CHAPTER 8 AUXILIARY FIRE SERVICE

How strange that title of " Auxiliary Fire Service " looks now, and yet it lasted from before the Munich Crisis of September 1938 until the middle of 1941, when all regular Fire Brigades and the Auxiliary Fire Service passed from the control of Local Authorities to be merged in the National Fire Service. Our own Borough was of course affected by this change and we were left with no control whatsoever over our local Brigade, and yet were required to continue to contribute 75% of its annual pre-war cost.

It had been hoped that the outbreak of war would have found us well prepared, as under the Government's schemes of 1938/9 we proposed to establish two additional stations besides our Central Station in Forest Road. There was, however, inordinate delay in, obtaining covering approvals and, as a result, when war came, we had to improvise stations in various school buildŽings which we associated wherever possible with our A.R.P. District Centres. The following were the stations which were then in operation:-

That three Stations were sited in C. District was due to the congested nature of the area.

It was during the life of the Auxiliary Fire Service that the fire-fighting organisation of the Borough was called upon to prove its mettle and the success which rewarded its efforts can be attributed without doubt to the whole-hearted way in which our own Fire Brigade took into its ranks the Auxiliary Fire Service volunteers. That they were efficiently trained by our professional men and imbued with that great essential-team spirit-was shown by the manner in which they jointly performed all that was required when the great test came with the 1940/1 Blitz.

Seldom during that arduous period did a night pass that our Auxiliary Firemen were not called to action and few indeed were the nights that our A.F.S. men were not assisting at fires in the Docks area or in neighbouring Boroughs. It was also common practice for us to despatch four extra-heavy pumps to assist on the occasions of the provincial attacks and Birmingham, Southampton and Stockport are but a few of the towns that were aided by our men.

At the same time it must be remembered that our own town suffered considerably from incendiary attacks, and rare was the night during those dark months of the Winter of 1940/41 that we had no local fires from enemy action. On one night alone no fewer than 61 fires were started in the Borough, and on several others there were numerous incidents. Yet, despite the outside assistance we were called upon to give, the local fires were successfully fought and the damage kept to a minimum and it is a remarkable fact that only on one night was outside help called in to assist our Borough. (On that occasion a severe evening attack on London had resulted in us being requested to provide all possible assistance elsewhere and, when later that night our town was attacked, our remaining resources were fully extended. Even so, only four pumps were called in.

Two important factors undoubtedly contributed to the successful results of our Auxiliary Fire Service - firstly, that the A.F.S. volunteers were trained by, and worked with, men who had long been subject to discipline, and secondly, that a condition of admission to the Service was the passing of a strict medical examination.

Part I - General

Part IIa - The Services

Part IIb - The Services

Part III - The Story of the Raids

Part IV - Flying Bombs & Rockets

Part V - To the Unknown Citizen