7 May 2024 - Calbourne Mill auction

Many will be pleased to hear that at the Calbourne Mill auction on Saturday 4 May 2024, the winning bid for the fire engine was placed by a local person who is now in possession of this fine example of a Dennis Light Four. Although the engine never saw service on the Isle of Wight, the fact that it has been here so long, and that it's such an attractive engine of its era, makes it important that it was retained after so much of the island's fire heritage on wheels has either been scrapped, left to rot or sold to mainland ownership. The Dennis served in Hampshire from 1961 but had originally been supplied to Petersfield District Council and stationed at Liss. After it's spell in Hampshire its operational career ended with an undetermined spell at the Folland Aircraft Co., Hamble. The same successful bidder also took away the Dennis 350/500 gallon trailer pump, still in its wartime National Fire Service colours - an example is shown below in wartime use in London. Whether or not the Trailer-pump served on the island is not known, I haven't been able to inspect it personally yet, but if it retains its original markings this will give us the answer. 

13 February 2024 - Sunningdale Road Fire Station

Many years ago when originally researching the history of Isle of Wight firefighting for material to include in the IWFBF book series, I located a reference to a fire station located in Newport's Sunningdale Road.

The location seems unlikely, being an edge of town peaceful and leafy corner of suburbia - it seems even more unlikely that squeezed between the placid residences was a five-bay station built to the same plans as the ground floor of the main fire station in South Street. Often when I referred to the station in talks and presentations I could see people looking at me sceptically, which was completely understandable given the setting of Sunningdale Road. I was determined that to prove my findings I had to unearth photographic evidence, but for so long this eluded me.

This evening I attended a meeting of the Newport & Carisbrooke Heritage Society, where a member tipped me off to try archives of aerial photography. Within minutes of finding the Britain from Above website, I found what I'd been looking for for so many years - incontrovertible photographic evidence that the station, designated 14D1U, really did exist. 

What is even more remarkable about the station is that it was built by Newport's NFS firemen while on duty, and staffed by firemen from Fire Force 5 in West Yorkshire. 

In brief, with the imminent invasion of Northern Europe (Operation Overlord), the War Office liaised with the Home Office to explain that the build-up of troops and materiel associated with the invasion would gather pace in the South in early 1944 and present a range of bountiful targets to roaming squadrons of the Luftwaffe. The increased risk to both the military assets and civilian population would be substantial, for which a higher level of fire protection and response would be required. On advice from the Home Office the National Fire Service developed an operation known as the Colour Scheme.

The Colour Scheme was so named as it divided the entirety of the NFS in England and Wales into one of three categories.

BLUE - high risk, stretching along the south of England from Cornwall in the west to the counties of East Anglia. These areas were to be augmented by a massive influx of additional fire appliances and personnel.

GREEN - static areas where the risk had not changed. Including London, these areas were not to lose, or receive, any changes in resourcing.

BROWN - by early 1944 enemy aerial activity compelled the risk in these areas, i.e. mid to North Wales, the Midlands and North West, to be of low risk, and it is from here that the resources required in the BLUE zone were taken and repositioned in the south. 

In order to prepare for a sudden influx of additional machines and personnel, for which Fire Force 14d had no current capacity, engaging in the accepted practice of seeking tenders etc., would have wasted precious weeks. Instead local command turned to the men of South Street station to build the Sunningdale station during duty hours, beginning in August 1943. At each change of watch, by rotation Newport firemen would arrive at Sunningdale Road where the appliances were parked in the street, and conduct their shift in construction work until the job was completed.

In accord with the Colour Scheme, firemen and firewomen predominantly from Fire Force 5 in West Yorkshire, travelled south and began taking up occupation of the Sunningdale Road station in January and February 1944. They remained there through the launch of D Day and beyond. When it became apparent to the Military authorities that Overlord had been successful and German forces were steadily retreating further from the coast, advice was passed to the Home Office, and hence the NFS, that a return to normal wartime firefighting strength in the south would be appropriate. 

Station 14D1U was vacated when the Yorkshiremen had all returned home by October the same year - the station, equalling the capacity of South Street station as the largest station in Isle of Wight history, had been operational for barely nine months. 

It appears likely that as an NFS asset it remained vacant until 8 August 1947 when it was formally signed over to the Isle of Wight County Council - authorising the occupation of Appliance Room, and Control Room, Sunningdale Road, Newport, Isle of Wight for its use as an ambulance station.

19 November 2023 - a week of great discoveries

This week like-minded souls have contributed some key fire service history information to Facebook groups with a local heritage appeal.

Captain George William Hutt

For as long as I have been researching the Island's firefighting history I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to unearth a photograph of Captain George William Hutt. 

George's family built the beautiful Appley Towers estate, long since demolished and replaced by Marina Avenue in Ryde, where the sole remnant of the Hutt's estate is the Appley Tower folly adjacent to the beach. George was the son of General Sir George Hutt, K.C.B. George junior served as a Lieutenant with the Royal Scots before relocating to the family seat and remaining a Captain of the reserves. George was inordinately keen on firefighting at a time when his estate was within the boundary of the parish of St Helens, where no fire brigade was present. Despite his relentless appeals for them to form a brigade, the St Helens Urban District Council refused to do so, compelling George to form his own from the staff on his estate. The Appley Towers Volunteer Fire Brigade, under George's orders, were the first to respond when, ironically, his own home of Appley Towers was struck by a severe fire that gutted everything above ground floor level on 22 March 1904. 

This incident compelled the committee members of St Helens UDC, many of whom had substantial investments tied up in prominent local properties, to reconsider the need for a district brigade. When the brigade was eventually formed it was the largest single municipal brigade in pre-WW2 Isle of Wight history, comprising three separate sub-stations at St Helens Green, in Seaview, and at St Johns (now in Ryde) to which George was appointed Captain. 

George's life, his antics with firefighting and persistence marked him as one of the most fascinating of local fire brigade characters and I have long held onto the hope of seeing his face. This week the image above, with some basic information regarding George's life, was shared on Facebook after being extracted from a copy of Hampshire at the Opening of XX Century - Contemporary Biographies. I am very grateful to the person that shared this. 

Newport Fire Brigade - appointment of new firemen in 1880

In the same week that Captain Hutt's image emerged, Wayne Pritchett shared another wonderful item of original ephemera detailing Newport Fire Brigade. Dated 10 November 1880 it appears to be an extract from the minutes of a Borough Council meeting.

Featured in the minutes are the names of former brigade Superintendent James Reynolds, and that of his successor Charles Osborne, both of who were consulted for their opinion in the event that five persons applied for two vacancies within the brigade. 

The two successful applicants were Arthur Stagg, a carpenter of 11 Portland Street, and Obediah Jackman, a stonemason of 40 New Street. The latter was one of the leading activists in the pay dispute that erupted within the brigade in late 1892. Unwisely he and his colleagues attempted to hold the Borough Council to ransom by declaring that if their demands were not met, they would resign en masse in the last week of February 1893. The Council refused to concede and clandestinely arranged the creation of a new, voluntary and unpaid group of firemen, to take over on the given date, rendering the old brigade's dispute powerless to act and compelled to comply with the terms of the resignations they had submitted. Sadly Obediah died four years later at 48 years old after suffering what was reported to be a painful illness. 

The same minutes reveal that one Henry Linington had resigned from the brigade, and that this was the occasion at which Charles Osborne was appointed as superintendent (captain). The three unsuccessful applicants for the firemen's jobs were also named, although difficult to decipher - William Jukes of 22 Pyle Street, John Powell of 4 Cross Street, and Jacob Williams of Melbourne Street who was noted as being an engineer. 

25 August 2023 - Arreton Barns Volunteer Fire Brigade

Today a local man, having read an article on this site, contacted me via email with some photographs of a Land Rover fire tender bearing an emblem suggesting it belonged to the Arreton Barns Volunteer Fire Brigade. The Land Rover pictured was registered in 1971, its most recent MOT expired in 2008. I have no idea what year the photographs were taken but they don't appear to be much older than 15 years or so. He asked me what I knew of Arreton Barns VFB and I have to admit I know nothing.

Can anyone provide any information about the VFB?

UPDATE - within minutes of posting the query on the IWFBF Facebook page, I received two key pieces of information. Firstly that the Land Rover had originally served at IMI Marston in Wolverhampton, a company with a pedigree going back to the 1740's. Secondly that it was purchased not for practical use but as an attraction at the Barns, with the signwriting being an invention rather than the insignia of an actual brigade.

17 August 2023 - 80 years of the Firefighters Charity

Today is the 80th anniversary of the date of the Fire Service National Benevolent Fund's inauguration. It's an important date to mark in the fire service calendar as so many of us, myself, my family and many of my colleagues, plus hundreds more around the country, have made use of the support services offered by the fund, which in more recent times was rebranded the Firefighters Charity.

Read the FFC's own 80th anniversary article HERE

Above - screen extract from the Firefighters Charity website.

2023 July 23 - the origin of Newport Fire Brigade

Today Geoff Pidgeon linked me to an item that appeared in the Isle of Wight Heritage Group on Facebook, submitted by Wayne Pritchett that I believe gives an idea of when the first Newport Fire Brigade was launched. 

I have known for some time that the town possessed a fire engine since the eighteenth century, but this was recorded in a contemporary source as stored at St Thomas's Church and was left in the care of the overseers of the poor. This was typical of the parish approach to engine operation in that era and is not associated with the establishment of a brigade.

What Wayne possessed was a document from 1838 that provides specific details. He explained that in preparation for the 1974 handover of responsibilities from the Borough of Newport to the Medina Borough Council, a clear out of old records was to take place. In particular this affected a substantial store of ledgers and documents kept in a room above the old (long since demolished) mortuary at the Quay. Wayne was able to salvage some items before they were thrown into a lorry and taken to the dump. As a researcher it makes me weep to think that any went to the dump, but I appreciate that no single person can retain such loads.

In one of them he discovered an entry from a Borough of Newport Quarterly Meeting of 6 February 1838 which appears to list the names and salaries paid to the town's first group of firemen (shown below). At present I am having some difficulty deciphering the handwriting in respect of the firemen's names, however I can transcribe the content of the record.

That they have appointed

William Atkey as Superintendent Fireman at a salary of Five Pounds per annum.


William Stephens

Joseph Stephens

Edward  ???????

Jacob Salter

William Dale

Edward Russell

William Doroden

as Firemen at salaries of One Guinea per annum. The Committee have not yet filled up the number of eleven recommended by their last report, some of those chose by this committee having declined to act.


Percy Scott - Mayor

(followed by two more indecipherable signatories)


Thank you Wayne for sharing this important piece of IW firefighting history.

2023 February 22 - London Fire Volunteers of Helsinki

The London Fire Volunteers are not connected to the history of Isle of Wight firefighting, but when I discovered their existence I knew it was too interesting a subject to ignore. A tenuous connection is found in Anthony Gilkison, the driving force behind the LFV, who was a movie producer that in the 1950's produced a short good natured film concerning two children and their adventures on the Island, which can be viewed in full at no cost at the British Film Institute website - A Letter from the Isle of Wight. 

The purpose of placing this item within IWFBF News, is that within the past week I have been in contact with Jari Auvinen, curator of the Helsinki Fire Brigade Museum.

Although neither he nor I can converse in one another's language, the wonder of Google Translate has enabled effective communications by email. By this method Jari has furnished me with a wonderful amount of information, documents and photographs to enable my aspiration to include the LFV in a future IWFBF publication focussed on UK firefighters who served overseas. 

What comes next is a weekend in London, which gives my wife and I a chance for a little break whilst also visiting the Metropolitan Archives where over 400 pages of LFV documentation are filed.

2023 February 5 - Fireman Cyril Hayward

After posting an image and story on the IW Heritage Group page on Facebook on 4 February 2023, I received some positive feedback from the family of the gentleman featured in the post - Fireman Cyril Hayward.

Cyril was a baker and confectioner of the family bakery at his home address 70 Pyle Street, Newport, when he volunteered for the AFS in 1939. He remained in the service when it was absorbed into the National Fire Service in 1941, and continued to serve beyond disbandment of the nationalised service by remaining with the County Brigade at Newport until retirement in 1960.

His war service was marked by being one of the few Island firemen who volunteered for service with the proposed Overseas Contingent. Cyril passed the rigorous application process to be accepted into No.6 Column, in the expectation of being deployed to Northern Europe to provide fire protection in Allied Lines of Communications Zones during the advance on Germany.

Sadly for Cyril, and hundreds like him, No.6 Column were one of the many Columns disbanded by the Home Office in December 1944 when British Army Staff proved reluctant to deploy civilian firefighters into the war zone.

Today his family sent me two photographs I hadn't seen before. At the top Cyril is with his company of No.6 Column in 1944 (unfortunately I don't know which Company he served with) and underneath an earlier photo from 1942 showing Cyril at the NFS workshops at Winchester Garage, Fitzroy Street, Sandown. Cyril's story relates to the opening reference in Overseas Firefighters of the UK

If you have enjoyed this page, why not make a small donation to the Firefighters Charity.