bodenham, Herefordshire ran a local service and also a Cardiff – Blackpool service under the name “Nell Gwynne Coaches” the latter being acquired by Red & White together with an A.J.S. Commodore and 2 A.E.C. Regals.

MacShanes Motors of Liverpool operated express services from Liverpool to London and Glasgow and had also obtained a licence to run local bus services in the Bootle area. However the licence was revoked after the company had agreed to purchase a fleet of Albion buses for the service some of which had already been delivered. In December 1932 Red & White obtained a controlling interest in the company and the MacShanes vehicles were transferred to the main Red & White fleet in August 1933 when the local Bootle service ceased.

Samuelson Saloon Coaches operating between London, Birmingham and Liverpool was also acquired together with two A.E.C. Regals.

1933  South Wales Express London – Llanelly service was acquired jointly by Red & White and Black & White Motorways. Consequently the two companies existing services to Swansea were extended to Llanelly and Red & White received a Gilford and two A.E.C. Regals with unusual separate driver’s cabs. Red Bus Services of Stroud, which operated bus services in the Stroud area and an express service between London, Stroud and Gloucester, was acquired by Red & White together with 4 Leylands and 4 Albions, most of the Red Bus fleet having been disposed of before complete takeover. Gloucester became the centre of Red & White long distance operations with the reconstruction at Gloucester Coach Station in India Road. The tours business was extended with the introduction of inclusive holidays from London to the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean areas known as “Happy Valley” tours. Other tours to all parts of the country and also to Europe soon followed. In February Red & White became booking agents and provided transport to Cardiff airport for a new air service to Bristol operated by Norman Edgar Ltd.

1935  Blackwell & Son, a small operator with a service between Llanthony and Abergavenny was acquired with two buses, and Liberty Motors, a private hire firm based in Cardiff, was acquired with seven coaches. A major aquisition in the Swansea area was of D Bassett & Sons of Gorseinon operating between Swansea and Llanelly, Carmarthen and the industrial areas north of Swansea. The company was merged with the previously acquired Enterprize Motor Services, also of Gorseinon, to form Bassett-Enterprise Ltd with a combined fleet of 30 vehicles. Neath Omnibus Co. was also acquired this year.

1936  Gough’s Welsh Motorways of Mountain Ash was acquired with its fleet of 37 vehicles. Gough’s operated mainly between Aberdare, Pontypridd and Cardiff. Another Swansea operator, Gower Vanguard, was also acquired together with 14 vehicles.

1937  Blue Bird Services of Skewen was added to the Swansea area acquisitions. Blue Bird also acquired Windsor Services of Briton Ferry this year. Another Welsh operator acquired was Imperial Motors, Abercynon, with its 29-strong fleet operating mainly between Cardiff and Aberdare. Jorden’s Services of Peterstowe operating mainly between Ross and Abergavenny was also acquired together with 5 vehicles.

A major London acquisition was Blue Belle Coaching Services with its fleet of 35 A.E.C. Regals. Blue Belle provided services mainly between London and the south coastal resorts. With this acquisition came the London Terminal Coach Station at Clapham which had been managed by the Red & White subsidiary General Travel Agency since 1932.

More details on the history of Blue Belle and the London Terminal Coach Station can be found here.

Aberdare Motor Services, originally set up in 1920 by A J Wilkins, was acquired with 22 vehicles jointly by the Watts and Griffin directors and run as a partnership. In November 1929 the Aberdare fleet consisted of 2 AEC Blenheim 26S, 3 AEC Renown, 1 Thornycroft A1, 5 Leyland Lion PLSC and 1 Leyland GH7.

1928  Gloucestershire Transport obtained a controlling interest in Hereford Transport in early 1928 and from March both companies' vehicles were licensed as Glos. Mon. Hereford Services. Blue and White Omnibus Co. of Langstone operating between Newport and Chepstow was acquired via T J Jones, and the firm of Davies operating between Ross and Newent was purchased. Rhondda Motor Services Co. Ltd. was also acquired by the partners of Aberdare Motor Services. Limited stop trunk services were established between Cardiff, Newport, Chepstow, Hereford, Monmouth, Ross and various Welsh Valleys towns to Gloucester and in August an agreement was reached with Rural England Motor Coaches Ltd to book through tickets to London with exchange at Gloucester to their Gloucester-London service. Some Red & White vehicles were painted in Rural England livery at this time.

1929  Two more operators were acquired, Higgs Motor Services (Devauden, Chepstow and Monmouth) and Rosser's Services (Usk, Pontypool, Chepstow and Monmouth). In the case of Rosser's Services some of the routes and vehicles were acquired by the Great Western Railway. The agreement with Rural England ended in April and the London connection at Gloucester was made with Blue Star Coaches Ltd which company was later purchased. In July the name Gloucestershire Transport was changed to Red & White Services Ltd and over the next few months the separate operations were all amalgamated as Red & White Services Ltd, the last being Valleys Motor Bus Ltd on 1st January 1930.

Inauguration ceremony at Lydney on 7th November 1927 of the Newport-Gloucester service.

1938  Gorseinon & District was purchased jointly by Bassett-Enterprise and South Wales Transport with the vehicles being acquired by the Red & White group, and Neath Omnibus Co., acquired in 1935, was merged with Eclipse. The major development this year was the formation of Red & White United Transport Ltd as a public company to acquire a controlling interest in Red & White Services Ltd together with the Swansea area companies and wholly owned subsidiaries. At the time of incorporation the group possessed 414 buses and coaches. The life of many of the earlier vehicles was extended by rebodying with standard Duple bus and coach bodies which continued until 1942. The small private hire firm of B Gulley of Newport was also acquired this year.

The Griffin Motor Co., the directors of which had close links with Red & White since its inception, amalgamated with Ralph’s Garages of Abertillery as Griffin-Ralph Ltd in which the directors of Red & White also had a financial interest. Griffin-Ralph took control of Reliance Motors (Barry) Ltd in 1938 but the Griffin, Ralph and Reliance fleets kept their identities until nationalisation in 1950 when the fleets later merged with the Red & White fleet.

1939  The eleven Swansea area companies acquired since 1933 and run more or less independently until now were amalgamated as United Welsh Services Ltd with 130 buses and coaches. The fleet of Blue Belle Coaching Services which had been acquired in 1937 and run as a separate concern was absorbed into that of Red & White but the vehicles kept their Blue Belle fleet numbers (prefixed with B) for a while before being renumbered in the 700 series. A major acquisition this year was that of Cheltenham District Traction with a fleet of 27 vehicles which provided local services in Cheltenham. The company was operated as a separate concern and kept its maroon and cream livery.

Second World War 1939-45

A number of services were curtailed early in the war including the parcels service first introduced in 1928, some stage carriage services, and the Associated Motorways coach network. This was balanced by a large increase in war work – transportation of evacuees, prisoners of war and factory workers. However, many vehicles were requisitioned and those scheduled for withdrawal were reprieved, a number receiving new utility bodies between 1942 and 1944. Many vehicles were hired from other operators and a number of new utility vehicles were allocated to the group.

In December 1943 another concern away from the traditional Red & White area was acquired, that of Newbury & District Motor Services Ltd with a fleet of 64 vehicles. Like United Welsh and Cheltenham District Traction, Newbury & District continued as a separate company within the group. Dawkins of Neath was acquired in 1944, five of its vehicles being added to the United Welsh fleet. Venture Ltd of Basingstoke whose area of operation adjoined that of Newbury & District was acquired in early 1945 with 46 vehicles. Venture also continued as a separate company.

1945  South Midland Motor Services Ltd of Oxford with a fleet of 16 vehicles was acquired in October 1945. South Midland had operated express coach services between Worcester and London and Worcester and Southsea, both via Oxford, and after compulsory cessation of coach services during the war undertook contract work. The express coach services restarted the following year. Associated Motorways coach services also resumed this year.

1946  The last acquisition of an operator by Red & White United Transport was of Philips of Abercynon with an Aberdare to Pontypridd service, but no vehicles were involved in the transfer. Postwar shortages meant that new vehicles were hard to come by and those that did mostly had semi-utility bodies.

1947  Large numbers of new vehicles started to arrive this year as well as a quantity of second-hand vehicles from other operators. Red & White United Transport took over the fledgling Mumford Body & Engineering Co. which had been recently established at Lydney, the name being changed to Lydney Coachworks Ltd. Over the next 5 years the company constructed bodies for a number of new vehicles for the Red & White group as well as some rebodyings of wartime double deckers.

1949  The Liberty name was revived for a short while to operate tours and excursions from Cardiff.

1950  The large Tilling bus group was nationalised in 1948 and fearing further nationalisation was inevitable the directors of Red & White United Transport decided to voluntarily sell their bus operations to the state, negotiations being completed in February 1950. Red & White and United Welsh were deemed large enough to continue as Tilling companies under the new British Transport Commission (later Transport Holding Company) control. Of the smaller companies Cheltenham District Traction was put under the control of Bristol Tramways, later Bristol Omnibus, but continued under the Cheltenham name until it was fully absorbed by Bristol Omnibus in 1980. South Midland and Newbury & District were both transferred to Thames Valley control. The South Midland operation was kept separate until it was merged with City of Oxford Motor Services in 1971 but the Newbury & District fleet name ceased in 1952. Venture was transferred to the control of Wilts & Dorset and the Venture name also ceased. Griffin-Ralph was not part of the Red & White group but there were common directorships between the two and nationalisation was negotiated at the same time with the result that the fleets of Griffin, Ralph and Reliance were absorbed into the nationalised Red &White Services.

Samuelson’s Saloon Coaches 1930 timetable and brochure


Associated Motorways service timetable for Summer 1935 between Swansea, Aberdare, Tredegar etc. and South Coast resorts.


Fleet size at nationalisation

Red & White


United Welsh


Cheltenham District


Newbury & District


South Midland










1969-78 The National Bus Company was formed in 1969 from the merger of the THC and the recently nationalised British Electric Traction (BET) group and rationalisation followed. Red & White took control of Jones of Aberbeeg in 1969 although the latter company retained its identity until 1980, United Welsh was absorbed by South Wales Transport in 1971, and Red & White and the former BET company Western Welsh were put under the same management team in 1973/4. The combined fleets of Red & White and Western Welsh were renumbered in October 1975 although the vehicles still carried the old fleet names until the assets of Red & White were transferred to Western Welsh and the company was renamed National Welsh in 1978.


1951  A major rebodying program of the wartime utility Guy Arab double deckers and semi-utility 1946/7 Pickering-bodied Albion single deckers was carried out by Bristol’s Brislington Body Works over the next three years.

1952  The outlying Stroud area of Red & White was transferred to Bristol Tramways and the Coleford outstation of Bristol Tramways was transferred at the same time to Red & White with a corresponding exchange of vehicles most of which soon reverted to their former owners.

Two more companies were acquired by United Welsh, Richmond of Neath with 2 double deck, 2 single deck and 3 coaches, and Swan Motor Co. of Swansea with 21 double deck and 3 coaches.

1953  Stevens Bros of Tredegar was acquired by Red & White but no vehicles were involved. After all new vehicles ordered in pre-nationalisation days had been delivered future orders followed BTC policy in being of Bristol / Eastern Coachworks manufacture.

1966  The opening of the Severn Bridge in September saw the introduction of direct services to Bristol jointly with Bristol Omnibus.

Samuelsons1930TT.pdf R&WMap1950.pdf

Red & White Services Ltd. Route Map 1950

Timetable and Faretable for Routes 300 and 301 between South Wales and Bristol via the Severn Bridge 1969

Samuelsons1930TT.pdf AssocMotorways1935TT.pdf R&WMap1950.pdf R&WRoute300.pdf

1934  A small operator, Davis of Dowlais, with a service from Merthyr to Pant was acquired this year together with a number of operators in the Swansea and Neath areas, outside the traditional Red & White area of operation. These were Eclipse Saloon Services of Clydach, Enterprize Motor Services of Gorseinon and Roderick’s Service of Dunvant. Two more operators Harries & Co and Lewis Bros., both of Pontardulais, were purchased by Eclipse later in the year.

Red & White joined with Black & White Motorways and Midland Red in establishing a pooling system for the South Wales-London and Birmingham services which was quickly superseded by the formation of Associated Motorways in which the above companies together with Greyhound Motors, Royal Blue and United Counties pooled all their coach operations, with the Black & White coach station at Cheltenham as the general interchange point.

Summer 1933 brochure and timetable for coach services between London & S0uth Wales operated by Red & White Services in association with Great Western Express and Red Bus Services both of which had just been acquired.

R&W-GWE-RB-Summer1933TT.pdf R&W-GWE-RB-Summer1933TT.pdf

WATTS companies/acquisitions and the GRIFFIN involvement before 1930:

An advertisement for Red & White coach services that appeared in a July 1929 national coach timetable with a map showing the places served.

Coach service brochures issued at a time of rapid change. From left to right: January 1929 - (Red & White) Coaches with Rural England; February 1929 - (Red & White) Coaches with Rural England and Blue Star Coaches; June 1929 - (Red & White) Services with Blue Star Coaches only; and May 1930 after consolidation as Red & White Services Ltd.