Recommendations & Reviews

Midland Red and its People book cover Midland Red and its People book cover

Here are book reviews, and a selection of feedback and comments that we have received from buyers of Ashley Wakelin’s books “Inside Midland Red”, “Midland Red Influence” and “Midland Red and its People”. You can find out more about the books, the author Ashley, and buy them online by following this link.

Readers’ Comments

“A mine of fascinating information and engaging stories, presented in an attractive layout with plenty of interesting pictures. Superb!” — Classic Bus magazine 2024.

“I can heartily recommend Midland Red and its People. If you like the company, you will enjoy this wonderfully written book.” — Stuart Warr & Alan Millar, Buses magazine, review 2024. ... Read more

“Splendid, nicely designed books that present a fantastic snapshot in so many of the aspects of the company - the operations, the people, the customers, the ups and downs, foibles, facts and so much more.” — Classic Bus magazine Feb/Mar 2023

“Well done with ‘Midland Red and its People’. It really does give a great insight into the people who worked for Midland Red and the wide range of roles. It is like no other book on transport and is a great companion to the two previous books.” — S.K. Media

“I thoroughly enjoyed Midland Red and its People, so I've just ordered the other two books!” — B.J., Argyle

“An easy transaction, quick delivery, beautifully and nostalgically packaged - perfect!” — M.L., Stockport

“Thanks for a brilliant book, my dad will be so pleased to receive it.” — J.S., Northampton

“Thank you for providing such wonderful accounts of the much missed Midland Red” — J.T., Black Country

“Great to meet you at Wythall - only heard about your new book yesterday, so ordered it.” — T.L., Stafford

“Joy as the postman brought me Ashley Wakelin’s latest book - and it looks like an absolute cracker on the mighty and much loved Midland Red!” — D.S., Shrewsbury

“A real page turner, well, I struggled to put it down once I started reading it, well done!” — S.W., Porthcawl

“Thank you for your excellent book.” — P.T., Black Country

“A very interesting and well laid out book that I enjoyed very much.” — D.R., Colchester

“Great books written by a great character - order with confidence!” — P.S., Birmingham

“Midland Red and its People, takes the Midland Red subject to a whole new level.” — S.K.M.

“Looking forward to the next book.” — M.S., Halesowen

“A very good book. I ordered mine early and had one of the first few. Most interesting and well produced.” — M.S.

“I’ve got both books - brilliant reads.” — M.K., Coalville

“Fantastic book, well worth getting. I've been engrossed in it all afternoon!” — D.P., Tamworth

“Great to see the publicity the book is generating. A really enjoyable read evoking many memories.” — S.K. Media, Peterborough

“Fabulous book - extremely interesting.” — M.L.

“A great read.” — R.H., Coventry

“Ashley, my book arrived this morning, it’s fabulous, congratulations on a super book. Thank you again.” — S.B., Tamworth

“Inside Midland Red – What a beautiful book, maybe an idea for a gift.” — Visit Tamworth

“A very, very good read, and lots of anecdotes by a guy who was there at the centre of things. A MUST for any Midland ‘Red’ devotees. You won’t regret your purchase.” — P.K.

“Lots of good stories. Here’s to the next book!” — M.S.

“Really loving the ‘Inside Midland Red’ book.” — D.T., Stafford

“Bought for me as a Christmas present - much better than a pair of socks!” — S.H., Darlington

“Great book, brought back a lot of memories of my early days at Leamington garage in the 1950s and 60s.” — J.W.

“I started work at Leamington garage 1953 till 1956, then back in 1960 after army service as a driver. I’ve a life long interest in Midland Red and found Ashley’s book a most interesting read.” — J.W.

“Just feel I would like to say how much I am enjoying reading Ashley Wakelin’s book ‘Inside Midland Red’. So much of it reminds me of my experiences as a young lad (albeit 10 years earlier). From spending my life outside Sutton Coldfield garage watching comings and goings and wondering what actually went on inside to finding Central Works and trying to blag my way in (less successfully than Ashley unfortunately). Days out with my Junior Anywhere Ticket and arriving home late due to letting several buses pass (usually D7s) whilst I waited for a particular bus to arrive. I also experienced the same lack of understanding of my ‘strange’ obsession from my parents who I think destroyed all my Midland Red photographs from the very early to mid 60s. Very jealous of Ashley’s experience driving an S15; has been top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Excellent read!!” — J.B.

“Yes Ashley’s book is excellent.” — P.K., Leamington Spa.

“Inside Midland Red was my Christmas present from my wife. I agree that it is an excellent read. I lived in Four Oaks from 1959 to 1961 and went all over the Midlands with my 5/- Day Anywhere ticket - Derby, Nottingham, Stafford, Shrewsbury, Northampton, Hereford amongst others, although I never made it to Banbury. Best days of my life.” — J.B.

“I’m pleased Ashley mentioned the great Philip Burton, the traffic schedules genius at NN. A nicer chap you couldn’t meet, in tweed suit and short sighted specs, but he had a computer brain and the wierdest handwriting I ever saw. One of Phil’s favourite sayings when under pressure was ‘anything can happen - and will!’ He also spoke fluent German (he spent his holidays in Austria every year) and although he never swore (at least in English) he told me once that if people were winding him up he would swear a bit in German under his breath, as they had no idea what he was saying! A lovely bloke with a great sense of humour, to who nothing was too much trouble if you needed assistance.” — M.H.

“Many thanks Ashley. Your book ‘Inside Midland Red’ arrived today.....So far a very good read, a lot of things that we remember vividly. I was the engineer on duty that foggy morning who heard the words ‘You better come quick, I no top!’ and said ‘Can’t you get it back in third gear?’, only to hear that ‘it’ (D9 4989) was actually sliced open on top after colliding with the scenery in the fog after venturing down the quarry lane at Hartshill (well traffic did tell him to get straight up there and pick up the service!). Inside Midland Red - Highly recommended.” — M.H.

“Dear Ashley, I have very much enjoyed your book Inside Midland Red as it brought back many memories of my experiences of spending hours in Bearwood garage as an early teenager in 1956. I got to know the famous Mr Briggs from the publicity department in 1956 who dished out the fleet books when schoolboys wrote in.” — R.M.

Buses mag review

Book Reviews

Midland Red and its People

Reviewed in Buses magazine by Stuart Warr, brother of transport author, the late Bernard Warr.

Buses mag review

Ashley Wakelin has followed up on his two previous books, Inside Midland Red and Midland Red Influence with this, another excellent book for those who have any interest in the then largest UK bus operator outside London which was founded 120 years ago this year. I can heartily recommend Midland Red and its People. If you like the company, you will enjoy this wonderfully written book... Read the full review

Midland Red and its People

Reviewed in Bus and Coach Preservation magazine by Denis Chick.

Denis has been at the top of his game for years, after a half-century career in PR for giants in the automotive industry including Rover and Vauxhall/GM, with a lifetime achievement award to prove it! These days Denis thinks he has retired, but is now a trustee with responsibility for marketing, PR and promotions at The Transport Museum Wythall.

There have been many Midland Red books over the years, many of them picture books, some helped by very informative captions. But Ashley Wakelin’s books are different. Not only beautifully presented, solidly bound, printed on glossy paper with well-rendered photography and great value, they are also written by an insider, no better individual to tell the authentic story of this brilliant company.

Ashley joined Midland Red after leaving school, moving up through the ranks and reaching senior positions through his formative years. In that time he met many employees and soaked up anecdotes and stories about the company that have not been shared before. A company only thrives and succeeds through a devoted and loyal workforce, and here Ashley tells the story through these people, in an easy-to-read style, illustrated with atmospheric images. There’s a huge amount of work in this book and every page counts.

It’s worth reflecting on the fact that Midland Red was remarkable in that, in the main, it conceived, designed, engineered, built and operated its own vehicles. That needs people, a lot of people, with a myriad of skills. Throughout these pages we travel through their lives, their stories and anecdotes, learning so much about this amazing business on every page.

Ashley’s previous works: Inside Midland Red and Midland Red Influence, delve into the products and company history, so this companion completes a perfect trilogy, impeccably timed as this year we celebrate the founding of BMMO, established 120 years ago. Every Midland Red enthusiast and omnibus historian needs this book on the shelf!

Inside Midland Red & Midland Red Influence

Inside and Influence book covers

Reviewed by Stuart Warr.

Inside and Influence book covers

Ashley Wakelin has published two books about the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company, better known by many as Midland Red: Inside Midland Red was published in 2020 with Midland Red Influence following two years later. He has written from a strong and knowledgeable position having worked in the transport industry for more than fifty years in a variety of positions, both manual and managerial; in addition he has been an enthusiast, preservationist and operator.

In the first part of the former title he writes a brief history of Midland Red, a company that became the biggest private bus operator in the UK that covered much of the midlands of England from Hereford/Shrewsbury in the west, Stafford/Burton-on-Trent in the north, Leicester/Rugby in the east and Banbury/Tewkesbury in the south. The second part of that book looks at his very varied career within Midland Red; this part occupies about two thirds of the book. The more recently published book, “Midland Red Influence” follows on from the first book. It largely deals with his career autobiography and the influence of Midland Red during his employment with them and how he carried that influence into his working life after he left the company.

Many books have been written about Midland Red. They primarily examine in detail the history of the company, look at the technical specifications of the buses they built, the routes they operated and the many garages around the midlands that housed and maintained the fleet. Ashley has taken a different perspective in both books. There are aspects of all the criteria just mentioned, but there is a greater view of the whole subject from a human interest aspect, not just Ashley’s opinion, as he has recorded the thoughts of others both within and without the company. It is this that makes both books compelling reading to both enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts. He does not take the “rose tinted spectacles” view that an ardent admirer might do, but he has thought outside the box before putting the metaphorical pen to paper, and the books are so much better for this. We get to read about many of the characters that worked for the company, not just the top men such as Donald Sinclair, but those lower down the food chain, the inspectors, drivers, conductors, engineering staff as well as the administrators, all of whom were part of this amazing business. Ashley refers to the camaraderie and feeling of being part of a very large and loyal family all moving in the same direction.

It is obvious that Ashley has a great passion for Midland Red, the standards it set for the company and its employees; so great was his admiration for these that he adopted those principles when working for other employers and when operating his own businesses. Passion can be a great motivator in all aspects of human life; it can drive the individual to achieve more than otherwise would have occurred. Midland Red has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember; my elder brother and I were brought up within sight of the A4123 road that links Birmingham with Wolverhampton and I recall Sunday lunch being interrupted as the then very new D10 passed by! I think that my fascination with the company came from my brother, Bernard Warr who, like Ashley Wakelin, joined Midland Red soon after leaving school.

To me, the overriding message contained within the books is that Midland Red first and foremost provided a service to their customers. Profit was important to the company, but by aiming to provide excellent service to the travelling public, those same people will want to use the company for many aspects of travel back in the days when car ownership was not as great as it is now. Ashley used these same principles when working away from the “friendly Midland Red” as the company became known.

I can heartily recommend both Inside Midland Red and Midland Red Influence to anyone who has even the vaguest interest in the company. They are both very compulsive reads. The current phrase is “page turner”, and both books are; I struggled to put them down until I had read to the end of each of them.

Inside Midland Red

Reviewed by Tamsin Rosewell, broadcaster, historian and illustrator.

Buses are an important and cheerful childhood memory for so many of us. On a bus you learn about people; the world inside a bus is somehow different from the world outside – it is the space between work and home, the pause in the day when the world just floats past the window and you’re left to your own thoughts, and the moment when you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with whatever the day has decided should be your company. Being on a bus is an experience in itself, and many adults have fond childhood memories of being on the upper deck and playing driver for the duration of a journey. I used to take the bus from Kenilworth to Stratford with my son when he was small – not because we particularly needed to be in Stratford, but because he loved going on the bus!

Ashley Wakelin knows all this far better than I could ever express it – he has been in the bus and coach industry for over 50 years, and has worked in manual and managerial roles, and as a conservationist too. He’s worked for national and local operators, and in both public and private sectors. His knowledge and his love of Midland Red shines through this tactile, colourful new book. You don’t need to be a bus enthusiast to see the joy of Inside Midland Red, it really is for anyone who loved the ding of the bell and the satisfying clunk of the ticket machine.

This beautifully designed and realised book is both well-written and a triumph of design quality. It is replete with engaging detail (such as what happened when Barbara Castle was invited to ‘take the wheel’), and truly behind the scenes photographs (we get to see everything from staff bulletins of the 1970s, and the leopard-print interior design of the 100 mile an hour ‘ghost bus’ that was tested secretly on the M1). Ashley Wakelin introduces us to the many characters too: we meet drivers, conductors, engineers, managers and those who were responsible for everything from enquiries offices to the projector that showed the training films (both men and women – there are plenty women in this story too).

Fun and browsable. With his depth of experience, and his unerring eye for detail, this great book will satisfy the most informed of enthusiasts, and bring a smile to the face of the casual, quietly reminiscing browser.

Reproduced with kind permission of Kenilworth Books.

©2020-2024 Ashley Wakelin. All rights reserved.