During World War Two, as large numbers of working men took up military service, women became active in jobs that had traditionally been carried out by men. On 26 November 1941, a married woman from Coldean began work as a conductor for Brighton’s Southdown bus company.
With reference to your recent interview with me, I beg to inform you that we have decided to engage you as a bus conductress, on a month’s trial, starting on Wednesday 26th November. As I informed you at the interview, the engagement will be of a purely temporary nature.
You will be learning for ten days, and will received 4s.0d per day during that period, plus 2 3/4d an hour War wage. After that your wages will be at the rate of 1s.0 1/2d an hour, plus 2 3/4d an hour War wage. After four months you will receive 1s. 2 1/4d. an hour, plus 2 3/4d. an hour War wage.
Will you please, therefore, report to me at Steine Street, on Wednesday, 26th November, at 9.0 a.m. Please bring with you your birth certificate, as this has to be shown to our Accounts Department, and also your insurance and unemployment cards.
On starting work with Southdown, the lady was issued with Notes to Assist Conductors and Conductresses. This guide outlined good professional practice for those assisting and taking payment from bus passengers, and provided details of local travel connections. It also provided advice on how to deal with difficult customers, and advocated a taciturn approach to customer service:
‘Conductors.. meet all kinds of people: some are very unreasonable. You will not be wrong if you are always polite, answer questions to the best of your ability, and say as little as possible.’