EMERGENCY powers had to be taken during the Second World War to keep Oxford bus services running.

City of Oxford Motor Services, now the Oxford Bus Company, faced severe shortages as staff went off to join the forces.

City councillors and ratepayers continually complained about poor service, brought about by a lack of drivers, conductors and conductresses.

However, efforts to recruit and retain staff were not helped by angry passengers.

An inspector revealed in 1942: “One irate woman, when courteously told that she would have to wait for the next bus as the one at the stop was already full, swung her gasmask at the driver, who was assisting the conductress to control the queue, and hit him a hard blow in the eye.”

According to the inspector, there had been numerous incidents where conductresses in particular had been abused.

He added: “No self-respecting girl will tolerate indefinitely the abuse and treatment to which they are subjected and they cannot be blamed for resigning and finding work of a more congenial nature.

“To a large extent, the travelling public have only themselves to blame for this shortage of conductors and conductresses.

“They treat them abominably, having no appreciation of the difficulties under which these young women are working.”

At one point, the bus company was short of 25 drivers and 48 conductors and conductresses, leading to the cancellation of services and long queues at bus stops.

Eventually, the Ministry of Labour agreed to give the company ‘super-priority’ in the employment of women.

Under the powers, no other employers were allowed to engage women between the ages of 21 and 30 without Ministry approval.

That meant that Ministry officials could channel women into jobs on the buses.

Later, as we have recalled, women were brought in as drivers to ease the labour shortages.