Auxiliary Fire Service in Surrey


The Auxilliary Fire Service (AFS) was first formed in 1938 in as part of Civil Defense Air Raid Precautions. Its role was to supplement the work of brigades at local level. In this job it was hampered severely by incompatibility of equipment used by these different brigades - most importantly the lack of a standard size of hydrant valve. The Auxiliary Fire Service and the local brigades were superseded in August 1941 by the National Fire Service.

Members of the AFS were unpaid part-time volunteers, but could be called up for whole-time paid service if necessary. This was very similar to the wartime establishment of the police Special Constabulary. Men and women could join, the latter mainly in an administrative role.

 

Organisation

An AFS was formed in every county borough, borough and urban district, and there was also one in the London County Council area. Each AFS was commanded by a Commandant, with Deputy and/or Assistant Commandants in the larger services. The services operated their own fire stations, each commanded by a Section Officer, and station areas were divided into Fire Beats, each under the command of a Patrol Officer. Services with five or more stations divided them into Divisions, each under the command of a Divisional Officer. These ranks were not laid down by the government, and some services used different systems.

 

Post War

The Auxiliary Fire Service was reformed in 1948 alongside the Civil Defence Corps. It was equipped with 1,000 Green Goddess (Bedford RLHZ Self Propelled Pump) fire engines. It was disbanded in 1968.

During peacetime, AFS crews frequently attended fires and accidents alongside their regular colleagues. They provided significant assistance at some of the worst fires, such as that at Billingsgate Market and at Barking wood yard. AFS personnel were trained in firefighting by their own officers and with assistance from full-time fire officers. Many were trained to the St John Ambulance Higher First Aider Certificate standard - often proving invaluable at major incidents involving injury.

The Green Goddesses were used in two forms, a 4x4 version fitted with a 900 gpm Sigmund centrifugal pump and a 2x4 version (the most common type issued) fitted with the 1000 gpm pump. These latter could combine to provide a pipe relay over great distances when connected using 6-inch hose, supplying 1000 gpm from one location to another, often the seat of a major fire. An inflatable dam was often used as the source for the relay, usually fed by using several Light Portable Pumps powered by Coventry Climax FWP engines. These were sometimes floated on a 'bikini' raft so they could draw directly from a water supply such as a river.

The AFS has never had any connection whatever with any of the British Armed Forces. It is a pure coincidence that the Government used Army personnel to man and operate fire appliances during the Firemen's strikes. The appliances used were former AFS equipment brought out of mothball for the purpose. Many have since been sold at public auction.

The Auxiliary Fire Service is still active as part of Civil Defence in the Republic of Ireland.

 Source Wikipedia

 AFS in Surrey

The following information has been kindly supplied by Mr John C Thompson, who is an authority on the Auxillary Fire Service (please see below regarding his book The Green Machine).

Auxilliary Fire Service (AFS) activity in Surrey was focused around the Reigate area, with the Home Office Tactical Training Centre for the Emergency Fire Service (part of the National Civil Defence organisation) being attached to Surrey County Fire Brigade Headquarters at St Davids.

It was opened officially on 5th October 1955 by the then Home Secretary Major the Right Hon Gwilym Lloyd George and was used as a training ground for the methods of fire-fighting that would be needed in the event of a Hydrogen bomb being detonated on British soil.

The centre was mainly concerned with experiments with the then new emergency appliances (fire engines which include the famous "Green Goddesses") and associated equipment. This included night time and other prolonged exercises by 100 volunteers from 38 brigades of Great Britain, that proved invaluable in showing what the Fire Services would be expected to do in such an emergency.

The opening ceremony included the enactment of the operations of a mobile fire column after an atomic "blitz", within which 80 jets of water were set to work utilising some 7,000 gallons of water per minute!

In Memoriam

This page is dedicated to the following members of the Auxilliary Fire Service in Surrey, who lost their lives during World War II  

SECTION OFFICER CHARLES L. MOORE - KINGSTON-UPON-THAMES

LEADING FIREMAN FREDERICK W. FAULKNER - MITCHAM

LEADING FIREMAN ALBERT SPILLER - MITCHAM

FIREMAN CECIL A. ELLIMAN - MITCHAM

FIREMAN HAROLD PARKES - MITCHAM

FIREMAN EDWARD PEPPER - MITCHAM

FIREMAN ERNEST ROBINSON - MITCHAM

FIREMAN CHRISTOPHER HARTWELL - BANSTEAD

FIREMAN CHARLES H. RICHARDS - LEATHERHEAD FIRE BRIGADE

FIREMAN ERNEST G. CLAYDON - WORKS FIREMAN PURFLEET

FIREMAN WILLIAM LUTMAN - MALDEN & COOMBE BRIGADE

FIREMAN PERCIVAL HARVEY - MALDEN & COOMBE

The incident at which the 5 Mitcham auxiliaries were killed was where a basement of the Old Surrey Music Hall had been converted to an Emergency Water Supply (EWS). Pump crews were engaged in providing water for a relay to the Elephant and Castle area, where crews were fighting a conflagration which eventually covered an area of five acres.

12 auxiliaries of the London Fire Brigade were also killed at the same time as the men from Surrey, when the E.W.S. basin received a direct hit by a bomb.

Experimental Fire Column Reigate 1955

 

 

 

"Green Goddesses" on exercise at Reigate

 

 

Pipe Bridge Reigate Area 1955

Reigate TTC Exercise Road Orders 10/03/1955

The Green Machine - By John C Thompson & Barry Hollis

We recommend The Green Machine by John C Thompson & Barry Holliss which details of all the Post War AFS Appliances, Civil Defence Vehicles & Police Mobile columns, now out of print but available as a CD with a greatly enhanced  Photo Gallery bringing the story up to date, these are available at a cost of £12 inc P&P direct from:

 Mr John C Thompson 89 Crusader Drive. Doncaster. DN5 7RS

Don't forget to include your address for John to be able to reply!

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