MICHAEL DRYHURST can still recall the pervading smell of disinfectant on the double-deckers he experienced 69 years ago when an epidemic threatened the lives of the residents of the south coast town

It was Christmas 1950. RAF officer Flight Lieutenant Hunter had been serving in India and was granted leave over the holiday season of a sufficient longevity that he was able to fly to the UK and see his girlfriend. She was Elsie Bath, a General Post Office telephonist who lived in central Brighton together with her taxi driver father, Harold.

In the epidemic year of 1951, the Brighton Hove & District company still had a significant fleet of AEC Regents inherited from its forbear, Thomas Tilling. It had lengthened the chassis of many of these, at the same time having them rebodied and re-engined. This is 6272 (GW 6272) at Hove station, Gardner 5LW-powered with a replacement austerity Beadle body.

The flight lieutenant brought for Elsie a present. This was a fur stole, which he had had handmade especially for her, and this present, his main Christmas gift, was passed to her. Unbeknown to him, or for that matter to anybody, the stole carried the smallpox germ and Hunter carried it into the UK and ultimately to Brighton. It took next to no time for the disease to germinate and within days Harold Bath became the first victim and died shortly thereafter.

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