- Contributed by
- Charles Harwood
- People in story:
- Charles Harwood
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 May 2004
At the outset of the war the London Fire Service commandeered taxicabs. I was one of the firemen detailed to collect them from their garages. As the driver drove in a tow bar was fitted, we were given the keys and drove them back to our stations. That was the last the taxi driver would see of his cab. Some taxi drivers joined the Fire Service.
As more vehicles were needed 30 horse power cars of all makes and models were used. Some of the cars I saw were Buicks, Studebakers, Pontiacs, Vauxhall and many more. One station I was sent to had a French Lafayette.
The rear part of all the cars was removed and was replaced with a framework covered with a canopy. The crew would sit under this canopy. All cars were fitted with tow bars and pulled approximately 30 cwt of trailer pump. When the pumps were delivered they had shiny brass components. Before they could be used every part of the car and the pump had to be painted with matt dark grey paint. Even the wheel hubs had to be painted. This was another job for the firemen.
The lights were masked. The hole left was as big as an old penny. Petrol used in all these cars and appliances was coloured a rusty brown. This was to ensure no Fire Brigade petrol found its way on to the black market.
Even on the cars we had to carry a large amount of equipment including 10 lengths of hose, fire extinguishers, a standpipe and key, adapters for hydrants, ropes, a ladder, a preventer (which was a long pole with a hook on the end for pulling dangerous ceilings down), first aid equipment, a large axe, and a sledge hammer and more besides.
As time went on proper fire appliances were delivered. During my time in the Fire Brigade I had a months training to enable me to have a heavy goods licence. I drove a lorry, ordinary tenders and the heavy unit.
To this day I sometimes wish I had not taken my HGV licence. I was at the beck and call of every station if their HGV driver was sick. But taking all into consideration I enjoyed my time in the Fire Brigade.
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