Chief Officer Howard Barclay Billups

Chief Officer (Dr) Howard Barclay Billups of Sandown Fire Brigade passed away on 3 August 1936 aged 63.

 

Billups was born at Chatteris, Cambridgeshire on 9 August 1872. His father Christopher was a well respected East Anglian farmer.

Whether or not his father ever invoked a desire in Howard to combat fire isn't known, but his father's farm at Hive End in the Isle of Ely, was the seat of what remains the regions most destructive fire six years before Howard's birth. Over seventy homes and several farm buildings were destroyed, masses of livestock were burned to death and incalculable quantities of stock destroyed. If not from his father Howard would almost certainly have had the story handed down from some persons in the locality.

By his late teens Howard was studying at St. Thomas's, Oxford and his direction was to be that of medicine. At some point as a young adult he emigrated to Colorado for two years. The 1901 census evidences that Howard is now resident in Sandown with his mother Jane and two siblings. However his studies were not over and in 1907 he graduated with a M.B., B.Ch. and he continued at St. Thomas's specialising in electrical and clinical X-ray.

Ten years later Doctor Billups was still living in Sandown with his mother and one sister. In May of the previous year he'd been appointed to Deputy Chief Officer of Sandown Fire Brigade, serving under the much vaunted James Dore. The two were to form a lasting mutual respect and friendship. Additionally the Doctor was an eloquent and outspoken critic of the town's authority although it was publicly acknowledged in the Press that his objective was always the betterment of the town and there was not a drop of malice in him, no matter how heated became the debate... which the Press suggested he seemed to enjoy. His work and service in the town, as medicine man, fire officer and beyond was immense.

His service with the French Red Cross and later the Royal Army Medical Corps, where he was commissioned to Captain (serving in Malta, the Black Sea, Alexandria and the Mediterranean on a hospital ship) during WW1 were to influence him greatly and for the remainder of his life he was an ardent supporter of the peace-advocating League of Nations Union.

It was during the war while Billups' was overseas that James Dore was to depart from the brigade. There was no question that the role of Chief Officer was to be that of Billups' when he returned from the war, another capable officer being made 'acting' chief until that time.

His leadership of the fire brigade was in the best traditions of Dore although Billups's character and devotion enabled him to make the Chief Officer role very much his own through a significant evolutionary period for fire-fighting. When he announced his intention to retire at the close of 1926 the Council requested that he remain connected as Honorary Chief Officer while his choice for successor as active Chief, Wilfred Brown, was readily appointed based on Billup's recommendation.

A few months before his death he'd suffered a stroke but seemed to pull through and was again active in the town. On the day before his passing he attended Church and later that evening was discussing the town's affairs with friends. On the following morning his housemaid heard him call out and found him unconscious on the floor. A fellow doctor was called but he passed away as he tended to him.

His body was conveyed to Oxford where he was interred in the family plot in Botley Cemetery. Senior Fireman A.F. White, Fireman S.Blackburn and Honorary Fireman H.V. Draper travelled to Oxford to represent Sandown Fire Brigade at the funeral.

Rest in peace Chief Officer Billups.