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Author Topic: Fireservice war heroes  (Read 43895 times)

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Offline peterchall

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2009, 22:07:52 »
Hello afsrochester,

I have very distinct memories of an incident that must be the same one related by Cyril Daniel. I lived at 23 Ross Street and my mother and I were standing in the garden watching some aeroplanes milling about when one came towards us and two little black dots fell from it - bombs! We made a rush for the cellar as the noise of the falling bombs got louder and we were at the top of the steps when there was a crashing noise in the cellar; we found half a paving stone there and could only conclude that it had fitted neatly edge on through the grid of the cellar flap outside! A clear memory is that there was no noise of the explosion, more a thump felt through the ground. We lost all the windows and some roof slates.

One of the bombs had destroyed two houses about 5 or 6 houses further up the road. One of these belonged to a Mr Brackley, who ran a fleet of taxis that were kept in a garage in Foord Street. It may have been his garage that was requisitioned as the AFS station, but after 69 years I can't remember.

It was at a late stage in the Battle of Britain, when the raids were made by fighters carrying a couple of small bombs, and I've always thought it was one of these being chased and jettisoning his bombs, rather than a deliberate attack.

I'm trying to get hold of some Rochester City archives that might throw more light on this, as well as some of the other events we've discussed.

PS: I'd love to see those wartime pictures and hope you can upload them.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2009, 12:02:58 »
Hello All,

Whoops! My comments (Reply#5) about air-raid warnings were not quite right; I've now dug out some information that I think is pretty accurate.

The country was divided into 'Warning Districts', 111 at start of the war, increasing to 157 by 1943. These received the following 'Air Raid Messages' direct from Fighter Command HQ:
   YELLOW: Enemy Aircraft (E/A) 15 minutes flying time from District boundary. Organisations on the ?Warning List? were notified.
   RED: E/A 5 minutes from boundary. Organisations on the ?Action List? were notified and the public sirens were sounded.
   GREEN: Cancelled the RED message.

   WHITE: Cancelled the YELLOW message.

From 25 July 1940 warning was normally no longer given of single E/A. To prevent a risk from these to organisations that had by necessity to show outside lights, a new message, 'PURPLE', was sent to them at night, to tell them to turn off the lights.

There was also another stage in the warning system - the 'Jim Crow' lookouts at each individual factory - that could be the subject of some interesting discussion.
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Offline afsrochester

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2009, 10:34:24 »
Hi Peterchall

Thanks for your very interesting post. You must have seen plenty of activity at the Station! I knew the 3rd Officer there, Cyril Daniel, who lived (like some of the Firemen) in Foord Street itself. I remember him telling me about Troy Town school being used for emergency storage for furniture and on occasions, accomodation! He related an incident to me when he thought the station was going to be bombed, but it missed Foord Street and landed in Ross Street. That would have been around 1940.

I don't know if you are still local to that area now but the station was demolished about 18 months ago and flats have been built on the site. The same thing happened to The Majestic garage that stood on Star hill until the mid 90's.

With demise of Foord Street went the last building in Rochester used by the Fire Services. I do have photographs of Foord Street station during the War, and afterwards in the 50's when it was a Kent Fire Brigade Retained station up until 1957, but I have no means to upload them, at the moment. I will also need to get permission from KFRS museum curator to do so as they are copies from their collection.

I live very close to Wickham Street and as you say, that landmine killed 8 people in Wickham Street as well as devasting parts of Amherst Road and Onslow Road.

I would be interested to know if you might know the  whereabouts of the NFS Divisional Headquarters in Pattens Lane were? So far I have been unable to locate its exact position.

Again thanks for the posting.

Offline afsrochester

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2009, 09:32:04 »
Hi Bromptonboy.

Yes it's the incident relating to the deaths of AFS Firemen Cyril Gibbons and Francis Chater who were killed on 8th April 1941. Yes, Andrew Rootes' book Frontline County is an excellent book and has proved to be a valuable research publication. As regards Mill Road I do know that it was a Sub Station with NFS Station 30B2U as part of B Division Fire Force 30 (Kent). As you may have read elsewhere on my postings, I'm trying to find out where the AFS sub stations in Chatham were and I would like to include Gillingham as well. I have all the NFS stations for Medway but not the AFS as some of these were not used as proposed under the original ARP for the towns (I have Rochester's which includes parts of Strood).

Offline peterchall

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2009, 21:24:33 »
The damage at St Williams Way was caused by a parachute mine. I think these acted as anti-shipping mines if they fell in water and exploded if they fell on land. They were particularly nasty because (a) you couldn't hear them coming (a falling bomb made a rushing noise), and (b) they didn't dig into the ground before exploding; the explosive force spread out horizontally and caused much more damage than a bomb of the same size, and these were  big. This one was even worse because it landed right on the edge of the concrete wall where Onslow Road joins St Williams Way, so that it was like an air burst at the roof level of the houses (Actually those houses were in Wickham Street with their back gardens on St Williams Way). Of  course the blast also went up the hill, destroying houses in Onslow Road and Amherst Road. To this day you can still see the new concrete in the wall where the mine hit.

I think it was the on same night (there was more than one mine dropped that night) that an AFS sub-station on Rochester Esplanade got a direct hit and some firemen were killed, and this may be the one referred to in Reply#1. Fortunately (not for the firemen, of course) there were no other buildings nearby. It was near the bottom of Bakers Walk. I lived close to the main AFS station which was at the junction of Foord Street and John Street, and remember seeing the wreckage of the trailer pump and other gear in the yard there.

I went to Troy Town School at the time, at the junction of King Street and John Street, and the firemen from this station were accommodated in one of the classrooms. I can remember a fireman would poke his head through our classroom door and say to our teacher 'yellow' to tell her of a preliminary warning. The air-raid alerts were in stages: 'Yellow' meant that an attack was likely and ARP services went to standby; 'Red' meant an attack within (I think) 10 minutes, when the sirens would sound; 'Green' signified 'All Clear'. Railway marshalling yards, factories etc requiring outside lights carried on after the Red warning, until the 'Purple' warning was given when raiders were more-or-less overhead, when all lights were put out.

Anyone not familiar with the area can find the roads I've mentioned on Google Earth.
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Offline bromptonboy

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2009, 14:56:45 »
Hi AFS,

The book Front Line County by Andrew Rootes mentions an air raid on the St Williams Way area in Rochester early morning on Tuesday 8th April 1941 in which two members of the AFS were killed when their sub-station recieved a direct hit. Do you know of this? Also did you know of an AFS Station in Mill Road Gillingham. I picked up some info from the BBC Peoples's War website in which a contributor mentions he was a fireman and worked from the Mill Road post.

Offline Riding With The Angels

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2009, 19:40:27 »
Wow. That would be great. A personal link to a member on KFH to a significant person in a thread.

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2009, 21:01:48 »
Hi afs.
 My grandfather was the William Beer that you referd to. As far as my mother knows he was killed by shrapnell hitting him in the chest. My aunt has a first aid book with the shrapnel hole in it and i have a photo that was inside the book.  She will try to dig out some photos of him at the fire station at the top of strood hill if you are interested.   

Offline afsrochester

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Re: Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2009, 07:59:11 »
The Wartime Fire Service in the Medway Towns sufferred casualties as a result of enemy action as well. Leading Fireman Beer was killed at Elaine Avenue Strood when the ARP post was bombed. Firemen Gibbons and Chater were killed on the Esplanade when their post took a direct hit from a parachute mine, and Fireman Ryder was also killed on the Esplanade outside Shorts during an air raid. Their names appear on the National Firefighters Memorial outside St Pauls Cathedral in London.

Offline Riding With The Angels

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Fireservice war heroes
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2009, 20:41:10 »
This tomb at West Wickham remembers the tragic deaths of five Auxilliary Fire Service personel in 1941.





In 1941, the London Fire Brigade, under intense pressure from the many fires caused by enemy bombing, had frequently to call in reinforcements from outlying areas. It was on one such occasion on 19th March at West Ham that five Coney Hall Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) men lost their lives. They comprised the crew of a pump, one of a convoy on the way to a five at Silvertown, which was obliterated in a land-mine explosion in Plaistow Road.

Wesley Drew, Stanley Short, Frederick Moore, Dennis Fitzgerald and Leslie Palmer were buried in this one grave in St John's the Baptist Churchyard, West Wickham, Kent. A simple wooden cross on a brick plinth was erected in 1942 and unveiled by the Mayor of Beckenham, Alderman W.J. Sampson J.P. on Easter Sunday 5th April 1942 with the dedication by the Rector, the Rev. Shaw Page.

Plans were made as early as June 1947 for a more permanent memorial but due to many difficulties in a post war Britain, with both material and money in very short supply a new memorial was not in place until October 1953. In fact it may not have been completed by that time except the memorial was badly damaged by a falling tree!

The new memorial was unveiled on Sunday 25th October 1953 by the Mayor of Beckenham, Alderman W.J. Sampson J.P. By coincidence the same man who had unveiled the temporary war time memorial 10 years earlier was now serving another year as Mayor. The dedication was by the Rector of St. John the Baptist the Rev. John Hough.

While wartime comrades stood guard at the corners with heads bowed, Divisional Officer C.T. Davis, Kent Fire Brigade laid a wreath on behalf of the Fire Service.

John Drew aged about 13 years also placed a wreath in memory of his father, one of the AFS fire-fighters killed in 1941.

Next to the memorial is the double grave of two further AFS fire-fighters killed exactly a month later. Ernest Beadle and Norman Mountjoy were among 33 AFS fire-fighters killed when their temporary Fire Station received a direct hit during an enemy air raid on the night of 19/20 April 1941 at Poplar, in East London.

Taken from http://www.bromley.gov.uk/environment/conservation_urban_design/memorials/beckenham_a.f.s._war_memorial.htm Photo's by RWTA

 

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