"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

January 13, 2017

RIPLEY - 1969

On Feb. 10, 1969, a fire and explosion at a hardware rocked the village of Ripley in Surrey.

"The explosions sent shattered roof tiling across the High Street, windows on the opposite side of the road were cracked by the heat, properties rocked, and a gas cylinder was thrown 150 yards across the village green into trees," the Guilford Times and Advertiser reported.

Firefighters from Guildford, Woking, Esher and Camberley responded to the alarm.

"The fire began while a tanker was pumping paraffin into the store; a store which sold everything from bicycles, television sets and crockery to furniture, paraffin, gas and petrol," the newspaper said. "Large-scale evacuation procedures were pursued because of the fear that petrol tanks would explode, the tanks being under the forecourt, and under the garden of an adjacent cottage of Mr and Mrs Charles Shoesmith, who were on holiday in Majorca."

January 12, 2017


Photo: londonreconnections.com
Emergency services at London Southend Airport, about 1958. 

EALING - 1973

Photo: Cultural Community Solutions
On Dec. 19, 1973, an express train traveling at 70 mph derailed at Ealing in West London, killing 10 people and injuring almost 100 more. Investigators determined the accident was caused by an open door on the locomotive's battery box.

January 11, 2017


Photo: Birmingham Mail

On Jan. 23, 1955, an express train plowed into the platform at Sutton Coldfield station in Birmingham, killing 17 people and injuring 25 others.

"The first carriage was crushed between the engine and the second carriage," The Birmingham Mail recalled on the 60th anniversary. "Another was knocked into the air, causing it to drag along the station roof."

The train from York to Bristol was traveling at twice the speed limit, the BBC said.

It had been diverted from its normal route.


On June 9, 1902, fire claimed nine lives on Queen Victoria Street in the City of London. Escape ladders were too short to rescue people from the top floors, prompting pubic outrage.

The Spectator reported:

A great and fatal fire took place at a warehouse in Queen Victoria Street in broad daylight on Monday evening.

The building, which is close to the Mansion House Station of the District Railway and only three hundred yards from the chief City fire-station, is used as workshops, offices, and stores by the General Electric Lighting Company.

When the alarm was given at five o'clock a number of girls were at work on the fourth floor, which the Watling Street fire-escape proved too short to reach.

Many of the girls leaped into a tarpaulin held out in the street, but when the fire had been got under and the fourth floor entered the bodies of eight girls and one boy were found in the ruins.

The firemen appear to have worked with the utmost gallantry, and in particular two women were rescued by splendid efforts on the part of the men of the Salvage Corps.

But the fact that the longest fire- escape available at the chief City fire-station was unable to reach the fourth floor of a London warehouse has created a very painful impression.

We do not wish to make any criticism in regard to individuals till after the inquest, but it is clear that the life-saving apparatus available at short notice in the City, with its lofty buildings, is at present by no means adequate, and must be made so without delay, —if, indeed, the whole Fire Brigade does not require reorganization.


Photo: London Fire Brigade
On the evening of Oct. 7, 1940, Soho fire station in central London took a direct hit during the Blitz, killing Station Officer William Wilson and Auxiliary Firefighter Frederick Mitchell as well as two passersby. The station's fire apparatus sustained damage.

November 09, 2016

CROYDON - 2016

On Nov. 9, 2016, a tram derailed near Addiscombe Road in Croydon, killing five people and injuring more than 50 others. The London Fire Brigade sent eight engines and five fire rescue units.  London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "Firefighters worked tirelessly this morning to help the injured and rescue those who were trapped.”

September 23, 2016


: London Fire Brigade

London firefighters rescue Dennis Norman McGowan, 19 months old, on Feb. 25, 1956. The child's mother waits below.


Photos: Wikipedia, Manchester Fire & Rescue

On June, 15, 1996, the Provisional Irish Republican Army detonated a 3,000-pound bomb on Corporation Street in central Manchester, injuring more than 200 people during the Euro football championships.

Remarkably, there were no deaths.

The bomb was the largest denotation in Great Britain since World War II.

A telephoned warning preceded the blast by about 90 minutes allowing for the evacuation of 75,000 or more people.


Photo: PortCitiesLondon, Caters News Agency

The opening salvo on London's waterfront:

Fire at Surrey Commercial Docks, Rotherhithe on  Sept. 7, 1940, the first day of the Blitz.

Gerry Knight, a station officer, sent a message to the alarm office from the docks, saying: "Send all the bloody pumps you've got … The whole bloody world's on fire!" according to PortCitiesLondon.


Photo: London Fire Brigade
The canteen was one of the longest serving vehicles in London Fire Brigade history. It went in service in 1938 and continued into the 1960s, according to LFB website.  It was staffed by a crew of two firefighters. 

September 12, 2016

TAUNTON - 1978

Photos: BBC

On July 6, 1978, fire burned out a British Rail sleeping car at Fairwater Close, Taunton, killing 13 people and injuring others.

The train was travelling from Penzance to Paddington station in London when 
laundry stacked against an electric heater ignited, the BBC said.

All 31 of the dead or injured were in the front two carriages.

Car doors were locked, a violation of British Rail rules, preventing a means of escape.

A passenger said: "I remember being woken up and being carried out of the train. The place was full of smoke. All I could see was people smashing the windows and trying to get other people out."

Fireman Derek James said: "It was a really eerie scene. Then we had instructions to go in and remove the people from the carriage. It was horrendous in there."

Ray Stokes, a newspaper reporter, said people living near the tracks used wire cutters to break down a fence to render aid.

December 28, 2015


This famous photograph, St Paul's Survives, was snapped from the roof of the Daily Mail building by Herbert Mason.

On the night of Dec. 29-30, 1940, London suffered an inferno dubbed the Second Great Fire of London, timed by German raiders to coincide with low tide on the River Thames to impair fire fighting. 

Nazi bombers dropped more than 24,000 high explosives and 100,000 incendiaries, destroying historic buildings and churches and gutting the medieval Great Hall of the City's Guildhall.

The destruction stretched south from Islington to St Paul's Cathedral, scorching an area greater than that of the Great Fire of London of 1666.

As the flames approached St Paul's Cathedral, a symbol of London's glory, 
Prime Minister Winston Churchill called of the Fire Brigade and St. Paul's fire watch to save the landmark.

They did.

The Second Great Fire of London claimed the lives of 
14 firefighters and injured 250 others.

Today a fire service memorial stands on the cathedral's grounds.

The firestorm destroyed 19 churches, 31 guild halls and ravaged Paternoster Row, 
center of the London publishing trade where an estimated 5 million books were lost in the flames

-Adapted from 

November 10, 2015


UPDATED DEC. 28, 2015

Deadly helicopter crash, Vauxhall, Jan. 16, 2013

Newington Library fire, South East London, March 25, 2013

On June 5, 2013, fire leveled the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill, London.  English Defense League graffiti was painted on the side of the building, according to news reports.

Boeing 787 fire at Heathrow,  July 12, 2013

August 31, 2015


Photos: ITV, Examiner

The war years weren't immune to accidents.

On Oct. 31, 1941, fire swept H. Booth & Son clothing factory in Huddersfield, England, claiming 49 lives. 

Recalling the fire, The Huddersfield Daily Examiner said:  "The five-story clothing factory had only one staircase, no evacuation drill and a buzzer system which failed."

The cause of the fire was deemed to be "
a smoker’s pipe left alight inside a raincoat pocket," according to Wikipedia.

August 04, 2015


On Dec. 21, 1949, fire broke out in stacks of Christmas trees stored in catacombs beneath London's Covent Garden flower market - and burned for more than a day.

A fireman died; many others were injured, according to press reports.

More than 1 million gallons of water were pumped into the catacombs.

In some spaces, the water rose as high as as five feet.

Armed with pneumatic drills, the fire brigade bored holes in concrete floors allowing smoke to escape.

In a report to the London City Council on Jan. 24, 1950,  Chief Fire Officer F. W. Delve deemed the fire brigade's performance as "satisfactory."

However, historical notes on the website
Fire Net cite a variety of shortcomings.

en worked alone. "In trying to rescue a colleague, one fireman became so exhausted he barely made it back to street level to summon assistance."

As it was still the day of the "smoke eater," firemen who donned breathing apparatus (BA) often times didn’t use the equipment until they had inhaled copious amounts of smoke.


No one was taking count of firemen entering the premises;
communications were "bad to non-existent"; no minimum charging pressure for BA cylinders, with many only two-thirds full.


Photo: Daily Express
From 1953 to 2004, the British government maintained a fleet of "Green Goddess" 
reserve fire engines for civil defense and national emergencies.

Photo above shows m
ilitary firefighters and "Green Goddess" at fire in Cambridge during 2002 fire strike.

The engines were also used during the 1977 fire strike.

Illustration: BBC

July 30, 2015


Three members of the Kent Fire Brigade died in the aftermath of a fire at a psychiatric hospital in November 1957.

From Kent History Forum

The fire which broke out at Oakwood Mental Hospital on 29th November 1957 will never be forgotten by the Brigade as amongst the six killed at the scene were three Brigade personnel. An emergency call was made by the night Nursing Superintendent immediately he discovered the fire whilst making his rounds.

The call was received at Maidstone Fire Station at 06.40 hours and were on the scene within four minutes. On arrival the Brigade found hospital staff fighting the fire with a jet, direct from a hydrant. Faced with a developing fire situation at first floor level adjacent to the wards containing 350 mentally ill patients, the officer-in-charge of the two appliances and Turntable Ladder despatched in the initial response got to work after "making pumps 6" at 06.48.

Having started in the tailor's shop on the first floor, the fire raged out of control through the workshop wing, the printer's shop, the library, a staff rest room, the TV room and upwards into the roof. The fire was brought under control by six jets and the "Stop" message was sent at 07.30.

Adjacent to the section of the building where the fire had occurred was a brick built ventilation tower 115 ft in height.

Whilst the cleaning up operations were in progress and half the personnel were enjoying a well earned cup of tea, at 10.01 without any warning, the tower collapsed completely falling on the workshop block and causing the destruction of the building around it. Buried beneath the tons of masonry were several members of the Brigade and also some Oakwood staff including the hospitals Chief fireman. Others were trapped on all levels of the building from the basement to the first floor, some being in considerable danger.

The rescue operations commenced without delay and were organised by Brigade Control with firemen and hospital staff and a request was made for the  attendance of Civil Defence Rescue Parties who responded within a very short time from six towns and who were very quickly at work.

Working in extremely dangerous conditions, under large quantities of bricks and rubble and soaking wet, fire weakened timbers, the rescuers struggled through the remains of the workshops wing to rescue those who had been injured.

Recovered form the wreckage were the three bodies of the firemen who had been killed. Retained Station Officer SE Pearce who had been digging through the rubble searching for casualties found a partially buried body. After further frantic digging through the debris he discovered to his distress that he had uncovered the body of his own brother, ADO Leslie Pearce. He collapsed from shock and was taken to hospital by ambulance. Search and Rescue operations continued until the last body, that of a civilian, had been recovered at 14.30 hours on Sunday 1st December 1957.

The firemen killed were: 

ADO LA Pearce - C Division, Retained Fireman AE Farrow - Loose Fire Station and Retained Fireman JA Hawkes -Loose Fire Station.

The firemen injured were:

ADO HR Evans-Brigade Headquarters, Retained Station Officer SE Pearce Maidstone Fire Station -Retained Fireman DS Latham - Loose Fire Station, Retained Fireman GR Burden -Loose Fire Station, Retained Fireman NF Austin - West Malling Fire Station, Retained Fireman C Wallis - Maidstone Fire Station.

Before the funeral service for the three Kent Firemen on December 5th, large crowds gathered in Maidstone to pay their last respects. The procession was led by Senior Officers and over a hundred firemen from all four Divisions of the County and the funeral service attended by nearly 800 people,  was conducted by Canon FLM Bennett at All Saints Church, Maidstone.

A Tribunal appointed by the South East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board held a public enquiry into the disaster on the 30th/31st January 1958, finding that a clothes iron, which had been left on overnight in the tailor's shop, had been the cause of the fire. 

Source: Fifty Vigilant Years and CFO's Annual Report 1957/58

July 29, 2015


Fireman alongside statue of Queen Victoria after fire in Stepney, 1931

July 27, 2015


Photo: flashback.com
40 pumps, Metropolitan Wharf, Wapping, May 10, 1973


On March 11, 1914, fire destroyed the training ship Wellesley on the River Tyne at North Shields.

The old wooden warship was moored on the river as an industrial training school for wayward boys.

The fire broke out in the vessel's drying room and spread rapidly, according to the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museum.

It was the boys who battled the flames on the deck, assisted by Tyne Commissioners fire boats.

The smoke "was yellowy with this tar content in it," Edward Joseph Hatfield, one of the boys, recalled as an adult. "We had to go to port every so often and take a breather and then come back.

"There was no bother at all. We weren't panic stricken.

"In fact I think most of us were glad she was burning." 

July 24, 2015


On Sept. 25, 1935, a spectacular fire swept Colonial Wharf, starting in a warehouse for rubber, tea and spirits - and burning for four days.

A news dispatch said:

lazing debris fell on four barges, destroying them, and streams of molten rubber ran down and blocked the drains, while a film of burning rubber spread over the Thames."

The 60-pump fire destroyed a seven-story building.

Colonial Wharf is located in Wapping, East London.


Image: Illustrated London News

On April 29, 1860, flames gutted the Liverpool Sailors' Home, claiming two lives.

Fireman Robert Hardaker plunged 40 feet to his death when a ladder snapped, while a
 seaman, Joseph Clark, died saving books and papers.

Hardaker had scaled the ladder to break out windows, according to the April 30 edition of The Daily Post.

 "The water pressure around Canning Place was unexpectedly low so the water jets could not reach roof height and the iron frames of the windows, with their small panels, also prevented firemen from getting water to the seat of the flames," according to  an online history.

Residents on the sixth floor broke through iron window frames and crawled along a ledge to reach fire brigade ladders.

The cause of the blaze was thought to be careless smoking.


Photo: londonsriver.com
Fire boats at West India Docks during the Blitz.

West India Docks docks on the Isle of Dogs, which served commercial traffic from 1803 to 1980, were savaged by German bombers during World War Two.

In the 19th Century, the docks mainly traded in rum, molasses and sugar, according to the website Port Cities.

By the 
20th century, the docks also handled grain, meat, fruit, vegetables and timber. 

Today, the Canary Wharf project occupies the site.


On Dec. 7, 1940, the first day of the Blitz, the Isle of Dogs was a prime target.

"Jerry was well aware of this," Doris Lilian Bennett who was working at an Auxiliary Fire Service control center on the island, said in an oral history compiled by the BBC.

"Around the edges close to the river were timber yards, paint works, boiler making and engineering factories, and other factories producing jams, pickles and confectionery," Bennett said.

"Across the top of the Island were the three large West India Docks, down the middle were the Millwall Docks, the docksides lined with shipping from all over the world, their warehouses stuffed with the cargoes those ships had carried.

"At the bottom end of the Millwall Docks were MacDougalls flour mills, 
their tall silos an outstanding landmark, all close together, the whole of the Island highly inflammable."

Flames swept the landscape.

"The air-raid continued, unabated, as well as the noise of the bombers and their bombs was the noise of the Ack-ack guns, four of them, on the Mud-chute, pounding away, the noise of their shells going up competing with the noise of Jerry’s little offerings coming down."

That didn't stop the fire brigade.

"We in the Control Room carried on with what we had to do, taking and relaying messages," Bennett said.

he telephones were put out of order as wires were cut.

"We then relied on the young messengers and our two dispatch riders on their motor-bikes to fetch and take."

July 23, 2015


Photos: London Fire Brigade

"I heard Sub-officer Cornford call out `Look out Sir' and saw the building collapsing. I called out `drop everything and run.'"

On Jan. 30, 1918, fire claimed the lives of seven London firefighters in the Vauxhall section of the Borough of Lambeth.

The following official report - from the Superintendent of "E" District - is posted on the web site of the Vauxhall Society, courtesy of the London Fire Brigade Museum.

Loss of Life at a Fire Collapse of Building

I submit that at 3-44 a.m of this date a call was received by stranger to a private house alight at Albert Embankment, S.E., to which Motor Escape, Motor Pump and 10 men from No.94. Station Vauxhall and Motor Pump and 6 men from No.87. station Kennington responded.

At 3-55 a.m., a "home call" message was received, viz:- It is a building of three floors about 40 x 40 ft. used as Pepper Mills alight, one hydrant in use. No.3. Westminster Motor Pump and 6 men were ordered and I attended with No.80. Motor Car and 2 men.

On my arrival I found the upper floors of abuilding of three floors about 45 x 30 ft. (used as cattle food manufacturers) well alight, and part of roof and upper floor had fallen in. The fire was practically extinquished by the use of two hydrants and 1 Motor Pump and the stop sent back accordingly.

At 5-34 a.m., owing to a considerable amount of turning over to be done, a message was dispatched to the effect that appliances would be detained for a time and a few minutes later another message asking for a Sub-officer and four men to be sent on with a view to the appliances and myself returning home.

At about 5-45 a.m. I was on the ground floor and in consequence of hearing a cracking noise, cleared everyone out of the building. Owing to the ground mist and smoke, the front of the building was hardly discernible, a hydrant was still being used up the Escape, I went to the front of the building with the men with a view of making up and removing the Escape, when suddenly I heard Sub-officer Cornford call out "Look out Sir" and saw the building collapsing. I called out "drop everything and run", but was knocked down by the falling debris and part of the Escape, being subsequently extricated by our men from amongst the debris. On making enquiry, I found that a message to the effect that the building had collapsed and that several of our men were buried and ambulances were requires had been sent back. I gave instructions for the debris to be searched for the bodies of our men, then saw the Divisional Officer South who, on hearing of the nature of my injuries ordered me home. I have since been examined by the District Medical Officer, and placed on the sick list, nature of illness "Injury to Legs".

I regret to have to report the undermentioned casualties:

No.100. Sub-officer W.E.Cornford - No.80 Clapham.
No.616. Fireman K.J.Fairbrother - No.87 Kennington.
No.718. " W.E.Nash - No.87 Kennington.
No.944. " J.W.C.Johnson - No.94 Vauxhall.
No.1087. " A.A.Page - No.94 Vauxhall.
No.1174.Temp.Fireman J.E.Fay - No.87 Kennington

No.151. Sub-Officer W.W.Hall - No.94 Vauxhall.
since dead.

Superintedent J.Barrows. - "E" District.
Station-Officer E.Partner - No.87. Kennington.

(Signed) ........J.BARROWS

BRIXTON - 1910

Photo: BrixtonBuzz

Flames gutted a Brixton cloth and dry goods store on Aug. 19, 1910.

"The fire at Messrs. Morley and Lanceley, general drapers, of the Brixton Road spread with great rapidity, and did a very considerable amount of damage," London Illustrated News reported.

Fortunately, the assistants who were on the premises at the time (between fifty and sixty) escaped unhurt, most of them in their night attire.

Several cases of heroism were recorded; and much praise was given to the work of the fireman."

Today the business is known as Morley's.

April 22, 2015



Photo: The Star
Inferno at King's Head Hotel, Dec. 12, 1940

Photo: The Star
Taxi turned auxiliary fire engine, High Street, Dec. 12 1940

It was a savage aerial attack.

German raiders hit Sheffield, England, on the nights of Dec. 12 and Dec. 15, 1940, killing 693 people, destroying 3,000 homes - and leaving a tenth of the population homeless.

Fire Officer Christopher Eyre, quoted on the fire brigade's website, said: "If a man who went through it all tells you he wasn't afraid that night you can take it he's lying."

Eyre also said: "W
e were ringed in by flame, and yet I seemed to be in a vacuum."

In The Star newspaper, Blitz Fireman Doug Lightning recalled in a 2014 interview: "There wasn't enough men or enough hose to deal with all the fires and it was no good putting a drop of water on this one and a drop of water on that one so we had to choose out battles carefully."

According to Sheffield City Council, the 
industrial eastern section of the city was largely "defended" by fog the first night and the Luftwaffe struck elsewhere, wiping out much of Angel Street.

When the bombers returned t
wo nights later, they hit Hadfield’s Hecla and East Hecla Works (the U.K.'s lone manufacturer of 18-inch armor piercing bullets), Brown Bayleys steelworks, Arthur Lee and other industrial estates near the River Don.


Photo: anglotopia.net
Constable checks in after air raid

April 06, 2015

WEST END - 2015

On April 1, 2015, a swath of central London - including the West End theater district - was blacked out by a fire in an electrical vault, forcing cancellation of The Lion King, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Play That Goes Wrong and other shows, the Daily Mail reported.

February 26, 2015


London firemen release boy from fence, circa 1950s or 1960s

November 03, 2014


On Aug. 29, 1929, flames gutted Lulworth Castle in Dorset, England.

The 16th Century castle sat in disrepair in the decades following the blaze.

Restoration work began in the 1970s and was completed in 1988.

The Aug. 30, 1929 edition of the Times of London published the following account of the inferno:

The Dorchester brigade was the first to arrive, shortly before 11 o’clock. Mr. A. R. Jeffrey, chief officer of the Dorchester brigade, and firemen wearing smoke helmets made their way to the roof immediately above the fire. The roof was of lead, and was concealed from view by battlements. With some difficulty a hosepipe was got up and was turned on to the flames through the roof. The fire had still failed to cover the whole of the top floor, and there were hopes that it might be prevented from spreading. Then, at the critical moment, the water ceased to flow. It had been pumped from a large tank in the garden, which soon became exhausted. A supply of water was next obtained from a well a few yards from the mansion. The brigades of Poole, Swanage and Weymouth had now arrived, as well as a sergeant and 14 men of the Royal Tank Corps who are stationed at Lulworth. They, with the villagers, the estate workers, and Girl Guides who were encamped in Lulworth Park, did valuable work in saving the treasures in the building.

The fire was still confined to the top floor, but was burning fiercely, and it was apparent that unless a larger volume of water could be poured on to the flames the buildings were doomed. The salvage workers had been forced to retreat from the third storey, but they continued their work below, and the lawns around the mansion were strewn with old furniture, books, paintings, and other art treasures. Efforts were made to save the King’s Bed before smoke and heat made it impossible to reach the third storey, but without success. 

The supply of water from the well was still being poured on the flames, but this well also became exhausted. Part of the lead roof fell in, and the third floor became ablaze. Two members of the Dorchester fire brigade were slightly injured by molten lead and falling glass. Salvage work was still going on in the lower storeys, but water was now the great need. About two miles from the mansion is Arish Mell Gap, through which the sea can be seen from the terrace of the castle. The sea now appeared to be the only available source of supply, and between the mansion and the coast three fire engines were placed at intervals and a line of pipe was run into the sea, but all attempts to get sea water failed.|

The King’s Room and the ballroom on the third floor were now blazing, and there was nothing to prevent the fire spreading. The flames issued from the windows of the circular towers and from all sides of the building. The task of removing the salved treasures from the lawns to buildings on the estate was carried on throughout this afternoon and evening. It was not until about 5 o’clock that the fire burned itself out. To-night there are beams in the building still smouldering, and some of the walls of the castle, owing to the damage they have suffered, have rents which give them a dangerous appearance.

October 23, 2014


Dave Squires
Editor's Note: Weston-super-Mare is a town located on Bristol Channel in North Somerset, England. You editor found the following story on the fire brigade's website. It's an inspiring tale about a local fire buff named Dave Squires.

Dave Squires first appeared outside the ‘Station’ in June 1983 (then aged 29 Years). He would walk up and down, looking at the Fire Station but would suddenly disappear and return another day. The Firemen then had no knowledge that Dave was un-employed and had Learning Difficulties. After several weeks Jack Bell went out and invited Dave in.

Dave appeared to be very nervous and shy but was shown around the Appliance Room before he made an excuse that he had to go home, and he was gone.

Dave, however, continued to visit the Station and the Firemen of White Watch warmed to this visitor.

Dave appeared to have little confidence and it took some persuasion on the part of White Watch to get him to join them for a cup of tea in the Mess Room on the 1st Floor. Whilst in the Mess Room there was a two-pump and TL shout leaving just two of us on the Station with Dave. A problem was apparent – Dave could not face going down the stairs and he froze and began to panic. Dave had shown no outward problem when he climbed the stairs but he was clearly not going to descend without help. It took the two of us - fifteen minutes to coax Dave down the stairs, sat on his backside – one step at a time. Later we found out that Dave lived in a Ground Floor Flat with his parents and an Auntie. Dave continued his visits and was welcomed by all the Watches on the Station. Dave never had a problem with the stairs again!

As time went on, Dave was given an old Lancer Fire Tunic, Yellow Leggings, a Helmet and would be ‘allowed’ to ‘Man’ the Land Rover! Eventually, he was given (all donated left-offs) shirts, trousers and cap. Dave gradually became less shy, and his confidence building was not only apparent to the Firemen but also to his family. So much so, that on the first Christmas, Dave’s parents opened their home and invited all Station Personnel to join them in a ‘drink’. Dave’s family were so grateful to the Firemen at Weston for all their interest shown in Dave and for their encouragement in boosting Dave’s confidence.
Early Spring 1984, (some eight or nine months after Dave’s first visit to the Station) a Fireman by the nickname of ‘Scooter’ came on duty one day clutching a local newspaper. ‘Scooter’ announced that there was a job in the situations vacant column which would be ideal for young Dave. The situation vacant was for a ‘trolley attendant’ at Leo’s Supermarket. The, then, Manager, of Leo’s was known to the Firemen. He had kindly given his permission for our Christmas Carol Float to be in attendance outside the Supermarket. The Firemen, with their knowledge of Dave, were able to recommend that Dave be given a chance to fill the vacancy, as they knew Dave to be reliable. Dave is still at the Supermarket today!

For all the difficulties Dave has endured he has a wonderful memory (which is more than can be said for a large majority of us Firemen). Dave could remember where every piece of equipment belonged in the Appliance Lockers and would, quite often, find items that we had mislaid.
Dave’s memory was put to the test. Watching a Fireman taking a Drill in preparation for his Leading Fireman’s Exam, a fellow Fireman enquired "do you want to have a go Dave"? Dave responded quickly and recited the Drill instructions word for word.

Dave was working throughout the week but on Saturday and Sunday evenings (Stand-down time) Dave was encouraged to take Parade and make out the Duty Board – this he did efficiently and still does it today!

Dave’s presence on the Station was accepted by Senior Officers throughout the Brigade!
Dave’s ‘help’ was never taken for granted and the Firemen wanted to reward Dave for his outstanding achievements. So, off to HQ we went and Dave witnessed a Recruits’ Passing Out Parade. This, Dave, thought to be a great honour and he enjoyed himself immensely.

The years went on and Dave’s enthusiasm for the Fire Station never failed.
In 1987, Dave’s mother passed away but Dave appeared to treat his loss as a ‘a fact of Life’. Dave remained at home with his father and his Auntie. Around 1999 Dave’s Auntie died and in January 2001 Dave’s father died.

Dave, who was once introverted and protected by his loving and supportive family now lives an independent life and is self-sufficient. Indeed Dave copes with all his washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning as well as holding down the same job. He finds time for recreation amidst all of the aforesaid mentioned - he plays Skittles with the William Knowles Centre, he attends the Winter Gardens (when Wrestling is taking place) and travels on Public Transport. He even travels on Public Transport to places such as Bodmin in Cornwall where he stays at a specially chosen Centre for his annual Holiday.
This is an encouraging story and shows that we are not put on this earth to see through each other - BUT TO SEE EACH OTHER THROUGH. 

October 09, 2014

EXETER - 1887

Painting by Fred Ford from collection of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service

On Sept. 5, 1887, a fire at Exter's Theatre Royal killed 168 people.

Gas lighting ignited some gauze backstage on the opening night of a romantic comedy called Romany Rye.

A witness reported:

"Soon after the outbreak the City Fire Brigade were on the spot, but the water they poured on the fire was absolutely without effect."

 The number of exits proved to be inadequate for the audience.

 Only 68 bodies were recovered.

The blaze led to national fire safety reforms.

There were 800 people in the audience and most of the deaths occurred in the upper gallery.

Victims were buried in a mass grave.