PEOPLE who fondly remember the days when buses had exposed radiator grilles and Bournemouth had a bus station should get their hands on a new book outlining the history of Hants and Dorset Motor Services.

Written by James Prince of Lytchett Matravers, the book (£16.99, Ian Allan Glory Days series) begins with the setting up of the company on March 17, 1916, by Walter Flexman French through to its demise under voluntary liquidation on November 24, 1990.

In between, the company, whose green buses worked routes stretching along the South Coast from Swanage to Fareham and beyond, had a fascinating history.

This is a book that will interest more than just transport enthusiasts, even though there is plenty of historic photographs and detail to keep them happy.

Buses are part of social his-tory, a vital ingredient in the transport revolution which began with the railways and freed people, allowing them to travel relatively cheaply to work away from their immediate environs, go on day trips and on holiday, broadening experiences and horizons.

Hants & Dorset began life as Bournemouth & District Motor Services, mid-way through the First World War, which meant vehicle chassis were difficult to come by, most being earmarked for the military.

However, "eventually four Straker-Squire chassis were acquired and fitted with charabanc bodies by Knight of Poole", writes Mr Prince.

"They were operated as the Silver Fleet'. Fleet numbers were used, but, to give the impression that the fleet was larger than it was, only even numbers were issued - a practice that was to continue until 1939."

Those four vehicles were eventually requisioned by the Army and the company had to rely on a pair of two-horse charabancs. "At least petrol rationing was no longer an issue!" comments the author.

In 1918 the company got its first stage-carriage service by buying out the Canford Cliff Motor Omnibus Co and Eugene Poulain. Both businesses ran services between County Gates and Sandbanks.

In 1919, a milestone was reached when a route to Lymington was gained. Because of a shortage of vehicles it was, for the first nine months, operated by Lymington & District Motor Services Co Ltd.

In July that year, a service was begun linking Bournemouth to Ringwood. By March 1920 the company had 14 vehicles.

On July 27, 1920, after buying out Trade Cars of Southampton, Bournemouth & District became Hants & Dorset. At that time Thomas Tilling invested in the business and hastened expansion.

It came quickly with joint routes being operated with Southdown between Southampton and Portsmouth, and Portsmouth and Winchester. To the west, routes went to Wareham, Shaftsbury and Weymouth, and there were links to Salisbury with Wilts & Dorset.

A deal was struck with Royal Blue not to run tours if Royal Blue did not operate bus services in and around Bournemouth.

By 1925 the livery was green, with single deckers having cream roofs, and most of the chassis purchased were manufactured by Leyland.

In 1930 the Southern Railway acquired a 33 per cent stake in Hants & Dorset which led to staff being represented by the National Union of Railwaymen.

On March 8, 1931, Hants & Dorset and Royal Blue jointly opened a two-tier bus station in Bournemouth, with coach services below and buses above.

Among the company's later acquisitions were Oakleigh Motor Services of Hordle and Billie's Bus Services of Lymington.

In 1935 Royal Blue was taken over by Tilling and its assets distributed between Southern and Western National and Hants & Dorset.

At the start of the Second World War the fleet had grown to 311 including 68 coaches. But in 1940 some buses were transferred to London to replace those lost in the Blitz.

On January 1, 1948 ,the railways were nationalised and that meant a third of Hants & Dorset became state-owned.

Tillings' board of directors sold out to the British Transport Commission in September, 1948, but with the Tilling Association acting as a central organisation for procurement, publicity and purchasing.

In 1959 the Exeter Road bus station at Bournemouth was rebuilt with a new office block and access alterations. It was to last 17 years, being severely damaged by fire in July, 1976.

Another Transport Act meant major changes in 1968 when Hants & Dorset became a subsidiary of the National Bus Company. Shamrock and Rambler's coach fleet was taken over and Wilts & Dorset buses came under the company's legal umbrella.

In 1972 the livery was changed to poppy red and six years later a rebranding was carried out.

Under privatisation in 1987 the company was split up.

The Wilts & Dorset name was resurrected, another section became Hampshire Bus and Provincial took over the eastern area. Hants & Dorset Motor Services based in Poole remained the holding company and was finally wound up in 1990.