Fireman Leslie Jack Ayles (reported in the Press as Jack Leslie), of Ryde Company of the National Fire Service, passed away at the County Hospital, Ryde, on 3 January 1943 aged 31.
Leslie was raised in Cross Street, Ryde and married Hilda Mary Rayner in 1939. They set up home at 35 St John's Road and had one young son. Leslie was multi-skilled as a gas meter repairer, tinsmith and sheet metal worker employed by the Ryde Gaslight Company until becoming a full-time member of the NFS in November 1942.
The date of his death coincides with the tragic events of the same day in Shanklin when twelve members of the NFS were killed when a 500kg bomb struck the temporary fire station in Landguard Road. No evidence has been unearthed to suggest that Leslie was present in Shanklin that day (although another Ryde fireman died in the bombing) and at present it represents only a coincidence that he passed away the same day. The fact that his name doesn't appear on the memorial in Ryde Fire Station, which lists the other Ryde firemen killed in action during the 1939-45 war, suggests that his death wasn't in-service.
The Isle of Wight County Press article that reported his death suggests he was a popular fireman who; won the full respect of his superiors and colleagues. A contingent of those colleagues were bearers at his funeral and the Ryde Company of the NFS under Company Officer Max Heller were joined by Company Officer Duncan of Divisional Headquarters who headed the cortege to and from All Saints Church where a guard of honour was formed.
Whilst the nature of Leslie's death remains a mystery, the fact that he was appreciated for his qualities as a fireman are clear.
Rest in peace Fireman Ayles.