"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

May 21, 2009

WORSLEY HOTEL - 1974





Photos: London Fire Brigade, Gordon Honeycombe web site

On Dec. 13, 1974, an arson fire swept the Worsley Hotel in the Maida Vale section of London, killing 7 people - including a probationary firefighter named Hamish ``Harry'' Petit.


Three other firefighters were injured.

The story of the Worsley Hotel fire was recorded by journalist Gordon Honeycombe in the book ``Red Watch'' and by former London officer Neil Wallington in the book "Fireman! A personal account."

The hotel's kitchen porter, Edward Mansfield, was convicted of setting the fire.

According to Wikipedia:

The first of several 999 calls were made to the
London Fire Brigade at 03:32 and received by the local fire station, A21, Paddington who were ordered to the scene along with neighbouring A22, Manchester Square and G26 Belsize, bringing the first attendance of 4 pumping appliances – 2 carrying the heavy but stable 50 foot (15m) wheeled escape ladders, a 100 ft (30m) turntable ladder (aerial) and an emergency tender (for the breathing apparatus (BA) sets carried, the wearing of which was then still a specialist skill).

On arrival, a chaotic scene greeted the senior officer, a serious fire in progress and numerous persons requiring rescue.

A priority message was made to control and a “Make pumps 8” message was sent (requesting a further 4 pumping appliances in addition to the original 4) within minutes of first arriving, whilst rescues (the priority) were being affected from both the front and rear of the building.

Further reinforcements were requested, first to 15 pumps, and then 20, and finally 30 with a further 2 turntable ladders requested.


During the next hour, the building structure began to deteriorate as floors and roof structures became affected by fire.

This was particularly apparent in house numbers 13, 15, and 17, the worst affected.

Many of the internal stairways were stone and when heated by the fire and then suddenly cooled by water collapsed making internal movement through the building awkward and potentially hazardous.


As further crews arrived along with increasingly senior officers to direct operations and persons were accounted for, the operation moved from rescue to the fighting of the fire.

Crews took hoses through the doors from the street and off ladders through the windows.


One of these fire fighting crews made up of 3 men and a Station Officer, entered a second floor room to search out the seat of the fire.

Whilst in the room, several floors above weakened by the extra load of the partially collapsed roof came down on the crew, the devastation seemingly concentrated on that one room.

The release of the trapped men became the priority, with what proved to be a difficult and protracted rescue operation.

One by one, 3 men were released (2 with serious burns and 1 with a serious back injury) before the body of the 4th man was found, who was declared dead at the scene.