Birmingham Corporation Tramways
Early uniforms were double-breasted with two rows of four buttons (presumably brass) and high fold-over collars (see below). 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, beneath which was the bearer's grade - either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor' - inlaid in 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).
Early photos show that a round, numbered, brass licence badge was worn by both Motormen and Conductors, probably the example depicted below. These were dispensed with relatively early on, perhaps at the same time that employee numbers were applied to uniform tunics in place of the grade badges worn on the collars; these took the form of a brass number preceded by a letter, either ‘M’ for ‘Motorman’ or ‘C’ for Conductor.
Platform staff were also issued with long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, high, fold-over collars and epaulettes - it is currently unclear if these 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 overcoats.
In the last few years before the Great War (no earlier than 1910), the kepi-style caps were replaced by military style caps, some if not all having woven uppers, a style that found favour with several other Midlands' systems (e.g. Derby and Leicester). Cap badges were also changed, probably a few years later, but definitely before 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 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.
In the early years, inspectors appear to have worn single-breasted tunics with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair), slit breast pockets and upright collars, all edged in a finer material then the main body of the jacket. The collars were embroidered, 'Inspector' on the bearer's left-hand side and 'B C T' on the right-hand side. Caps were in the kepi-style and bore a large cap badge comprising the arms of Birmingham within a wreath - the pattern differed noticeably from those issued to tramcar staff. The kepi-style caps were eventually replaced by standard miiitary style caps, and the cap badges by ones very similar to the wreath abdges worn by tramcar crews, but with the grade 'Inspector' at the bottom. Sometime prior to the Seocnd World War, the cap badge, though unchanged in form, was nbow issued in white metal (rather than brass) with chrome lettering (See below).
District inspectors wore a very similar uniform to inspectors, but with a markedly smaller and different cap badge, probably made from gold bullion.
In common with many British tramway systems, during the Great War Birmingham employed female staff 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 abdge. At some point, the bonnet was replaced by a baggy cap with a glossy peak; these bore the standard wreath cap badge.
The ladies were also issued with long, taliored, double-breasted overcoats 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 ladies were issued with tailored, single-breasted jackets with lapels and matching skirts, along with what appear to be forage-style caps; it is unclear what badges were worn as close-up photos are not available. After the war, a change appears to have been made to trousers rather than skirts.
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.
Motormen and conductors
Studio portrait of a BCT motorman with, presumably, his daughter - photo undated, but probably Edwardian. Author's collection.
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.
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.
The staff of thr Arthur St depot taken in May 1910. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.
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 tall 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.
Early-period ‘Motorman’ cap badge - brass and blue enamel. Author's collection.
Early-period ‘Conductor’ cap badge - brass and blue enamel. Author's collection.
Early-period ‘gradeless’ (?) cap badge - brass (dug). Author's collection.
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. Note that both men are wearing round licences. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum. With thanks to David Smith for identifying the location.
Corporation ‘Conductor’ licence, probably of the same pattern used by Birmingham Corporation Tramways tramcar staff. Author's collection.
A depot shot of a group of BCT tramwaymen and women - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Author's collection.
Photo of Motorman Henry James Baker in early pattern uniform - undated, but probably taken just after 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 be metal, 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.
An unknown BCT conductor - photo dated January 1920. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.
Later-period brass and blue enamel cap badge worn by both ‘Motormen’ and ‘Conductors’. Author's collection.
Birmingham Corporation Tramways straw-topped cap. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.
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.
‘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 WWI 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.
Albert Baugh, who was probably born in 1898, and later became an inspector, shown sometime around 1926/27.
Albert Baugh's cap badge - 1564 - courtesy of Tony Schuck.
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.
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. Note that 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 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. These were worn by non-BCT employees who helped on the darkened vehicles during the blackouts of the Second World War. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.
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.
Blow-up of the Arthur Street depot photo showing District Inspector Germain (centre), and on the left, an individual who is in all likelihood, an inspector - photo taken taken in 1910. With thanks to Judith M. Smith and David Smith.
Birmingham Corporation Tramways District Inspector Germain - photo taken in 1909. With thanks to Judith and David Smith.
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.
A blow-up of the Great War depot photo above, showing an inspector. His left-hand jacket collar clearly bears his grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering.
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.
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 City Tramways inspector's cap badge - white metal and chrome. Given that widespread chroming (see link) only took hold in the late 1930s and 1940s, it seems likely that this badge dates from that period. Author's collection.
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 virtually identical 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 cap badge - white metal. With thanks to Darren Lodge.
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's cap and collar badges as worn by Bert Smith - gold bullion. With thanks to his son, David Smith.
Birmingham City Transport Control Room Inspector's cap and collar badges - gold bullion. With thanks to David Smith.
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.
A superb studio portrait of a BCT Great War conductress with all her paraphenalia. Author's collection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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.
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 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 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.