Anthony Bull

Long-serving London Transport executive
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The Independent Online

Anthony Bull rose to be one of the senior figures in London Transport, with a break for service in the Second World War, during which he was one of the transport planners whose work, largely unrecognised, helped to secure Allied victory.

Anthony Bull, transport administrator: born London 18 July 1908; staff, London Underground 1929-39; OBE 1944, CBE 1968; staff, London Transport 1946-71, Vice-Chairman, London Transport Executive 1965-71; Vice-President, Institute of Transport 1964-66, Honorary Librarian 1966-69, President 1969-70; married 1946 Barbara Donovan (died 1947; one daughter); died London 23 December 2004.

Anthony Bull rose to be one of the senior figures in London Transport, with a break for service in the Second World War, during which he was one of the transport planners whose work, largely unrecognised, helped to secure Allied victory.

The third son of Sir William Bull Bt, a powerful personality who was for nearly 30 years Conservative MP for Hammersmith, he was born in Hammersmith in 1908. From a very early age he developed a passionate interest in anything to do with transport, collecting timetables with enthusiasm. It was no surprise that after school at Gresham's, Holt, and after reading History at Magdalene College, Cambridge, Bull did not enter the family firm of Bull and Bull, solicitors, but instead in 1929 joined the London Underground Co. He spent different periods in the Staff and the Publicity departments before being appointed, at the age of 28, Secretary to the celebrated Frank Pick, Vice-Chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board.

On the outbreak of war Bull was recruited by the Transportation Branch of the War Office, mostly working in grim basements during the time of the Blitz. One of the assignments on which he worked was getting a consignment of much-needed railway wagons, hurriedly taken off British lines, to the Soviet Union: these were sent around the Cape and then through Persia.

In 1942 Bull was delighted to leave London, having been selected to serve as deputy, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Engineers, to Brigadier George Brunskill, an Indian Army veteran who had lost an eye in combat. The sea route to Egypt through the Mediterranean was by then too dangerous to be a reliable way of supplying the 8th Army and Brunskill was given the task of establishing a supply route from the Belgian Congo to Egypt, with a target of ferrying up to 34,000 tons per month. This not only involved great logistical challenges, with the need to transfer loads from one kind of transport to another, but also delicate negotiations with many different authorities.

Bull's contribution to Afloc, as this venture became known, proved invaluable, but his stay in Kampala, where the HQ was established was relatively brief: in 1943 he was transferred to GCHQ Middle East, and then to the staff of the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Among the tasks he worked on there was the supply of Allied forces in the Burma campaign. Bull ended the war as a full colonel, appointed OBE and with a US Bronze Star. He had also met, in Kandy where she was posted as a Wren, Barbara Donovan, to whom he became engaged.

On demobilisation Bull returned to London Transport, being appointed Chief Staff and Welfare Officer. That was in 1946, the year he married Barbara, who sadly died shortly after the birth of their daughter, Caroline, the following year. In 1955 Bull became a member of the London Transport Executive, and in 1962 the London Transport Board; in 1965 he became Vice-Chairman of the LT Executive, a post which he held until his retirement in 1971.

During these years he took a prominent role in pushing forward the automation of the Underground: some of the first automatic ticket machines were installed at Stamford Brook station, the nearest to his house, so that he could monitor them personally. He was one of the key people involved in the planning and contraction of the Victoria Line. The Museum of London Transport has a number of tape recordings which Bull later made to preserve some of the memories of his long service to the capital.

Anthony Bull was too fascinated by transport to lose interest in the problems it posed. He continued to be actively involved as a consultant until he was nearly 80. This took him on many overseas trips, which he enjoyed greatly for their own sake. He was called upon to advise, for example, about the feasibility of underground systems in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Iraq and Iran.

As well as acting as consultant to various private firms Bull was adviser to the House of Commons Transport Committee in 1981-82; he also took an active part in the work of the institute of Transport, of which he was President in its Jubilee Year.

Anthony Bull may have seemed a reserved man, quite unlike his ebullient younger brother, the actor Peter Bull, but many people found that he was a kind one, with a wry sense of humour. He devoted himself to the upbringing of his daughter Caroline, helped by the loyal assistance of her nanny, Winifrid Smith, who remained with him as housekeeper and companion for the rest of his life - a total of 57 years. He was an excellent father, and derived enormous pleasure in taking Caroline on a number of his overseas trips, including one to Japan and the United States in search of suitable ticket machines for the Underground.

Bull was very much a Londoner, and after the war had a house in Hammersmith Terrace, where his elder brother George had settled; it was the latter's house that for many years saw an annual Bull family gathering for the Boat Race. At the same time he remained attached to north Norfolk, where he had spent his schooldays, and its opportunities for bird-watching; it was only recently, when he found driving difficult, that he gave up his cottage on the coast.

David Alexander

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