Page 3. SD Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Summer 2018.
With regret we announce the death of Bill Thornycroft earlier this year. As a child Bill lived in Worthing and had fond memories of the little red buses like the one shown above that trundled round the town’s streets carrying holiday makers. Bill trained in mechanical and electrical engineering at Napiers and later moved to Lambeth in South London. Here he undertook domestic electrical work. Bill was interested in political matters and could often be found attending demonstrations against current injustices. He was also involved in musical and theatrical productions.
In the 1950’s when interest in preserving commercial vehicles became a popular activity Bill soon joined the Omnibus Society, the P.S.V. Circle and local groups such as the Southdown Enthusiasts’ Club and the Worthing Historic Commercial Vehicle group. When an ex-Southdown Tilling-Stevens’ Titan was discovered in Scotland Bill helped to restore it. Bill was later involved in the rescue and restoration of some seven early Southdown vehicles.
In 1978 when the Ambereley Museum was opened Bill offered his newly restored 1920’s Southdown Leyland as an exhibit which formed the foundation of their Southdown collection.
In 1965 Bill acquired an ex- Epsom & Ewell SD Freighter Reg. No. BPL 73 that the Borough had intended to form part of an exhibition. This vehicle is still in existence. At the same time he also purchased an ex-Truro SD freighter chassis (for £25.00) with the aim of eventually creating a replica Tramocar. Some restoration work was carried out on this chassis by the Shoreham Airport site of Worthing Technical College, which at the time was amalgamated with the Chelsea College of Aeronautical and Automobile Engineering. Re-assembly was almost complete when it was returned to the Amberley Museum. The restoration then got going in earnest and eventually the new bus body was built there by the Bus Group volunteers. In 1994 the replica Tramocar passed its first M.O.T. Since then the little red bus has been in regular service at the Ambereley Museum.
In 2011 Bill kindly wrote a comprehensive account of his involvement with this project which appeared in the SD Enthusiasts’ Club Magazines of the time.
In recent times Bill has suffered from ill health but had acquired for the Museum a second Freighter chassis to ensure a supply of spare parts for the future. The early production of bus chassis by Shelvoke and Drewry is an interesting part of the early history of the company and this unique replica Tramocar is a priceless reminder of this history.
I am indebted to Bill Stiles and Michael Plunkett, friends of Bill, for details of Bill’s life given here. Officially “Francis Edward” Bill was Mr. Thornycroft’s chosen name.
Bill is shown on the right hand side of this photo. All of us who have an affection for Shelvoke & Drewry are indebted to Bill for his efforts to preserve the name of S&D.
Bill Stiles has written:- “ You will be pleased to hear we have had the Tramocar running very well with its rebuilt engine. It is currently having a starter motor fitted, as very few of us are strong enough to crank it over, but hopefully it will be in use at the museum, and should soon have a new coat of paint.
On the next page Bill's memories are re-printed.