The annual order of Leyland Atlanteans were arriving later and later each year as Roe struggled to keep up with demand, most notably after hundreds were ordered by NBC subsidiary, London Country.
Plymouth City Transport - getting frustrated at this - turned to East Lancs Coachbuilders instead, and 138 formed part of the first of three batches of East Lancs bodied Atlanteans for Plymouth, consisting of no.'s 136 - 147 (VJY136-47V). In total Plymouth ordered 36 of these, over 3 years. 138 arrived at Milehouse depot in December 1979.
Both 138 and 143 had their wheels painted red and in January 1980 they were allocated names and these were worn above the front destination blinds in cream. 143 was named "NANCY LADY ASTOR", and 138 became "PHILIP CURTIS V.C."
138's livery was modified in October 1982 to the new Citybus livery, owing the launch of the Citybus services that same month. The cream around the lower deck windows being extended downwards and the red and black Citybus fleetnames applied. The wheels were also painted black to match the rest of the fleet.
10 of this batch (136, 137, 139-142 and 144-147) were delivered in the crimson lake and ivory livery, first worn by 79 (GDR204N) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Plymouth becoming a city. 138 and 143 however, arrived in the red and cream livery, lined out in black.
Unlike the rest of the batch, 138 and 143 were single door, whereas the rest were dual-door. Inside, the seating arrangement was 43 seats upstairs and 32 downstairs, the seats being trimmed in cloth moquette rather than the standard rexine as worn by the rest of the bus fleet. The reason 138 and 143 were different, is that they were to be dedicated to private hire work and longer distance 'country' routes, like 131-135 (STK131-5T) were. These routes being:
55 Plymouth - Roborough - Yelverton - Buckland and Milton Combe
56 Plymouth - Roborough - Yelverton - Dousland - Meavy
58 Plymouth - Roborough - Bickleigh - Shaugh Prior - Lee Moor - Cornwood - Plympton - Plymouth
59 Plymouth - Plympton - Cornwood - Lee Moor - Shaugh Prior - Bickleigh - Roborough - Plymouth
60 Mutton Cove - Plymouth - Plymstock - Wembury
61 Plymouth - Plymstock - Heybrook Bay and H.M.S. Cambridge
When 138 was withdrawn it passed into the ownership of Guide Friday, who operated open-top bus tours in many towns and cities across the UK, including Plymouth. Surprisingly, unlike the majority of Guide Friday's buses, 138 was not converted to open-top, and it is not thought to have ever entered service with them. It subsequently passed onto Stratford-on-Avon Gliding Club, Warwickshire, still wearing its final Citybus fleet livery, where it spent 12 years. The bus acted as a control vehicle on flying days, monitoring wind speeds and communicating between the gliders and launch crew.
It entered preservation in 2016 when it was purchased by Group Member, Paul Furse.
Philip Kenneth Edward Curtis was born on 7 July 1926 in Devonport, Plymouth. He joined The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in 1946. As a 24-year-old lieutenant in The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry attached to the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment during the Korean War, the following deed took place during the Battle of Imjin:
On 22/23 April 1951 near the Imjin River, Korea, during a heavy enemy attack, No. 1 platoon under the command of Lieutenant Curtis, was ordered to carry out a counter-attack which was initially successful, but was eventually held up by heavy fire and grenades. The lieutenant then ordered some of his men to give covering fire while he himself rushed the main position of resistance. In this charge he was severely wounded but he insisted on making a second attempt. While making another desperate charge he was killed when within a few yards of his objective after throwing a grenade which destroyed the enemy position immediately after.
Anthony Farrar-Hockley, one of Britain's most famous soldiers of the twentieth century, was a participant at the Imjin River battle. He was witness to Lieutenant Curtis' gallant deed, a desperate counterattack to regain a key position lost to the Chinese advance. At sunrise a Chinese attack was repulsed, but the British position was untenable. Below is part of Farrar-Hockley's account:
Phil is called to the telephone at this moment; Pat's voice sounds in his ear.
'Phil, at the present rate of casualties we can't hold on unless we get the Castle Site back. Their machine-guns up there completely dominate your platoon and most of Terry's. We shall never stop their advance until we hold that ground again.'
Phil looks over the edge of the trench at the Castle Site, two hundred yards away, as Pat continues talking, giving him the instructions for the counter attack. They talk for a minute or so; there is not much more to be said when an instruction is given to assault with a handful of tired men across open ground. Everyone knows it is vital: everyone knows it is appallingly dangerous. The only details to be fixed are the arrangements for supporting fire; and, though A Company's Gunners [sic] are dead, Ronnie will support them from D Company's hill. Behind, the machine-gunners will ensure that they are not engaged from the open eastern flank. Phil gathers his tiny assault party together.
It is time, they rise from the ground and move forward to the barbed wire that once protected the rear of John's platoon. Already two men are hit and Papworth, the Medical Corporal, is attending to them. They are through the wire safely – safely! – when the machine-gun in the bunker begins to fire. Phil is badly wounded: he drops to the ground. They drag him back through the wire somehow and seek what little cover there is as it creeps across their front. The machine-gun stops, content now it has driven them back; waiting for a better target when they move into the open again. 'It's all right, sir,' says someone to Phil. 'The Medical Corporal's been sent for. He'll be here any minute."
Phil raises himself from the ground, rests on a friendly shoulder, then climbs by a great effort on to one knee.
'We must take the Castle Site,' he says; and gets up to take it. The others beg him to wait until his wounds are tended. One man places a hand on his side. 'Just wait until Papworth has seen you, sir-'
But Phil has gone: gone to the wire, gone through the wire, gone towards the bunker. The other come out behind him, their eyes all on him. And suddenly it seems as if, for a few breathless moments, the whole of the remainder of that field of battle is still and silent, watching amazed, the lone figure that runs so painfully forward to the bunker holding the approach to the Castle Site: one tiny figure, throwing grenades, firing a pistol, set to take Castle Hill.
Perhaps he will make it – in spite of his wounds, in spite of the odds – perhaps this act of supreme gallantry may, by its sheer audacity, succeed. But the machine-gun in the bunker fires into him: he staggers, falls, and is dead instantly; the grenade he threw a second before his death explodes after it in the mouth of the bunker. The machine-gun does not fire on three of Phil's platoon who run forward to pick him up; it does not fire again through the battle: it is destroyed; the muzzle blown away, the crew dead.
Philip Kenneth Edward Curtis died at the age of 24. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on 1 December 1953 - the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was buried at the UN Memorial Cemetery, Busan, South Korea.
His Victoria Cross is on display at the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Museum in Bodmin, Cornwall.
138 as new in red and cream, lined out in black. Note the unusual combination of gold fleet numbers but cream fleetnames.
Sporting the original Citybus livery of the red and cream.
In July 1987, 138 was repainted into this eye-catching green livery for Endsleigh Garden Centre, Ivybridge. Note the flowery plastic caps over the wheels!
Back to standard fleet livery in August 1990, which had become red, white and black. The destination blind appears to be from a 'Cityshuttle'.
The final livery worn by 138 before its withdrawal.