"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

SOUTHEND AIRPORT

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

SUTTON COLDFIELD - 1955

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.

QUEEN VICTORIA ST. - 1902


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.

SOHO FIRE STATION

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.