Of relief to the military but of frustration to the Overseas Contingent, it appeared that Germany's anticipated operations against Allied supply lines and depots did not materialise.
To many in the military, not wholly convinced that they should be joined by civilian firefighters, this came as a secondary relief. The lack of intensity in the supply areas convinced the War Office that the Army Fire Service had the capacity to handle whatever was being thrown at it.
For the firemen of the Overseas Contingent, by a now arguably the best trained firemen in the history of the British Fire Service, capable of military skills of camouflage and concealment and many other functions never to be found in fire service drill books, every day brought disappointment and as news of Allied successes were delivered in succession no call came for them to mobilise and provide the support they so willingly wanted to give.
By the winter the Home Office were reconsidering the position, and the cost, of maintaining an Overseas Contingent that it seemed the War Office were increasingly unlikely to call upon.
The men were beginning to feel this too and a domino effect ripplied through the Columns with men queing to hand in their lot, asking to be returned to their parent Fire Forces. With the situation not formally unchanged, these men were retained and told they could not be struck off the strength of the Contingent. Dissatisfaction and dissent festered.
Ironically it was while a delegation of the Contingent's senior staff were touring Northern Europe to make an appreciation of the situation in preparation for Contingent deployment to Europe, that the Home Office decided to cut their losses.
Four of the five Columns were to be disbanded; the keeping of a single Column was seen as something of a token gesture in case the call from the War Office was to suddenly come; which nobody believed would happen.
No. 4 (East Anglia) Column was selected to be saved, which may seem odd given that it possessed the highest number of those who had requested to leave. However the Home Office recognised the widespread disappointment and hoped that by retaining No. 4, releasing all of its members that wished to leave, and recruiting from among those still motivated from the disbanded columns, that this single column would remain representative of the spirit in which the endeavour was begun, and of the nation as a whole.
Accordingly No. 4 (East Anglia) Column retained its regional title but in reality the men of the East were now heavily diluted by men from the former columns now disbanded and the column was considered a composite unit.