"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

December 28, 2015

75TH ANNIVERSARY

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 
Wikipedia

November 10, 2015

`SHOUTS'

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

HUDDERSFIELD - 1941


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

CATACOMBS - 1949


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.

M
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.

Additionally:

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.

GREEN GODDESS


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

OAKWOOD HOSPITAL - 1957


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

STRIKING POSE

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

July 27, 2015

METROPOLITAN WHARF

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

WELLESLEY - 1914






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

COLONIAL WHARF


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:

"B
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.

SAILORS' HOME

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.

WEST INDIA DOCKS

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.

"T
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

VAUXHALL - 1918



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:

-KILLED:-
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

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

INJURED:-
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

SHEFFIELD BLITZ

UPDATED JUNE 15, 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.

'KEEP CALM, CARRY ON'

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

'WON'T TRY THIS AGAIN'


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