Smiths Coaches Reading

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Joined: Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:36 am

Smiths Coaches Reading

Postby Contributor » Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:43 am

I beleive that my great grandmother was killed in accident, not sure what year, but would be around 1920-1935. The accident happened when the only coach Smiths owned caught fire and my grandmother went back into the coach thinking her brother was still inside.As far as I know all the other passengers were in a public house returning from a football match.I think the incident happened somewhere near Knowl Hill in Berkshire. My Grandmother's name was Mrs Moore. I would be be grateful for any information on this or history of Smiths Coaches

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Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:06 am

Re: Smiths Coaches Reading

Postby PeterDelaney » Fri May 27, 2011 9:53 pm

The accident to which you refer happened on 27th April 1919, n the A4 at Hare Hatch, and the injured were taken to the horse & Groom nearby. The coach had taken a party of Reading football supporters to a match against Chelsea, and had stopped at Littlewick Green for refreshment on the way back.
The 'daily press' had reported (erroneously) the incident as including the coach rolling over. The coach in question was said to be a Lancia, although the representatives of the manufacturer was keen to point out in court that it was not a Lancia. Apparently, the 'engine gearbox and axle' ( it says 'axle', but not which, or if both) were made by Lancia, and it carried the Lancia name. The chassis had been bought in London in September 1927, and the all-weather coach had a canvas roof and movable glass side windows, seated 28. The disaster had been caused by the petrol tank catching fire, as the ball race on the prop shaft had failed, allowing the shaft to strike the tank and rupture it. Opinion then varied as to if the petrol had been ignited by the heat from the exhaust pipe (which ran close by) or from sparks caused by the friction of the drive shaft on the road. The fire spread rapidly, and despite the efforts of the driver, who opened all 3 doors to the coach and broke windows for passengers to escape, 7 passengers died - 4 in the blaze, one later the same day, and 2 within 10 days. However, the vehicle chassis seems to have been modified by Smiths, the Reading coach firm. The exhaust pipe ran 'down the nearside of the chassis' (and from a photograph taken after the accident) was badly bent, whilst the petrol tank was 'about three feet away on the offside and in the middle of the coach' - but the tank had originally been behind the back axle. The owner had had a new tank made locally which "in every way complied with the regulations". The coach had last been overhauled before its police examination in the March. The Reading local papers carry more detailed reports than I can include here - both of the accident and the subsequent inquest.
Peter Delaney, Wargrave LHS

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