yeovil at war
AuxiliaRY / nATIONAL fIRE sERVICE
Yeovil's Wartime Fire Brigade
In 1938, as the Government prepared for what appeared to be inevitable conflict and that such conflict would almost certainly involve the use of bombing from the air, each Fire Authority was required to form an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), under the direction of the local Chief Fire Officer, but whose role was solely to prepare for the eventuality of war and for dealing with fires that would follow an air raid.
Members of the AFS were unpaid part-time volunteers, but could be called up for whole-time paid service if necessary. This was very similar to the wartime Police Special Constabulary.
The part-time firemen of the AFS were recognised by a lapel badge, seen here, first issued in August 1938 after completion of sixty hours training, reduced in June 1939 to one month of membership. The badge was made of sterling silver until June 1939 when it became white metal.
To overcome some of the earlier problems the fire service was again re-organised into the National Fire Service (NFS) bringing together the 16,000-plus fire brigades within the country. This force came into existence on the 18th August 1941 and all brigade and AFS personnel were transferred into it. The service was responsible, through regions, to the Home Office directly which meant that the chain of command was much simpler and the standardisation of training and equipment could be more efficient.
Auxiliary Fire Service, 1940. Many thanks to Eric Taylor who wrote "My father is here, second row down from the top second person in from the left. His name was George Taylor and lived at 12 South Street. He worked for J.H Swaffield & Sons in South Street at the time as an agricultural engineer."
This photograph, like several below, was taken in what is now Petters Way car park (where the market used to be held, adjoining South Street). The training tower behind was used to hang the hoses from and the building at left housed the Auxiliary fire engines.
Men of the Yeovil Division of the Auxiliary / National Fire Service, 1940-42. Thanks to Simon Rowley "Leyland FK6 pump escape, BYC 145, that was supplied to the brigade in May 1936. This appliance survives, fully restored, in the care of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service."
The signatures on the reverse of the above photograph.
Same place, probably same time as the above photograph, but clearly a different crew.
Courtesy of Roger McElliott
Men of Yeovil's Auxiliary Fire Service personnel pose with their water tender (sorry, I don't know which type) by the Petters Way training tower.
Courtesy of Roger McElliott
Certificates of Service were issued by the National Fire Service when the service was down-sized after the war.
During the war the National Fire Service issued Yeovil with at least two Austin K2 auxiliary towing vehicles (ATV) coupled with trailer pumps and one of these was probably at a sub-station. This illustration is of an Austin K2 ATV in National Fire Service livery, towing a Coventry Climax FSM-Type trailer fire pump.
In 1943 Yeovil was issued with a Leyland Beaver with a 100ft Merryweather turntable ladder similar to this photograph. This appliance stayed at Yeovil until 1955 when it was sent to Cheltenham and Yeovil received an Austin K4 with a Merryweather 60ft turntable ladder that had initially been issued by the NFS to Barnstaple. This vehicle was preserved.