Chief Officer Frederick Dennis of Cowes Fire Brigade passed away on 23 November 1966 aged 78.

 

Frederick was born at St Mary's Road and raised in Cowes, the son of Noah, a Council labourer, and Agnes. He had three elder siblings. Throughout the era that covered Frederick's service in the brigade several other Dennis's featured but I've been unable to ascertain any relationship.

As a teenager he began an apprenticeship with Messrs Pascall Atkey and around the same time began his association with the fire brigade as a call boy.

In the 1911 Census Frederick, aged 22 was still living with his parents, his siblings had all left but they share their home with a domestic servant named Una Daisy Whittington. Love blossomed and Frederick married Una early the following year.

The first reference to his service as a fireman appeared in a Press report of the funeral of Ralph Lashmar in September 1916, however Frederick may have been in the brigade for some time before. However at some stage during the First World War he saw service with both the IW Rifles and the Royal Engineers. 

He was first detailed as the brigade's Second Officer in a report of the IWFBF's annual parade, held in Cowes, on 28 July 1935. His attendance as Cowes' representative at IWFBF annual meetings had consistent both before and after this date. 

In September 1936 when the veteran Chief Officer Ernest Willsteed retired from the brigade, the Press report details that Frederick was instantly promoted to the position. The same report details that the brigade's Chief Engineer was A.Dennis, who may have been Frederick's elder brother Arthur, but this remains unproven.

When the 1939 Register was taken it is interesting to note that Frederick's full-time occupation was detailed as Fire Chief rather than being inserted in the column for additional employment where most firemen's details of the time appeared. However as a Chief Officer, like his contemporaries across the Island, his workload would no doubt have increased ten-fold or more due to the responsibility for the welfare, administration and training of the vast numbers of Auxiliary Fire Service members since the previous autumn. However this isn't consistent across the Island as Wilfred Harry Brown, Chief Officer of Sandown Fire Brigade and equally as busy, is listed in the 1939 Register as builder with Retained Fire Brigade added in the additionals column.

Reports from July 1941, one month before the creation of the National Fire Service, state that Mr T.J. Upward is now Chief Officer of the brigade but the County Press eulogy on the occasion on Frederick's death clearly states that he served within the National Fire Service throughout the war. This suggests that Frederick anticipated the inevitable, as occurred throughout Island fire brigades when absorbed into the NFS, that he would lose his command to young men appointed by the NFS. In the case of Chief Officer Upward, as a younger man, this proved accurate as he was one of the few chiefs to keep their positions within the structure of the NFS. 

The eulogy suggests that Frederick retired immediately the war ended, suggesting a total service of at least 29 years that we know of. 

He passed away at home 51 Victoria Road, three doors from the fire station. 

 

Rest in peace Chief Officer Dennis.