Please take a look at the new Military Interest Section which was appropriately launched on 11 November 2018.


Earlier today Mark Young shared this photo on the IW Heritage Group Facebook page, Geoff Pidgeon was quick to spot it and give me the nudge.

It shows the Ryde Pier Head Fire Brigade of the London and South West and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. 

Prior to today I was aware of a Pier Head fire brigade established during the Second World War and further units provided by Southern Railway in the decades that followed, but this image, suggesting a period of around the First World War, opens up a whole new avenue of research.

The railway system map (pictured above) that remains in pristine condition at London Victoria station, clearly shows that the Isle of Wight's network makes up a key element of the overall network. 

Research into the roots of the railway suggests that the LSW and LBSC Railways jointly took over the ferry service from Portsmouth in 1880. I am advised by a railway enthusiast that Southern Railway took over the network in 1922, so that frames this photograph between those dates. Further research is ongoing.

Today I was invited to speak to the Breathe Easy Support Group at the Respiratory department at St Mary's Hospital.

A good crowd turned up and from the start it was clear that they were keen to listen and be entertained with stories of the Island's firefighting heritage. I was only supposed to talk for 45 minutes but they were enjoying it so much that they asked me to continue and I ended up filling their entire two-hour session. Afterwards one of them said to me I was the best speaker they'd had so far which was nice to hear as it meant they enjoyed it.

They also, without any prompting, carried out a collection for the Firefighters Charity and passed around the brass fire helmet and I was staggered by how much they'd donated between them.

Thanks to the entire group for a really fun afternoon. 

I received an invite to attend the Service of Remembrance organised by Ryde's Social Heritage Group this evening. Representing the Isle of Wight Fire Brigades Federation and remembering the firemen who lost their lives in both world wars I turned out in dress uniform alongside veterans and others representing the military forces and home defence and a large collection of the Society's membership where the Last Post and the Reveille were observed by the standard bearers of the Royal British Legion. The RBL are also responsible for the placing of large commemorative wooden crosses at the staggering number of graves of local men who died in war service 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 who were laid to rest at Ryde cemeteries, including Leading Fireman Herbert James Dewey, Fireman Colin Henry Weeks and Leading Fireman Alfred Buchanan Brown. I would like to especially thank the Legion for including the town's firemen in this act of remembrance.

This evening I had great fun with the members of Ryde's Horticultural Society at All Saints Church Hall.

They'd asked me to come along and given them a potted history of Ryde's fire brigade, that being my patch and the area where my research began it was no difficult task. It was intended to be a forty minute talk but went well past the hour as they were asking questions and wanting more so I kept going. 

A greatly appreciated cheque was received from them written to the Firefighters Charity so all in all another successful outing. Thanks to all who attended.

With sales of the second volume of the Island's firefighting history already going well, work on the third volume 'The Beginning of the End' has already begun and should be available by September 2019. 

This volume follows the Island's brigades as they begin to put themselves back together after losing all their young men to the war. Some returned and resumed firefighting, some didn't return at all and some returned incapable of further service.

For the Island's Chief Officer's the period posed many challenges during an era of social upheaval and still without any clear legislative backing to substantiate their demands for modern equipment. 

One Chief Officer decided it was time to reinvigorate the IWFBF. Newport's Chief Officer Mursell recognised the inestimable benefit to the brigades and those who called for them by the Federation's exploits in the pre-war period. With the war six years in the past he decided it was time to re-establish those links in planning, drills and camaraderie. It was the beginning of a new strain of Federation thinking that led the IWFBF to take a step years ahead of its time in canvassing the Island's authority's to establish a County-wide fire brigade. 

The authority's rejected the Federation's plan but the organisations evolution wasn't to be deterred by politics and its constitution and style of firefighting developed beyond anything that Captain Langdon could have imagined in 1894. The formal creation of an Islandwide fire brigade was still many years off, but the integration and common understanding built between the Island's chief officer's and their firemen ensured that the establishment of partnerships represented, albeit informally and incomplete, a fire response to most areas of the Wight.

While the Island's peacetime firefighters refined their craft, on the horizon a new and terrifying threat emerged and the Island's firefighters were, initially unwillingly, to be encumbered by a whole new breed of firemen and other emergency workers in preparation for the anticipated end of the peace that marked the time between the wars.

It was the beginning of the end for the parish, town and borough fire brigades.



In response to some requests I have now arranged that 'From Victoria to the Armistice' is available in an ebook format that works with Kindle Fire, Apple iPad and Android based tablets, and at the cut price of £2.99 every penny of which goes straight to the Firefighters Charity. Click on the link below to access the page on Blurb.



Volume Two of Isle of Wight firefighting history is now available, click on 'From Victoria to the Armistice' to go to the publications page. 

Today Ivan Berryman linked me to a photo submitted to the IW Heritage Facebook group to see if I could identify the subject matter.

I was thrilled to see the image was of Ryde Fire Brigade in Brunswick Street (before renamed Station Street). Careful study of the photo gives an idea of when it was posed. The fire station, Ryde's first built-for-purpose station, was first occupied in November 1904 and the engine in the photo on which can be seen Captain Sidney Charles Sapsworth, is the old manual engine purchased in 1852, not the steam-powered Merryweather Gem purchased in October 1908.

So the image below must be between November 1904 and October 1908. Clearly this was a posed photo as there are no horses tethered to the engine so they weren't going anywhere, so my estimate would be that this was taken soon after the new station opened in 1904. To the right of the photo with a length of rope over one shoulder is Henry Frederick Jolliffe, who later became Ryde's Chief Officer and served until his death in 1937.

Later in the same thread a second photo of the same era was submitted, shown lower down below.