An online album of original images capturing Isle of Wight fire and civil defence services throughout the period 1939-1945 and the incidents they attended, captured in photos contributed by families, saved at various IW fire stations, or drawn from official documents at the County Records Officer and the National Archives.
The photographs are accompanied by a description where available. In some cases the information supplied has not been verified and is supplied in good faith. Some dates are estimated based on uniforms worn and other cross-referenced factors.
Click on the photos to enlarge, or where applicable, reduce to fit your screen.
Ryde AFS Parade, 16 April 1939
On the Sunday afternoon of 16 April 1939, Ryde Fire Brigade Chief Officer Max Heller paraded the district's first fully qualified batch of auxiliary firemen in Lind Street followed by a procession through the town. The procession was repeated throughout the other towns within Ryde's district both to show off the new firemen, and to promote further recruitment.
Binstead Auxiliary Firemen, circa 1939
Photos of Binstead firemen at Brooke House, part-requisitioned for temporary fire service use as a Trailer-Pump Post. It is estimated from the grainy images of the helmet and cap badges that they are of the Auxiliary Fire Service, dating these images from 1939 to August 1941.
Firemen Wickett and Bourne.
Unknown Binstead firemen in service gas masks.
A group at the Binstead TPP. Far left Fireman Wickett. Motorcyclist on right - Fireman Bill Barnett. Fourth from right at the back Fireman Martin Holmes.
Fireman Jack Fountaine (Ryde)
The coal trucks belonging to Ryde Fireman Jack Fountaine was synonymous with the life of the town's AFS during the early years of the war. On the right seen with a ladder and crew, and on the left featuring a mobile dam secured to the load bed being filled with water pumped from the Canoe Lake.
Fireman Charles Frederick Wade (St Helens)
ARP Post, Lower Yarborough Road, East Cowes
East Cowes AFS (circa 1939)
East Cowes Chief Officer Bertie Knapp with the town's men of the Auxiliary Fire Service. Presumably they were celebrating success at a drill competition for which no information has been discovered.
Ventnor combined regular and AFS firemen (circa 1939)
Ventnor fire station featuring a mixed group of regular brigade firemen (peakless caps) and AFS firemen (peaked caps).
The Bathingbourne Messerschmitt, Newport Fire Station, August 1940
On 16 August 1940 a Messerschmitt 109, damaged in aerial combat, was forced to land at Bathingbourne. With permission received from the Air Ministry, it was displayed at the temporary fire station in the market at South Street, Newport, and used to raise money for the Spitfire Fund.
Father and Son - William and George Batchelor (circa 1939)
William David Batchelor and his son George Samuel Batchelor photographed in the yard of their home, 4 Chesham Terrace, Sandown.
William was originally a fireman of the regular Sandown Fire Brigade from 1919 until 1929 when, according to the Captain's Annual Report, he resigned to concentrate on his business. William stepped up again during the war. The Sandown Fire Brigade log book of 7 January 1941 recorded that he was one of three former brigade firemen to return to firefighting in the ranks of the AFS. From the appearance of multiple medals on William's chest he also served in the military during the First World War when he must have been very young having been born in 1898.
His son George volunteered as an AFS Messenger in 1939, serving until 1942.
George's decision to leave the service in 1942 may have been precipitated by the sadness of witnessing his father fatally wounded in a tragic accident during a large-scale AFS exercise in Ventnor on 6 January 1942.
Newport (temporary) Fire Station, South Street (circa 1939)
Chief Officer Stanley Fairbrass with the regular firemen of Newport Fire Brigade, taken at the part of the borough market requisitioned as a temporary fire station for both the regular brigade and AFS.
A contingent of Newport Fire Brigade's regular firemen, with their Leyland Titan fire appliance, DDL 215.
Niton AFS (circa 1939)
A small contingent of the men of the Niton AFS with their trailer-pump.
Niton Fireman Tom Guy.
Fireman Colin Weeks and Fireman Bill Turner, Ryde (circa 1940)
Firemen Colin Weeks (pillion) and Bill Turner.
Fireman Colin Weeks
ARP units - Cowes and Lake
Cowes ARP at Northwood House, circa 1940. Front and centre is local ARP Controller Sidney Burchell, a decorated soldier of the First World War later appointed an MBE for his stoic duties under extreme personal duress during the Cowes blitz.
Members of Lake ARP, and the unexplained inclusion of one soldier.
Fireman Cyril Hayward, Newport (& NFS Overseas Contingent)
Fireman Cyril Hayward, who served at Newport before volunteering for the NFS Overseas Contingent in 1944.
Fireman Hayward is the rear most man on the end of the GP line in the group photo. This may appear to show one end of a tug-of-war match but in fact is a section of NFS Overseas Contingent firemen of No.6 Column hauling a trailer-pump over rough ground in the New Forest while in training in the summer of 1944.
Funeral of Fireman Harry Lambert, East Cowes, December 1940
The sad occasion of the funeral of Fireman Harry Lambert, AFS fireman of East Cowes who was killed in an accident on 5 December 1940. Fireman Lambert had served through much of the First World War before being discharged due to profound deafness in 1917 - one can only wonder at what he experienced to suddenly lose all hearing. It was the loss of the sense that rendered him incapable of hearing an unlit bicycle being ridden down the road during the blackout. Fireman Lambert stepped into its path, was struck, and died later of his injuries at Frank James Hospital.
Ryde War Weapons Week procession, 7 December 1940
War Weapons Week in Ryde proved a highly successful fundraising enterprise, with events well supported and attended by those throughout the district. The week culminated in a procession that began in Lind Street and moved at such a lethargic pace that Fireman Colin Weeks remarked in his diary that two of the messenger motorcycles caught fire! In the second image the nearest motorcyclist is Fireman Bill Turner. In the fourth image in the front of the appliance looking upwards is Fireman Bill Barnett, after the war he rose to the rank of Station Officer at Bembridge.
Ventnor AFS (circa 1940)
Marriage of Ryde Fireman Edwin Mew, 27 March 1940
Sandown AFS, 'Barcelona', Leed Street (circa 1940)
Newport NFS motorcycle messengers (August 1941 - February 1942)
Six members of Newport's NFS motorcycle messenger corps with Fireman Leslie Dowden at the controls of the machine with the sidecar. Given the clear NFS markings on the sidecar, suggesting this was no earlier than 18 August 1941, and that it is taken at the temporary station in the market before the new station opened on 18 February 1942, it can be estimated that this photo was taken between those dates.
Women's Training School, St Andrews, Southsea (circa 1941-43)
Photographs taken at the Women's Fire Force 14 School, St Andrews, Southsea, by Firewoman Hilda Taylor of The Grange, IW NFS headquarters, while attending training. Hilda appears fifth from the right in the middle row.
Fire Force 14 Driving School, Drayton, Hampshire (circa 1942)
IW NFS drivers and motorcyclists were sent to the Fire Force Driving School at Drayton to be trained and qualified in their roles. Third from the left is Messenger Robert William Attrill of Shanklin who was tragically killed aged just 16 during the tip-and-run raid of 3 January 1943.
JS White's, NFS fire crew, 1942
In the first photo the men of JS White's Engine Works No.1 fire crew celebrate their victory in the Inter-departmental Challenge Cup drill competition. Posing with Managing Director Sir James Milne, the light shining on the firemen's helmets makes it impossible to see the markings, but the example on the right, held at the Carisbrooke Castle Museum, evidences that JS White's had fully affiliated their fire crews with the National Fire Service and under that arrangement provided courageous and efficient action both within and beyond the perimeters of the works.
Leading Firewoman Hilda Taylor
Hilda Taylor served faithfully and efficiently as a control room operative at The Grange, the IW headquarters of the NFS. In addition to being a keen photographer she also took the opportunity to get in front of the lens. Thanks to Hilda's keen eye for a photo every image in this page that features The Grange was hers, and thanks also to her son for sharing them with me. From left to right the images above track Hilda from Firewoman to Leading Firewoman. She remained working for the County Fire Brigade for many years following disbandment of the NFS.
Men of Fire
Fireman RF Wilson, station unknown.
Fireman Samuel Hollis of Ryde. The former Royal Navy career sailor volunteered for the AFS well into his seventies.
Max Heller, photographed circa 1943 when serving as Company Officer of NFS at District 2 Sub-divisional headquarters, 14D2Z, Station Street.
Ryde AFS and NFS
A group of Ryde auxiliary firemen, circa 1939. On the left is the unmistakable figure of Fireman Edwin Mew.
Circa 1943, the 4Y Heavy Crew of the Ryde contingent of the NFS. To the far right is Fireman Bill Barnett and in the centre is Fireman Mountford who in 1944 volunteered for service with the NFS Overseas Contingent.
NFS Canteen Trailer donated by Argentina (11 July 1942)
On Saturday 11 July 1942, amid a ceremonial occasion at Newport Fire Station (14D1Z) the IW contingent of the NFS received its first 'Easiwork' Canteen Trailer, funded by money raised by the non-British staff of the Argentine and Buenos Aires Great Southern, Western and Midland Railways in recognition of what Islanders did for the welfare of Argentine sailors several years before.
Saunders Roe Works Fire Brigade
Throughout the Second World War Saunders Roe maintained a proficient firefighting organisation based on multiple sub-units formed from men in specific areas of the business. Training Officer Herbert Foss applied the highest of standards, reflected in the number of accolades and trophies won by the company firemen at drill competitions, some of which saw them get the better of whole-time NFS crews. Given that all their insignia and badges retain the company details, it is not believed that SARO affiliated to the NFS (such as JS Whites) but they proved themselves worthy firefighters when the war called them into action.
On the left SARO Chief Officer Arthur Pointer who also served with Newport Fire Brigade. On the right is Training Officer Herbert Foss, a Freshwater fireman of reknown.
Herbert Foss on the left and CO Arthur Pointer on the right.
This image came with a caption explaining that this SARO crew achieved victory at the Southern Regional Fire Brigade competition with statistics that stood as an all-England record. From left to right - Training Officer Herbert Foss, Fireman Fred Gerrert, Fireman Joe Ince, Fireman Trevor Barton and Fireman Ray Newnham.
Firewomen of Ryde
Officially wartime firewomen didn't participate in actual firefighting, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest they did. However these three ladies of Ryde, photographed in an Arthur Street garden in 1942, may be larking about as stirrup pumps weren't capable of pumping sand! The only one named is Kathleen Crone, centre with the pump.
The need to supply reliable firefighting water across the Island required some innovative thinking compared to peace-time operations, a few examples are shown below.
An indicator of a nearby Supplementary Water Supply on the corner of Arthurs Hill and St Mary's Avenue, Shanklin.
NFS hose-laying lorry. It's unknown how many of these were present on the IW, or if this was the only one.
This image is one of several taken by opportunist commercial photographers on Ryde Esplanade. The firefighting interest is in the six-inch steel piping, laid on the surface in easily replaceable sections to counteract the effect of sub-surface mains being damaged by bombing. This particular pipe began with a fixed-pump at the Canoe Lake, connected to several surface dams on the route up through the town before terminating at a large dam in Adelaide Road.
The Cowes Blitz - 4/5 May 1942
Below is a section of the Second World War bomb map of the Isle of Wight held at the County Records Office. The photographs below show just some of the damage done by the dozens of bombs and parachute mines plotted on the map - and this takes no account of the thousands of 1kg incendiary bombs that showered with such rapidity that one Cowes women thought it was the sound of a horse clip-clopping down the road.
Arctic Road, Cowes
Bridge Road, Cowes
High Street, Cowes
Remains of Cowes War Memorial.
Market Hill, Cowes
Corner of Minerva Road - Clarence Road, East Cowes
Kings Road, East Cowes
Minerva Road, East Cowes
Market Hill, Cowes
Northwood Cemetery - a length of railing blasted through a tree (recent photograph).
Tip-and-run raid on Newport, 8 April 1943
Jordan and Stanley store
Moreys Timber Yard
Two images showing the High Street and Guild Hall, one showing the destruction of the Crown and Sceptre public house.
Station 14D2Z Ryde (circa 1943)
Ryde Fire Station had been in action since 1904, but in August 1941 became NFS station 14D2Z, sub-divisional headquarters of IW District 2.
Firewoman Elsie Barnett, she also appears in the lower position on the wheeled escape ladder and in the group photo taken in front of Ryde's Leyland appliance, rebadged as NFS appliance 14D2Z1.
NFS Fire Force 14, Annual Drill Competition, Victoria Barracks, Portsmouth, 26 April 1943
Attended by many men of the the IW's Division D, but sadly without trophies to return with across the Solent.
NFS Fire Force 14D Headquarters and Station 14D1Z
All the photographs in this section were those of Leading Firewoman Hilda Taylor, thanks to her son for sharing them with us. They show images mainly taken at The Grange, the local headquarters of Fire Force 14D, and some taken at Newport Fire Station, 14D1Z.
West elevation of The Grange, with the bomb shelter.
North elevation of The Grange.
Firewoman Marion Brown
Newport Fire Station, 14D1Z
Firewomen of the IW NFS at an unknown event.
Newport Fire Station, 14D1Z.
Mobilising Control Room, The Grange.
Ryde NFS (various)
Station Street Ryde, outside station 14D2Z.
The very short Fireman Edwin Mew being led by the very tall Fireman Bill Barnett.
Fireman Bill Barnett, Edward Street Station and Training Centre.
NFS Despatch Rider James Wood, a Londoner, photographed at Sandown in 1944.
Firewoman Sheila Barton at The Grange, circa 1943.
Bill and Elsie Barnett, Ryde.
NFS Despatch Rider Robert William Attrill, killed on duty aged 16, 3 January 1943.
JS White's Works Brigade Chief Officer Alfred John Carpenter, received a framed testimonial from Winston Churchill for his actions during the Cowes blitz and was later awarded the British Empire Medal.
Home Guardsman Ben Coles who did much to assist firemen protecting the East Cowes gasworks during the Cowes blitz 4/5 May 1942.
NFS Fireboat Inspection, 26 September 1944
Admiral Little carried out an inspection of the NFS Fireboat Flotilla off Osborne Bay on 26 September 1944.
Regional Control, Marlborough House, Reading
The IW formed part of Fire Force Division 14D within Region 6 Southern. Reporting up the chain of command despatches from the Island would have been received here at Regional Control, Marlborough House in Reading.
Ryde ARP Rescue Squad
While the NFS were specialists in water supply and firefighting, unlike today the firemen didn't get involved in technical rescues, that was the preserve of specially trained squads of the ARP Rescue Service, most of whom were men with a professional background in construction or the utilities.
Street Fire Party
The threat posed by the Luftwaffe's capability to release hundreds of 1kg incendiary bombs in quick succession required a rethink as the scope of fires would soon overwhelm the professional fire services.
The answer came in the form of Street Fire Party's. The SFPs were residents in each street, equipped with buckets, stirrup pumps and scoops with sufficient training to spot and deal with the incendiaries before they developed into fires requiring the attention of the fire service. Their minor yet strategically important operational contributions to the war effort is little documented but proved to be of extreme value.
In the photo we have, from left to right, Mrs Reed, Mrs Stroud and Mrs Yates practising their skills in the back garden of 76 Station Avenue, Sandown.
R.J. White of the ARP
In October 1940, Ryde ARP officer R.J. White of 3 Prince Street, made the news with the patented rescue apparatus he designed and built before demonstrating its use at Caversham House, Ryde ARP Headquarters. County ARP Controller P.E. White was so impressed he insisted that all ARP squads across the Island were equipped with one.
Shanklin ARP, First Aid Section
This image I have seen variously labelled in different places captioned as both Newchurch and Sandown AFS.
Seaview contingent of the National Fire Service, 14D2X.
Table-top tactical command training at Men's Fire Force School (MFFS), Minverwood, Rake, Hampshire.