Blue Ensign Coaches Ltd. 1920-1978

In October 1920, George Ennifer began operating on a route from Rossington (a large mining village just south of Doncaster) to Doncaster, using a newly purchased Ford T chassis with interchangeable 14-seat bodywork.

By the mid-1920’s he was one of a number of operators plying the same route and had acquired several more vehicles, including three larger capacity Vulcan’s, all purchased new.

This route remained the company’s main stage carriage service (with short workings to Bessacarr) throughout. The company, by this time, was trading as G. H. Ennifer (Blue Ensign).

A licence for a route between Grimsby and Brigg, via Gainsborough was applied for in 1928, but was unsuccessful, which probably resulted in Blue Ensign’s association with another local operator, Ernest Heath, who had a stage carriage service connecting Skellow and Carcroft with Doncaster.

He traded from a garage in Bentinck Street, Doncaster (which was the home of Blue Ensign for a number of years) and for a while the fleetname Bentinck and Ensign was adopted.

The Bentinck and Ensign emblem, a winged B&E motif, survived into the 1950’s with the ‘&’ blacked out, until it was replaced by a blue ensign flag with Blue Ensign superimposed over the design.

This was used throughout the remaining life of the company, although applied almost exclusively to the coaches (only one double-decker – BUS106 – is known to have carried the emblem).

By 1932, Ennifer (with Heath probably taking the role of sleeping partner) was in partnership with E. Farmer (who operated under the fleetname Blue Bus and ran a service to Harworth), the company being officially registered as Ennifer & Farmer Limited. Just over two years later this partnership ended, the company now being registered as G. H. Ennifer Limited.

The early fleet had consisted of several chassis types, including Thornycroft, Dennis, Karrier and Leyland, but in 1931 the company purchased an AEC Regal coach, which was the start of a long association, lasting until 1975 when the last AEC was withdrawn from service.

Between 1934 and 1936, Ernest Heath was required to provide finance for the company to see it through difficult times and, by 1939, his brother-in-law, Vernon Packer, had assumed control after George Ennifer got into financial difficulties and was forced to relinquish his position on the board, although he continued to work as an employee of the company.

Following the end of the Second World War, fuel restrictions meant that economy was paramount and as the decade progressed a move from heavyweight chassis, like the AEC Regal, to the more economical Bedford chassis was made.

From 1957 onward, all Blue Ensign’s new coaches were of Bedford manufacture. The first double-decker in the fleet arrived in 1946. UG1052 was a Leyland TD2, formerly No. 14 in the Leeds Corporation fleet, and had a Roe H30/26R body.

It remained with Blue Ensign for just two years. An interesting vehicle acquired in 1947 was an AEC Q, from London Transport, which operated for a number of years and was relatively trouble-free whilst with Blue Ensign. At one time this vehicle carried a small version of the B&E motif on its front panel.

The first new double-decker was purchased in 1948, a Crossley DD42/7 with Scottish Commercial Motors H30/26R bodywork, the start of a brief flirtation with Crossley Motors.

The garage at Bentinck Street, Doncaster remained in the possession of the Heath family and its descendants until 1956 when it was purchased outright by Blue Ensign.

When Doncaster town centre was re-developed in the 1960’s the garage was subject to a compulsory purchase order and the company moved to a purpose built garage in Union Street, which had accommodation for up to 6 vehicles.

In July 1967 the first rear-engined double-decker was purchased, PDT497E, a Daimler CRG6LX Fleetline with flat-fronted Roe H44/34F bodywork.

In May 1971 the company (still officially G. H. Ennifer Ltd.) was re-named Blue Ensign Coaches Limited.

On the 1st April 1978 the company was sold to South Yorkshire PTE, primarily, like so many of the other independents of the time, because of the owners’ impending retirement.

Although South Yorkshire PTE retained all six vehicles in the fleet, the Blue Ensign livery was slowly painted over and, by the end of the following year, the identity of another of Doncaster’s band of independents had disappeared forever.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Blue Ensign of Doncaster by Michael Fowler and Tony Peart (Buses Extra 39, Feb-Mar 1986); PSV Circle Fleet History 2PB13 (1993).

Bus Fleet List 1920-1978 |