Fireman Charles William Laming of Ryde Fire Brigade passed away on an unspecified date in March 1923 aged 68.
Charles was born in 1855, the son of Charles senior and Fanny Maria. For reasons unknown at the time of the 1861 Census he was living with his maternal grandfather James Saunders, a tailor, in Ryde's Player Street.
Ten years later he was living with his parents at 6 High Street and has been joined by eight younger siblings, the youngest being just five months old. His father was a saddler by trade and employed two persons, one being sixteen year old Charles and the other his fifteen year old brother Henry.
The trade skills he learned from his father were to continue throughout his life and in 1877 he travelled to Portsea where he married his cousin Alice Charlotte Laming who was two years his elder. By the time of the 1881 Census they had two children, two year old Lydia and four-month old William at their home in West Street.
The 1891 census located the family in Brunswick Street. This was also the first year in which Charles appeared in a Press report in connection with fire brigade service and around the same time he also became a Rifle Volunteer. By now young William had died in infancy but Thomas, Caroline and May had followed.
Charles became a regular in the Ryde Fire Brigade drill competition team and featured in many of the reports of their exploits at Isle of Wight Fire Brigades Federation events. He was also a keen sportsman and turned out at full-back for the brigade when they defeated the Borough police 6-0 on 6 January 1898.
By 1901 the family had relocated to 40 Albert Street, three years before the new fire station opened across the road from their previous address. Another four children had joined them in the previous decade, Ada, Laura, John and Thomas. Interestingly Laura, circa 1894, was born in Leamington, Warwickshire. All the other children were born locally.
On 10 September 1906 Charles was among the Ryde firemen who paired up to compete against others in a two-man drill competition at Partlands football ground for a guinea prize offered by the Mayor Councillor F.W. Randall. Charles paired up with Fireman Downer and came fourth from six pairs according to the times recorded by Chief Officer Sapsworth.
On occasion during periods when the brigade were, for reasons unknown, without either captain or deputy, Charles appears to have been the senior fireman who took charge at fires. Two notable examples being reported were the fire at Messrs. T. White and Sons in Ryde High Street on 26 January 1907 and a fire in the Italian quarters at Reed Street, Oakfield on 2 January 1909.
On the evening of Tuesday 14 December 1909 Charles was among the Ryde firemen who formed up in Lind Street to demonstrate their capabilities with the Merryweather Gem steam-fire engine. After the drills were completed Charles was among the firemen that received long-service medals. Although it is known that he'd served since at least 1891, on this occasion he was awarded a National Fire Brigades Union Bronze (ten year) Medal, presented to him by the Mayor Mr Michael Maybrick J.P.; the man who was and still is favoured by many to have been the true identity of Jack the Ripper.