Second Officer Alfred William Mew of Shanklin Fire Brigade passed away on 12 November 1945 aged 65.
Alfred was born in Shanklin in 1880 but the Census of the following year shows that he was living at the Honest Heart Inn, Kentisbeare, Devon, with his mother Jane and his great grandfather Edmund Ayres, the publican, and a range of other family members including his slightly elder sister Isabella.
Ten years later the family were recorded reunited with Alfred's father William, a painter/decorator, and living in Hatherton Road, Shanklin. By the time of the 1901 Census they had moved to Dudley Villas, Albert Road, and Alfred, now 21, was working as a stonemason. Aged 31 in 1911 Alfred was still living with his parents and four younger siblings at the same address. Whilst Alfred maintained a living from stonemasonry he was by now a fireman of Shanklin Fire Brigade having joined in 1908.
Just prior to the Census being taken for 1911 he was first mentioned in the Press when Mr C.E. Moorman, Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee, and Mr A.H. Guy, Chairman of the District Council, decided to test the response times of the town's firemen at midnight on a Saturday.
Even Chief Officer Rayner was oblivious to their plan and responded along with his firemen when the recently installed electric fire alarms were activated. Alfred managed to attend the station in a recorded time of 3 minutes and 55 seconds, by no means the quickest but considered an acceptable turnout given the distance and time of day. On 27 September 1913 he married May Ethel (nee Langdon) in Ryde. Shortly after his marriage and brigade service was placed on hold by the war during which he served with the Hampshire Regiment.
Alfred's record strikes one of a steady rather than dynamic membership of the brigade. Throughout the period when Shanklin's drill teams were knocking spots off other brigades both on the Island and mainland, Alfred was always in support and regularly attended IWFBF planning meetings once he'd been appointed the brigade's Second Officer, but does not appear in any of the recorded drill teams.
His term in office as Second Officer saw him often taking command of the firemen. In February of 1928 Chief Officer Harry Newton Bull retired from the service. Unprepared for the eventuality the District Council turned to Alfred to serve as Acting Chief until a formal appointment could be made.
He must have been a little disappointed, after having commanded the brigade with dignity and skill, to have been ordered to step down when Cecil Charles Matthews, a former fireman of the brigade who resigned in 1923, was asked to return as permanent Chief Officer. However by now Matthews was well into his fifties and whilst a stoic and determined man it appears he may have been lacking the energy for the role as Second Officer Mew continued to command the men at many incidents from thereon.
Alfred wasn't all that much younger himself but he solidly attended to his duties. On 6 July 1938 while Chief Officer Matthews and the majority of the brigade were away at an NFBA camp in Guildford, Alfred's firefighting strategy with so few men was severly tested when a fire broke out at the Melbourne Hotel in Queens Road. Alfred's use of his dwindling resources proved wise and what was considered a potential catastrophe was rapidly averted by timely and appropriate firefighting.
In 1941 when Shanklin's brigade, like all others, was absorbed into the National Fire Service, Alfred along with his Chief Officer, was one of the many veteran fire officers to lose their status to younger men appointed by NFS regional command at Durley in Hampshire. Regardless he remained a member of the fire service, facing the Cowes Blitz in the process until ill health compelled his retirement on the last day of 1942. Fate works in strange ways as three days later Shanklin's NFS suffered what remains the Island's most tragic loss of firefighters when the fire station took a strike from a 500kg bomb and twelve of Alfred's former colleagues were killed.
For Alfred health proved a struggle for the remainder of his life before passing away at home a little under three years later.
Rest in peace Second Officer Mew.