- Contributed by
- Charles Harwood
- People in story:
- Location of story:
- Devonport,Plymouth and London
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 May 2004
One night in April 1941 I was on watch room duty in 86U fire brigade substation, Tranmere Road, Earlsfield, London. A message came on the phone from HQ. It was ‘Send a crew with iron rations to the London railway station. They will be taken by train to Plymouth. They are being heavily bombed and need support. Hoses and pumps will be there.’
My crew was detailed to go. One of the other drivers drove us to the station. We travelled in full fireghting gear including slickers, boots and axes. The rail journey was longer than normal because of the danger of fire during the air raids. There were approximately 100 London firemen on the train. We had nothing to eat on the train as we did not have iron rations. Eventually we arrived at our destination.
Buses were waiting to take us to Plymouth Argyle football ground. As soon as we arrived there, the crews were dispatched to different points in Plymouth and Devonport. My crew was taken to Fore Street, Devonport which was a main shopping street, leading to Devonport Dockyard. The pumps and hoses we were to use were already in the streets but no fire crews were to be seen. The authorities knew there would be another raid and positioned us in readiness. Down the centre of the street soldiers were patrolling to protect the shops from being looted. As darkness fell the raid began. Bombs and incendiaries were falling everywhere.
As the shops were bombed fires started. Our crew of four, Ted Crust, Ted Osborne, Ted Connet and me, Charles Harwood, did our best to quench the fire. The fires spread quicker than we could contain them. The buildings were raised to the ground. We stayed with our appliances for nearly two days with no break.
When we arrived there was a High Street with a number of large stores. When we left only two buildings remained. The rest was rubble. We were exhausted, dirty, wet, hungry and dispirited. On return we were given an extra day’s leave. After spending considerable time cleaning my uniform I fell asleep. I slept for the rest of the day. That was my day’s leave.
We returned to London by train. About a week later the officer came to our crew and said ‘The top brass are coming from HQ to have a chat with you four. Tidy up and look smart’. The officer from HQ spoke to us the next day and told us we had been recommended for an award for endurance and bravery, possibly the George Medal. Unfortunately none of us received the George Medal or any other award but that is another story.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.