Fireman William David Batchelor (front), with his firefighting son Samuel George Batchelor, pictured at home, Chesham Terrace, in 1940.

Fireman William David Batchelor of Sandown Company of the National Fire Service died as a result of injuries received during a training exercise on 6 January 1942, aged 44.

 

William, born 16 February 1897, was the son of David, a general labourer from Sussex, and Louisa of Bembridge. The 1901 Census evidenced that he was the youngest of three children and had been born in Borthwood. The next census of ten years later shows the addition of a younger brother and 14 year old William was by then working as an errand boy for a pork butcher. The family resided at 96 Avenue Road, Sandown where his father now worked as a furniture repairer. 

His age would have ensured his call-up papers arrived following the Act of March 1916 but no records of military service have been unearthed. In 1919 he married Rosina Dunn. Shortly after he volunteered for Sandown Fire Brigade and was one of three men formally appointed as probationers at a meeting of the Council held on 15 June 1920. 

He served until 1929 during the course of which he became a strong and reliable member of the brigade. In 1924 he was a member of Sandown's four-man team that won the IWFBF's Macdonald Cup in the hose-cart drills held as part of the competition at the Broadway Ground and in 1926 travelled with the squad to Dorchester and formed a component of the team that carried off the Dyer Challenge Cup for a successful run in the steam fire-engine drills.

Fireman Batchelor and colleagues return home victorious with the Dyer Challenge Cup in 1926.

The Dyer Challenge Cup winning team posing with the silverware infront of the Grafton Street fire station in 1926 (left to right; Batchelor, Woodnutt, Creasey, Holbrook, Brook).

Chief Officer Wilfred Brown's Annual Report of 1929 states that William resigned earlier in the year for business reasons. He remained working as a pork butcher and the 1939 Register states more specifically slaughterman. Between 1920 and 1935 he and Rosina produced seven children; Richard William David (1920), Rosina Louisa Emily (1922), Samuel George (1923) who was to follow his father into the fire service, Lilian Maud (1926), Doris Kathleen (1929), Eilieen Muriel (1931) and Philip John (1935). 

By the time the 1939 Register was taken in September of that year William, residing at 4 Chesham Terrace with Rosina and Rosina junior, Lilian and the younger children, had already volunteered for service with the Auxiliary Fire Service where he obtained the position of Leading Fireman.

However the minutes of a Sandown Fire Brigade meeting of 7 January 1941 evidences that he was one of three ex-brigade firemen, currently serving with the AFS, who were unanimously voted back in to the fold of the regular service. 

When the National Fire Service was formed in August of the same year William continued in service and found himself in the rare position of having served in three separate services in less than nine months.

A contingent of the Sandown company of the National Fire Service outside the Grafton Street fire station in late 1941, by then redesignated station 14D5V.

On Tuesday 6 January 1942 William was in one of a convoy of fire appliances travelling to Ventnor with several other Sandown NFS members including his son Samuel George Batchelor to participate in a training exercise. William was sat at the front of the engine alongside the driver Stanley Watson of Brading. What occurred was widely reported in the local Press but is perhaps most accurately stated in the County Press report of the inquest held at the Royal National Hospital before Deputy Coroner R.E.A. Webster.

Samuel George Batchelor was present and questioned regarding his fathers general health, to which he replied that there had been no issues. 

Stanley Watson, driver of the Bedford van towing an Apex trailer-pump. He stated that having arrived at the Ventnor Town Hall rendezvous as arranged, at 14:15 they received instructions to proceed with the exercise. Critically he claimed that William changed places before the vehicles moved off and relocated to the rear of the van. As instructed Watson headed towards Market Street but was prevented from making the turn he required due to the positioning of an Army truck. At a speed declared of five to eight miles an hour, he eased to the nearside to get to the proper side of the road and which point an unremarkable vibration was felt and he was advised by others on board that William had fallen off.

Fireman Ernest William Dimmick described the effect of the uneven road and vehicles manoeuvre to have had much greater impact at the rear of the vehicle, he was seated eighteen inches from the tailboard. Dimmick claimed he was thrown against the side and forward and noticed William Batchelor attempt to right himself by rising from his seat, at which point he lost his balance and fell sideways. Dimmick attempted to grab his tunic but was unsuccessful. William fell beneath the equipment carrier and was dragged some distance before Stanley Watson drew the vehicle to a stop. Company Officer Hector Scott, among others, ran to William's aid and did what they could before Dr J.B. Williamson arrived and ordered him to be sent immediately to the Royal National Hospital. At this stage William was able to converse with his colleagues, telling them of the pain in his back and chest.

Other witnesses confirmed the matter of William's fall but added that a deep depression was an issue at that spot of the road and the placing of a granite block may have been a factor. One ARP member stated that the wheels of the trailer-pump clearly left the ground. 

At the hospital William had difficulty breathing. Medical inspection discovered the lower part of his chest shattered, two cuts on the head down to the skull and both collar bones broken. William's breathing cycle deteriorated until he eventually passed away in full respiratory failure. 

The inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death whilst recommending that the depression in the road be addressed as a possible contributory factor and that in the future all such vehicles with open rears should be provided with a length of rope to prevent persons falling out. Before departing the members of the jury passed their collective fees to William's son Samuel George. 

 

William's funeral was held two days after the inquest at Sandown's Congregational Church with the interment being at Lake Cemetery. His coffin, draped with the Union Jack, was conveyed on Sandown's escape tender and carried by six members of the NFS. More than eighty members of the Island's fire services attended. 

The Rev. Nicholas remarked; His unexpected passing in the prime of life had come as a great shock to a large circle both in the district and other parts. Mr Batchelor was ready to conduct himself in any service and whatever he undertook he did thoroughly and well. Slackness was not in his nature. He believed in giving his best. Those who employed him had absolute confidence in him and the confidence was never misused. A good comrade, his firemen friends felt they had lost a beloved colleague. Everyone realised that the work of a fireman demanded exacting attention and diligent service and he had given of his best. He had given of his life in the service of his King and Country and it was right that the Union Jack should be over his coffin. 

The Press published list of those attending to show their respects was extensive.

 

Rest in peace Fireman Batchelor.