Fireman Charlie Kent

Ryde Fire Brigade's Couldrey Cup winning team of 1929 (with Chief Officer Jolliffe front and centre). Given the knowledge of Charlie's war service and NFBA long service medal awards he's most likely the individual in the top right of this group.

Fireman Charlie Kent passed away at home 4 Osborne Road, Ryde, on 16 January 1964 aged 77.

 

Charlie was born in Haylands on 29 May 1886. The 1891 census details him living at Clifton Cottage in Haylands with his parents Charlie senior, a jobbing gardener and Amelia (nee Batchelor of Kent) plus five sisters, three brothers and his mother's mother. By the time of the next census in 1901, now 14 years old, Charlie is listed as a paper boy.

In 1907 Charlie joined Ryde Fire Brigade and he was also a member of the Isle of Wight Rifles. He married Margaret Webb in 1910 and the census of the following year states that they lived at 4 Milligan Road, Ryde, that Charlie was earning a living as a blacksmith and they had a six-month old daughter Margaret junior.

During the First World War he was detained from fire brigade duties due to his commitments to the Rifles manning forts on the Island. In August 1916 he was one of 250 men of the 2nd Battalion sent to join the 4th Hampshires at Romsey and from there was despatched to Basra to join the Indian Army. Throughout the remainder of the war the 4th saw light skirmishing throughout Amarah, Kut, Ctesiphon, Persia, Turkestan and Constantinople before returning to Europe and serving in Salonika, Italy and France. He returned home in 1919.

Charlie was immediately welcomed back to Ryde Fire Brigade and a year later received his bronze ten-year National Fire Brigades Association medal. In 1926 he competed in the IWFBF competition at Newport F.C.'s field in Church Litten, this being an occasion when Ryde first arrived in what was described as a particularly imposing motor engine. Three years later at Lake Villa Farm, Sandown, he was again in Ryde's team that won the Couldrey Cup in the motor-pump competition when the event was a combined effort between the IWFBF and the Southern District of the NFBA. 

Charlie wasn't averse to getting up and giving a rendition of a popular song of the era and was often remarked for doing so at the annual brigade dinner. On 6 June 1933 he was one of the first in attendance at the infamous Town Hall fire. Whilst gaining a vantage point on the roof from which to direct a firefighting jet alongside Second Officer Williams and Fireman Mundell, was suddenly cut off from their egress, the fixed external staircase, by flames and smoke. All were relieved that they managed to find an alternative escape route and emerged safely.

In October 1936 he lead a deputation of three members of the Brigade who secured a slot to face the Fire Brigade Committee in the chamber to level some dissatisfactions supported by all members with the exception of the Chief and Third Officer. The Chairman of the Committee received Charlie's propositions favoutably and the lot of the firemen was improved as a result.

Charlie was 53 when the Second World War commenced but remained undeterred and continued to serve with the Brigade until it was absorbed in to the National Fire Service in August 1941; he carried on throughout the war, attending the Cowes Blitz in May 1942, and finally retired in August 1945 after 38 years service. 

As today a feature of the IW County Press in 1963 included looking back to items from previous years. One such article invoked in Charlie the need to pen a letter to the Editor in July stating how much he enjoyed being reminded of a Brigade summer outing in 1913 and how hard he found to believe it was really fifty years ago; we used to have some good times and more contentment in those days.

Less than a year later Charlie passed away.

On the Monday after his passing a service was held at St Michael's Church and his remains were taken and interred at Ashey Cemetery where he was attended by family and members of the Isle of Wight County Fire Brigade.

Rest in peace Fireman Kent.