"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

February 25, 2010

STRATFORD - 1953

Photo: Accident Report
On April 8, 1953, firefighters freed commuters trapped in a London Underground tunnel after two trains collided between Statford and Leyton during the evening rush hour. Nine people died and many others were injured. "It's just a shamble down there," said a fireman quoted by the Glasgow Herald. "We have to cut our way through every inch." Doctors and nurses performed surgery as the fire brigade and civil defense burrowed through the Central Line wreckage.

DOCK FIRE - 1900

Dec. 31, 1900 - The Colonist, a newspaper in New Zealand
image: National Museum of New Zealand

FIREMAN GOODALL

Photo: London Fire Brigade
Samuel Goodall, a fireman assigned to the Soho Fire Station in the late 1870s, was credited with a series of rescues, according to the Soho web site.
  • Drury Lane - Nov. 24, 1878 -4 rescued
  • Strand, Buckingham St. - March 1, 1878 - 3 rescued
  • Strand, Villiers St. - Dec. 10, 1877 - 4 rescued

February 24, 2010

RUDI M - 1980

Photo: East London Advertiser

(Editor's Note: Thank you to Station Manager Robin Whittington of Poplar Fire Station for providing this post.)

By Steve Dudeney
http://www.fireservice.co.uk/

The Motor Vessel Rudi M was an 800-ton Panamanian registered liquid gastanker, and in the winter of 1979/80 it came into Regents Canal Dock off of the River Thames in East London to undergo a re-fit.

On Jan. 17, 1980, fire crews from the Green Watch at Poplar Fire Station, whose ground covered the Regents Canal Dock, had been called to a fire on the ship caused by workers using hot cutting equipment. The fire was quickly tacked by the crews and work on the boat continued throughout January until the fateful morning of the 25th.

The Red watch at F22 Poplar reported for Duty at 1800 on Thursday, Jan. 24. Stn O Tony Westbrook was in charge with Sub O DennisHurley, Lfm John Bailey and Leading Fireman Steve Maynard as the officers that night.

The rest of the watch on duty that night were Fm Dave Andrew, Fm Mick Brophy, Fm John Burgess Fm Carl Chughtai, Fm Steve Debenham, Fm Bill Downey, Fm Keith Herbert, Fm Barry Holmes, Fm Brian Jeffries, Fm Keith Leggett, Fm Keith Stimpson and Fm Paul Wickenden.

Typically for Poplar at that time they had a very busy night with a number of calls in and around Poplar and the pump, with Stn O Westbrook in charge, had spent a large part of the night fighting a 25-pump fire at Chelsea Flour Mills in West London.

Friday dawned a clear day, at around 8.30am a number of the oncoming Green Watch had started to appear, having had a long night a few of the Watch had decided to take an exchange duty so a few members of the Green Watch were now riding for Red Watch personnel.

At 08:55 that morning a call was received at Stratford Fire Control from workers on the ship. There was a fire in the hold; once again contractors had accidentally set alight to insulating material in the tank.

The bells went down at Poplar ordering the pump escape and pump along with the pump from F25 Shadwell to the fire. Upon the arrival of the crews, a fire was seen to be in progress in the hold of the ship and a 4-man BA crew consisting of Lfm Steve Maynard and Fm Steve Debenham from the Red Watch with Sub O George Thomas & Fm Gary Jones from the Green Watch were committed to the hold in BA with a firefighting jet.

The hold was very hot and smoky with visibility at zero. Steve Debenham withdrew to the jetty to get a pair of gloves but was ordered by Stn O Westbrook to go back down and get the crew to withdraw. Steve returned to the hold and passed on Stn O Westbrook's' order, Sub O Thomas and Fm Jones left first followed by Steve Debenham and Steve Maynard.

Upon reaching the top of the ladder Steve Debenham noticed Steve Maynard was not behind him.

He went back down the ladder and all of a sudden the hold of the ship erupted into flame and smoke. Steve Debenham was badly burned and Steve Maynard did not manage to escape, he tragically lost his life.

[Terry Dietman, a worker at the dock, told the East London Advertiser newspaper that day: “There was a sudden gush of smoke from the hold. It was awful. Everyone was so helpless.”]

The LFB lost a good officer and his family and colleagues mourned his untimely death at the age of 26.

Thirty years on from that day, Limehouse Basin is now almost unrecognisable. Members of Steve's family, retired members who attended the fire, local senior officers and principal LFB officers lined up at the side of the dock as a new plaque to commemorate the anniversary of Steve's death was unveiled by London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson.

---

'NICE AND DECENT BLOKE'

Recalling the fire 30 years later, Steve Debenham said in an interview with The Docklands 24 web site:

"It's so important to remember people like Stephen and to let his family know we've never forgotten about him

"He was the one who told me to go up the ladder on that morning and then there was the explosion. That shows the courage of the man. He was a thoroughly nice and decent bloke and had a great sense of humour.

"It was devastating for everyone and I still think about it all the time - it's very distressing to lose a friend and colleague."

February 10, 2010

GOSWELL ROAD - 1969

Photo: Collection of Kevin McDermott, retired London firefighter
Cover photo of London Fireman magazine of collapse of old air raid shelter at Goswell Road, Islington in 1969. The collapse killed Firefighter Michael Lee of the Shoreditch Fire Station and seriously injured another firefighter.

February 05, 2010

CONSULATE FIRE - 1980

Photo: Ottawa Citizen
On March 24, 1980, flames destroyed the Italian Consulate in London's fashionable Knightsbridge district. More than 50 firefighters answered the alarm.

February 02, 2010

EMBASSY SIEGE - 1980

Photos: BBC

On May 5, 1980, a six-day siege at the Iranian embassy ended after a dramatic raid by Special Air Service commandos that freed 19 hostages.

Members of the London Fire Brigade entered the building to extinguish flames ignited by military explosives while police evacuated the hostages.

Five gunmen and one hostage died in the shootout.

The attackers belonged to a group opposed to Ayatollah Khomeini, the religious leader who came to power in Iran in 1979, according to the BBC.

KENTISH TOWN - 1946


False alarms can prove deadly. On April 29, 1946, an engine "answering a bogus fire call" in Kentish Town in North London killed four children, according to a Reuters dispatch in The Chicago Tribune.

BLITZ RESCUE

Firefighter (at center) with civilian and military rescuers

SAVED BY SANTA

On the day after Christmas 1965, the London Fire Brigade raced to St. Matthew's Hospital and extingished flames that threatened a ward for elderly women.

"These people were saved by Christmas," said a police officer quoted by the Associated Press. "The rest of London is empty. At any other time of the year we would never have got here in time."

The fire, which broke out below the ward, "was quickly brought under control after every London district had rushed ambulances and fire fighting equipment to the scene," the AP reported.

"When the fire was discovered, the fire brigade declared a major emergency" and "after it was out, smoke still poured from the building," according to the AP dispatch, published in the Dec. 26, 1965, edition of The Miami News in Florida.

The hospital, built in 1873 as City Road Workhouse by the Holborn Board of Guardians, was damaged during World War Two, according to the London Metropolitan Archives.

On Dec. 8, 1940, St. Matthew's "received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb, which killed many patients and some members of staff and destroyed part of the old south ward block," according to the archives.

The hospital closed in 1986.

February 01, 2010

ANNUAL REPORT - 1890








CLICK on image to read about the activities of the London Fire Brigade in 1890. The article was published in New Zealand newspaper - the Nelson Evening Mail - on April 13, 1891.




GREAT SMOG - 1952

In December 1952, a cloud of soot and smoke shrouded London for four days. The Great Smog brought the city to a standstill. The Ministry of Health reported the pollution claimed more than 4,000 lives.