Newport Fire Brigade, circa 1914-1918, with Chief Officer Mursell front and centre.

Captain Nicholas Henry Thomas Mursell of Newport Fire Brigade passed away on 10 April 1942 aged 80.

 

In eulogy the County Press remarked; He was widely known in the Island as the former licensee for 54 years of one of Newport's oldest inns, The Castle, at the top of the High Street, as an ex-chief officer of Newport Fire Brigade when it was a volunteer body and as one of the most skillful bowlers in the history of the game in the Wight. Nicholas was one of the 'new' firemen recruited when the brigade was re-established on voluntary lines in February 1893 and took over as Captain on New Years Day 1895.

In 1924 he was responsible, as the Chairman, for the resurrection of the Isle of Wight Fire Brigade Federation drill competitions which had been in abeyance since 1906.

On 4 October 1927 a fire began in the workshops of the Wadham's store in the centre of the town and spread with such ferocity it threatened the entire block. Chief Officer Mursell sent for assistance from Ryde, Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor. Over the course of the previous three years all five of the brigades had upgraded to new motor-engine fire appliances and as a result Chief Officer Mursell was swamped with pumps and firemen in a tiny amount of time in comparison to the days of horse-drawn appliances. This was the first time in the Island's history where so many had arrived so fast to a seriously hazardous fire. There was no precedent and no formal command structure stated in procedure as we have today. The Chief literally had to create a method on the hoof under immense pressure. His experience and initiative, supported by fellow Chief Officers Wilfred Brown (Sandown), Bob Pearson (Ventnor), Cecil Matthews (Shanklin) and Henry Jolliffe (Ryde), ensured a successful outcome and marked a seminal moment in Isle of Wight firefighting. Those chiefs of that night were quite rightly considered the Famous Five.

Chief Mursell retired from the brigade just a few months following his finest moment in January 1928.

His contribution to the development of both Newport Fire Brigade and the Isle of Wight Fire Brigades Federation was substantial. His care for his firemen didn't end with their brigade service; when one of his men left for active duty with the Isle of Wight Rifles during the First World War, and lost a leg fighting at Gallipoli, Chief Officer Mursell was the first to arrange for assistance to his family and for gifts and necessities to be sent to the wounded soldier while he recovered at a military hospital in the Midlands.

A year before his death, due to decreasing health, he gave up his more than half-century landlordship of The Castle Inn in Newport High Street and went to live with his son in Branksome, Bournemouth, where he passed away.

Rest in peace Chief Officer Mursell.