Chief Fire Officer Arthur Frederick Stanley Perks passed away on 31 July 1993 aged 73.

Perks was born in Warwickshire on 9 August 1919. He was literally born in to the fire service as his father was a fireman in Smethwick and the family lived with the sound of the in-house alarm bell. In September 1929 a fire involving the loss of 11 lives placed the blame generally on the Council but specifically on the Chief Officer and his Deputy. Part of the blame lay in the inefficient methods for calling the part-time firemen. As a result significant investment afforded the construction of a married man's accommodation block adjacent to the station, completed in 1933, which ensured that a greater number of whole-time men were employed and lived on site with their families (this was in the era that used the term whole-time in its true sense - i.e. the men could be expected to be on some sort of duty the whole time).

Smethwick's Rolfe Street family accommodation and adjacent fire station as it appears today (photo courtesy of Mike Whitehouse).

Until he was 20 Arthur resided at the station and began an apprenticeship in gas engineering until the National Service Act of 1939 called for volunteers and he joined the army. It is not known which unit he served with but was wounded twice and remained with the forces for almost seven years rising to the rank of sergeant, service number 4918471. 

After the war he returned to Birmingham and his apprenticeship but couldn't settle. He joined the city fire brigade in 1948 and made a sufficient impression to be awarded the Silver Axe for best recruit at the end of basic training. 

By 1960 he was Station Officer and departed for Southport on promotion as Deputy Chief Officer. During his time at Southport he was to command the brigade at the devastating football ground fire of December 1966 which destroyed the main stand. 

A view from the Southport Football Club fire of 1966.

When Chief Officer Rooke announced his intention to depart from the Island in 1968 a vigorous process to identify his replacement settled on Arthur Perks who once appointed explained to the County Press that he had enjoyed many holidays on the Island as a child and both he and his wife were very keen to integrate into the local community. They took possession of the house vacated by the Rooke's at Sandown. 

Arthur proved to be a popular chief officer from 1968 to 1979. The County Press often featured columns written by Arthur directly to the local community, giving them practical fire prevention and safety advice in a non-condescending fashion. In 1975 his work was recognised with the award of an O.B.E.

When he retired in August 1979 even the local branch of the Fire Brigades Union celebrated his service with a special presentation made by local representative John Hellyer which was featured in the Union's national magazine. Coming just two years after the bitter strike of 1977 this act evidences a respect between the men and their chief. 

In the following April when the Island's firemen were invited to an event staged by the Council's Public Protection Committee to issue long service medals to qualifying members, Arthur was invited to attend and was presented with a silver salver bearing the engraved names of each of the fire officers in service with him at the time of his retirement in the previous summer. 

He and his wife Helen appear to have returned to the mainland during his retirement as his passing on 31 July 1993 was at Tunbridge Wells. However the notification that appeared in the County Press noted that if persons were considering sending flowers to not do so and alternatively make a donation to the charity's supported by the Yarborough Masonic Chapter of Old Reservoir Lane, Sandown, suggesting there were still strong ties with the Perks' and the Island. 

Rest in peace Chief Officer Perks.