Last stop Ukraine for retired Luton airport bendy buses

Volodomyr Zelensky's armed forces have just taken delivery of one of the more unusual donations to war effort

Ukraine’s armed forces have just taken delivery of three purple bendy buses
Ukraine’s armed forces have just taken delivery of three purple bendy buses Credit: Go-Ahead/SHAP

Three of London Luton airport’s bendy buses have arrived on the Ukrainian battlefield for use in the country’s war effort.

The vehicles, which still have their Luton Airport livery intact, are primarily being used to provide rest areas for beleaguered troops and to transport supplies and soldiers.

Two of the buses have been fitted with toilet and shower facilities, according to local media reports, with the other set to be made into a mobile exhibition to showcase the devastation caused by Russia’s invasion.

Bus operator Go-Ahead donated the vehicles via the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership (SHAP) after they went out of service in March when the airport launched a new driverless shuttle service to carry passengers between its terminals and the nearby Luton Parkway train station.

“These vehicles have done years of duty shuttling holidaymakers and suitcases. They’re now retired from airport duty and we’re glad they can be put to good use – as a small contribution to Ukraine’s war effort,” a GoAhead spokesman said.

The buses were driven from Swindon to Calais via Dover by SHAP volunteers, before being handed over to Ukrainians for the long journey across Europe.

Targeted by Russia

Mike Bowden, the chairman of SHAP, said the original intention had been to repaint the buses white and mark their roofs with red crosses. But volunteers were persuaded not to amid fears the vehicles might be targeted by Moscow’s forces.

“We have been specially asked not to repaint them so they look as close to public service buses as possible from the air and don’t stand out,” Mr Bowden said. “This is because Russian forces are deliberately targeting hospitals and emergency workers.”

In May, SHAP converted a bus, donated by one of Go-Ahead’s local bus companies, into a mobile medical unit equipped with beds, stretchers, heart monitors, running water and electricity.

The latest donations came as Ukraine announced it would introduce new laws making it mandatory for women with educational qualifications in medicine or pharmacy to register for military service beginning from the beginning of next month.

They will be classed as conscripts, meaning they will not be permitted to leave the country,  said Fedir Venislavskyi, president Volodomyr Zelensky’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament.

Conscripting women 

The move marks the first time Ukraine has conscripted women for its war effort. Kyiv does not conscript women for combat roles, although they are able to volunteer to fight.

About 60,000 women have joined the Ukrainian armed forces in combat and non-combat roles since Russia launched its invasion last year. Some 10,000 are reportedly serving on the war’s frontlines.

Since the outset of Moscow’s offensive, more than 100 female Ukrainian soldiers have been killed.

Female troops have previously described experiencing supply issues due to military uniforms and equipment being designed for men, as well as a lack of adequate medical training for medics concerning the treatment of women harmed in battle.