Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: January 19, 2017.
Webpage updated: January 20, 2018

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Born in Devonport on January 19th 1919, Mr Royal Charles Sambourne, was the eldest son of Mr Charles Sambourne, a Royal Naval seaman, and the former Miss Elfrida Maria or Marie Bate, of Bodmin, Cornwall.  They had been married at Charles Church, Plymouth, on October 28th 1916.  His grandfather, Mr Frederick John Sambourne, a native of Long Ashton, near Bristol, was at that time the Chief Officer of Coastguards at East Stonehouse.

Roy Sambourne, without berret, studying a map during a visit to the Tamar Valley.
  Brian Moseley.

Mr Sambourne was educated at Hyde Park Schools, Plymouth, which he left at the then leaving age of 14 years in 1933 to become a point boy with the Plymouth Borough Tramways Department.  One of  his places of duty was at the major junction outside the Devonport Technical School.

Whether it was the fact that his father, Able Seaman Charles Sambourne, was one of the survivors of the sinking of HMS "Courageous" on Sunday September 17th 1939 we do not know but he certainly joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry that year and was sent to France with the 2nd Battalion.  Like thousands of other soldiers he was caught up in the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force and was the only member of his company or unit evacuated from the beach at Dunkirk by a small motor launch and then the former Isle of Wight ferry, the PS "Sandown".  He was listed as a casualty in Exeter's Express and Echo newspaper on July 20th 1940.  On landing in England he was sent to Halifax, West Yorkshire, for treatment.

It is thought he was medically discharged because on February 16th 1942 he married Miss Peggy Joyce Chudley at the Anglican Church of Saint Simon, Plymouth.  It is said that they met when she forgot her purse and and could not pay her tram fare while he was the conductor.  Naturally, he paid it for her.

Because of his experience as a driver at Dunkirk, battling through a hail of bombs and bullets to the beach, upon his return to civilian life he was advised to "get a hobby" to take his mind off the hell that he had been through.  For that reason he did not want to become a bus driver but had to when the Council went over to one-man, driver only operation.  He totally hated it.  He was at his happiest as one of the two regular conductors on the Plymouth Joint Services route number 86, later 46, later 56, to Yelverton, Dousland and Meavy, which duty he covered for over twenty years.

Fortunately the hobby he turned to for salvation was public transport, in the form of tramways, motor buses and railways.  He was an early member of the Light Rail Transit League, the PSV Circle, and the Omnibus Society, and he became a founder member of the Plymouth Railway Circle and the Lee Moor Tramway Preservation Society, upon whose committees he served for many years.  During the late 1950s and 1960s he organised trips to bus garages and depots all over Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, and on behalf of the Plymouth Railway Circle, the Great Western Society and the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society helped to  run rail tours to preserved railway lines like the Bluebell Railway when they were still in their infancy.  He was a regular contributor of bus information to the PSV Circle and the Omnibus Society and contributed many articles to the Ian Allan magazine "Buses Illustrated".

He wrote two books on tramways: "Plymouth: 100 Years of Street Travel" and "Exeter, A Century of Public Transport", both published by the Glasney Press, at Falmouth, Cornwall.  The first-named remains the definitive source of information from which later authors have copied but misused the data.

Roy Charles Sambourne passed quietly away at home on the afternoon of November 26th 1977 at the age of 58 years.  He was resting between shifts.  He never smoked, walked everywhere, including to work and back, and only drank orange juice and tea.  He was looking forward to retirement at 60 to be able to delve more deeply into the transport history of Plymouth.  The funeral was on November 29th 1977.

He was survived by his widow, Peggy, who died in 2006, their son, Barry C H Sambourne, and their daughter, Miss Susan M Sambourne.

His father, Mr Charles Sambourne, survived until 1962 and is buried at Efford Cemetery, whilst his younger brother, Mr Arthur Sambourne, died in North Cornwall in 1987.