Birmingham Corporation Tramways

Summary
Early uniforms were double-breasted with two rows of four buttons (presumably brass) and high fold-over collars. The collars bore embroidered badges, BCT on the right-hand side and a script-lettering grade badge - either Motorman or Conductor on the left-hand side. Caps were in a tall kepi style with a glossy peak, and bore a large cap badge comprising the Birmingham arms inside an open garter containing the words 'CORPORATION TRAMS', all surrounded by a wreath, with the bearer's grade - either 'MOTORMAN' or 'CONDUCTOR' - at the bottom within a ribbon inlaid with blue enamel (see below). An example of this badge also exists without the grade, possibly for general use (e.g. for points boys or similar).

At some point, possibly in the years leading up to the Great War, the embroidered grade badge on the left-hand collar was superceded by an employee number preceded by a letter, either ‘M’ for ‘Motorman’ or ‘C’ for Conductor. It is possible that the system initials were embroidered and the employee number brass.

Tramcar staff were also issued with long, double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons, high, fold-over collars and epaulettes - it is currently unclear if these garments bore any insignia, though photos would suggest not. Long Service/Good Conduct was recognised by the issuing of a chevron (after 3 years) and subsequently a star (after 10 years); these were worn on the bearer's left-hand sleeve, and were gold for tunics/jackets and blue for greatcoats.

In the last few years before the Great War (certainly no earlier than 1910), the kepi-style caps were replaced by military-style caps, some if not all having woven crowns (tops), a style that found favour with several other Midlands' systems (e.g. Derby and Leicester). Cap badges were also changed - possibly a few years later, but definitely by 1918 - to an oval, brass and blue enamel design containing an employee number, surrounded by the full system title: 'Birmingham Corporation Tramways'.

Sometime shortly after the Great War, the uniform tunics were changed to a double-breasted 'lancer' design with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), upright collars and epaulettes (with button fastening). Neither the collars nor the epaulettes bore any insignia, though they were piped. The uniforms were changed yet again - probably in the late 1930s or 1940s - to a more modern single-breasted design with four buttons, four pockets (all with button closures), epaulettes and lapels.

In later years, possibly from the late 1930s or 1940s onwards, motormen, conductors and inspectors were issued with light-coloured dust jackets for use in summer; these were single-breasted with removable translucent natural horn buttons (see below), and had lapels with blue collars that bore embroidered 'B.C.T' block initials on each side.

During the Second World War, Birmingham, like several other tramway and transport operators, used the services of auxiliary conductors. These individuals were members of the travelling public, who helped the conductor load and unload cars and ring signals in exchange for free or reduced travel; they wore their own clothing, but were issued with armbands (see below for an example), which presumably conferred a degree of authority.

Early photos show that a round, numbered, brass licence badge was worn by both Motormen and Conductors, probably the same type as the example depicted below. These were dispensed with around the time of the Great War, perhaps at the same time that the new oval cap badges, which incorporated employee numbers, were introduced.

In the early years, inspectors wore single-breasted tunics with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair), two slit breast pockets and upright collars; the pockets, collars and the edge of the jacket were all finished in a finer material then the main body. The same material was also used to embellish the sleeves with a chevron. The collars were embroidered: Inspector on the bearer's left-hand side and B C T on the right-hand side. Caps were in a kepi-style with a pom pom, and bore a very similar cap badge to those issued to tramcar staff, but with the grade - 'INSPECTOR' - in the blue enamel-inlaid ribbon. The kepi-style caps were eventually replaced by standard military-style caps with tensioned crowns (tops). At some point prior to the Second World War, the cap badge, though unchanged in form, was now issued in nickel (rather than brass) with chrome lettering (see below).

Birmingham divided its system into four sections, each of which had a District Inspector. These men were issued with uniform jackets that were very similar to those worn by inspectors, but with the sleeves heavily embellished with finer material than the main body of the jacket, and with the upright collars each bearing a Birmingham coat of arms badge, which was probably made of cloth and gold bullion. Caps were also in the kepi style (at least up until 1910), but in contrast to inspectors, they bore a small round badge - again almost certainly cloth and gold bullion, and very likely bearing 'B C T' initials and the grade, surrounding a Birmingham municipal shield (see below).

In common with many British tramway systems, Birmingham employed female staff during the Great War, to replace male employees lost to the armed services. Birmingham's ladies were issued with tailored single-breasted jackets with five buttons, four pockets, a waist belt with button fastening, and a long matching skirt with piping down the full length; the upper part of the jackets bore lapels and epaulettes, the former piped at the edges. The buttons were plain (i.e. unmarked) and the entire jacket was completely devoid badges. Headgear took the form of a wide-brimmed, dark-coloured straw bonnet with a hat band (with bow), to which a one-piece employee number badge was affixed (almost certainly in brass); the latter was eventually superseded by the standard wreath cap badge. At some point, the bonnet was replaced by a baggy cap with a glossy peak; once again these bore the standard wreath cap badge.

The ladies were also issued with long, taliored, double-breasted coats with a waist belt (with button fastening), epaulettes and lapels; this garment was also completely devoid of insignia, including the buttons, which were plain composite.

Female staff were also employed in significant numbers during the Second World War, and they continued to be employed right through to the closure of the system. Photographic evidence suggests that they were issued with tailored, single-breasted jackets with lapels and matching skirts, along with what would appear to be forage-style caps; it is unclear what badges were worn as close-up photos are not available. After the war, a swtich appears to have been made to from skirts to trousers.

This page has been put together with a great deal of help from David Smith, who in turn would like to thank the late Mr George Cross, Senior Inspector for imparting much of his own experience and knowledge.

Images

Motormen and conductors
Birmingham Corporation Tramways motorman edwardian
Studio portrait of a BCT motorman with, presumably, his daughter - photo undated, but probably Edwardian. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways motorman edwardian
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the uniform. Both collars carry embroidered badges: Motorman on the left-hand side and BCT on the right-hand side.

Birmingham Corporation Tramways No 224 and crew
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 224 on a service to Erdington - photo undated, but probably taken shortly after the corporation take-over of this route in 1907. Both men are wearing round licences. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways grinder tramcar with tram drivers
A fitter and two motormen captured in a depot yard with a grinder car - photo undated, but certainly Edwardian. Both men are wearing round licences. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Arthur Street Depot in 1910
The staff of the Arthur St depot taken in May 1910. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Arthur Street Depot in 1910
A blow-up of the above photo showing a group of motormen and conductors. All are wearing double-breasted jackets with high fold-over collars and kepi-style caps. Several of those depicted are wearing Long Service Good Conduct chevrons. The large cap badges are clearly seen. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways motorman's cap badge
Early-period ‘Motorman’ cap badge (worn from 1901 to the Great War) - brass and blue enamel. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways conductor cap badge
Early-period ‘Conductor’ cap badge (worn from 1901 to the Great War) - brass and blue enamel. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways cap badge
Early-period ‘gradeless’ (?) cap badge (worn from 1901 to the Great War) - brass (dug). Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways No 30 and crew
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 30 at what appears to be the Bearwood terminus (junction of Hagley Rd and Beech Lane) - photo undated, but given the military-style caps, probably taken between 1910 and 1914. Both men are wearing round licences. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum. With thanks to David Smith for identifying the location.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways licence
Corporation ‘Conductor’ licence, probably of the same pattern used by Birmingham Corporation Tramways tramcar staff from 1901 to around the time of the Great War. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways tram conductress group photo
A depot shot of a group of BCT tramwaymen and women - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways motorman Henry James Baker
Photo of Motorman Henry James Baker in early pattern uniform - undated, but probably taken during the Great War. Motorman Baker was born on 8th May 1890 in Aston, was living in Winson Green by his early twenties, and finally emigrated to Australia (on the Steam Ship Eurypides) in April 1921. Note the collar designations, which look embroidered, but could well be brass, and the metal badge worn high on his chest. The latter may have been a regimental badge as many photos of tramway staff dating from just after the Great War show them proudly wearing what are presumably their ex-unit badges. With thanks to the Henry James Baker Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Conductor
An unknown BCT conductor - photo dated January 1920. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways cap badge
Later-period brass and blue enamel cap badge worn by both ‘Motormen’ and ‘Conductors’ from around the end of the Great War through to closure. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways straw cap
Birmingham Corporation Tramways straw-topped cap. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways No 132 and crew
Motorman and two conductors with Tramcar No 132 at the Acocks Green terminus in 1920. All present are wearing the new oval cap badge. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways employee Arthur Baker
‘Motorman’ Arthur Baker (born 1886), probably taken some time in the early to mid-1920s. ‘Motorman’ Baker started his BCT career in 1907, and in this photo, clearly sports his Great War medal ribbon. The cap badge is the newer oval brass and blue enamel design. Note the Long Service Good Conduct chevron on his left sleeve. With thanks to his grandson, Colin Baker.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways employee Albert Baugh
Albert Baugh, who was probably born in 1898, and later became an inspector, shown sometime around 1926/27.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Albert Baugh cap badge
Albert Baugh's cap badge - 1564 - courtesy of Tony Schuck.


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A large group of tramcar staff waiting with their cars at Handsworth Depot (closed since 1924, but still used for parking up Football Specials like these) - photo undated, but probably taken on Saturday 23rd October 1937. Photo by W A Camwell, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum. With thanks to David Smith for background information.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways crew 1951
Motorman Frank Bridges (No 3359), Motorman Fred Girling (No 3270) and Conductor Pat Kavanagh in July 1951, all wearing modern single-breasted jackets with lapels. The two motormen are wearing the later-period blue enamel cap badge, despite the name of the organisation having changed to Birmingham City Transport some 14 years earlier. The conductor is wearing a round PSV badge, possibly indicating that he also worked on the buses. I am indebted to David Smith for the background information to this photo.


Birmingham City Transport summer dust jacket
Birmingham City Transport summer dust jacket with natural horn buttons - this particular example bears the date 1942. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.


Birmingham City Transport Auxiliary Conductor's armband
Birmingham City Transport auxiliary conductor's armband. These were worn by non-BCT employees who helped on the darkened vehicles during the blackouts of the Second World War. Author's Collection.


Birmingham City Transport Long Service Good Conduct badges
Birmingham City Transport Long Service Good Conduct badges. The chevrons were for 3 years and the star was added after 10 years; gold for tunics/jackets and blue for the overcoats. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.


Senior staff
Birmingham Corporation Tramways inspectors and district inspector 1908
A group of nine BCT inspectors and a district inspector - photo dated May 1908. Author's Collection.


Birmingham City Tramways Inspector 1908
A blow-up of the above photo showing one of the inspectors. His grade is easily made out on his collar, as are the sleeve chevrons and the prominent cap badge.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways District Inspector
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the District Inspector, who is probably Mr R Hamer of the Northern Section (see below). His collar and cap insignia are probably cloth with gold bullion, a type of badge which was definitely used for senior grades in later years.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Traffic Staff 1909
Birmingham Corporation Tramways Traffic Staff 1909. Centre, J McDonnell (Traffic Superintendent); top, P Bentley (District Inspector - Southern); clockwise, E Germain (DI - Eastern); R Hamer (DI - Northern); L J Sadler (DI - Western); L Johnson (Chief Clerk); J H Cutter (Inspector of Motormen). Sixteen years on from this photo, J H Cutler shot his boss (L Johnson) in his office - Johnson apparently survived and Cutler was eventually acquitted of a murder charge! With thanks to Judith and David Smith for the photo and the background information.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Distirct Inspector E Germain
Birmingham Corporation Tramways District Inspector Germain - photo taken in 1909. With thanks to Judith and David Smith.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways inspector Great War
A blow-up of the Great War depot photo above, showing an inspector.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War inspector
A blow-up of a Great War 'conductress' group photograph (see below) showing an inspector. Both collars carry embroidered designations, Inspector on the bearer's left-hand side and B C T on the right-hand side.


Inspecotr Billy Bushell of Birmingham City Transport / Tramways
Birmingham City Transport Inspector Billy Bushell - formerly a motorman - at No 2 'Erdington' tram terminus in a summer dust jacket - 1950. With thanks to Judith and David Smith.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Inspector cap badge
Birmingham City Tramways inspector's cap badge - nickel and chrome. Given that widespread chroming (see link) only took hold in the late 1930s and 1940s, it seems highly likely that this badge dates from that period. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation tramways Inspector Billy Bushell
Birmingham City Transport Inspector Billy Bushell once again, this time in Colmore Rd on 27th May 1957, sampling some Australian fruit. Although this was after the demise of the tramway, it does show details of the later-period inspectors' uniforms and the cap badge, which was by this time presumably a 'Transport Department' issue, though clearly very similar in form to the older style ’tramway’ cap badges. Photo taken by the Birmingham Post and Mail. With thanks to David Smith for the correct identification.


Birmingham City Transport Inspector's cap badge
Birmingham City Transport inspector cap badge - white metal. With thanks to Darren Lodge.


Birmingham City Transport Inspector cap and collar badges
Birmingham City Transport Inspector's cap and collar badges as worn by Bert Smith - chrome. With thanks to his son, David Smith.


Birmingham City Transport Claims Inspector cap and collar badges
Birmingham City Transport Claims Inspector's cap and collar badges as worn by Bert Smith - gold bullion. With thanks to his son, David Smith.


BCT_ControlRoomInspector_DavidSmithRED
Birmingham City Transport Control Room Inspector's cap and collar badges - gold bullion. With thanks to David Smith.


BCTDistrictSupervisor_DavidSmith
Birmingham City Transport District Supervisor's cap and collar badges, as worn by Mr George Cross, a Superintendent at Miller St depot - gold bullion. With thanks to David Smith.


Female staff
Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
A superb studio portrait of a BCT Great War conductress with all her paraphenalia. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
A blow-up of the above photo, which reveals the subject to be Employee No 195. Although her greatcoat is tailored with piped epaulettes, the buttons are plain and the collars are without badges of any kind.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
Another portrait of the same conductress (Employee No 195) - photo undated, but probably taken relatively early in the Great War. This shot shows the subject in her uniform jacket, rather than greatcoat, which is once again unmarked and with plain buttons. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress Tram 94
A depot shot of four Great War BCT tram conductresses, from left to right: Employees 112, 105, 195 (the lady above) and 101. The tramcar in the background is No 94, which bears a Hall Green to Station St destination board (on the top deck) and a Stratford Rd route board on the side. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Trmaways Great War conductress
BCT Great War conductress on the platform step of Tramcar No 8 - photo undated. The badge on her lapel - and maybe the one on her bonnet too - is probably a regimental 'sweetheart' badge. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways tram conductresses Great War
A blow-up of the Great War depot photo shown above. Whilst the ladies depicted are wearing the straw bonnets seen in the preceding photos, these clearly bear the standard wreath cap badge rather than an employee number.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War tram / bus conductresses
A group of BCT Great War conductresses. Given that the vehicle in the background is a bus, and the sign at the top left contains the word 'bus', the ladies depicted are very probably bus conductresses. The rear of the photograph is marked 'THE "HIGHBURY" STUDIO, 48 Bristol Street, Birmingham. Proprietors - H. Hitchinson, M. A. Mason'.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War tram / bus conductresses
Blow-up of the above photo showing details of the ladies' uniforms; in contrast to the photos above, the employee number is borne on the jacket lapel rather than the hat.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways Great War conductres or lady tram driver
BCT female employee - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Although the uniform jacket is identical to that seen in previous photos, the headgear now takes the form of a baggy cap with the standard BCT wreath cap badge. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways No 3 and conductress
War time (WW2) shot of Tramcar No 2 on the Number 6 route to Perry Barr. The conductress is wearing a tailored jacket and skirt, along with what appears to be a forage-style cap. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Birmingham City Transport conductress and Inspecotr Billy Bushell
Birmingham City Transport conductress and Motorman (?) Billy Bushell at Erdington Terminus on the No 2 route - photo undated, but almost certainly taken in the 1940s. With thanks to Judith and David Smith.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways conductress with Tramcar No 706
Birmingham City Transport conductress V Caine uses Tramcar No 706 as a convenient prop - photo taken at the Short Heath terminus (Route No 1) circa 1950. With thanks to Judith and David Smith.