- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Edna Barratt (nee Bunting)
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 July 2005
The Messenger Boys Band. Taken on Bold Lane, Derby. The Drum Major was Fireman Jack Parkes The Drill Sergeant was Bill Dumbleton, a retained Derby Borough Fireman
This story has been submitted by Alison Tebbutt, Derby CSV Action Desk, on behalf of Edna Barratt. The author has given her permission and fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I was persuaded by my brother, a part time fireman, to join the Service as they were in need of Control Room Staff. I went along to Jury Street, the central fire station in Derby and was very soon enrolled and given instruction to the procedure. We had a very long shelf type desk in the control room and eight telephones, each being connected to two of the part time stations and also three private lines. If we had an air-riad message we started at the first phone and turned a handle to ring the first connection. We then had to say 'Air Raid Yellow' and so down the line to each of the sixteen stations around the area. Each message had to be written and the time sent and time received duly entered. Can you imagine how much time that took? We had no sooner got the yellow message through some times before the red message had to be transmitted. The three private lines also had to be notified. They were the connection to different people in authority. Having to recite those messages 19 times was time consuming to say the least. No wonder they had to build a new control room on Boden's Recreation ground almost next door to a fire station, complete with switchboard control and various other devices that we the early members had coped without.
I remember in the early stages of my Service, I did night duty at Jury Street and on saturday night it was a regular occurence for one of the female residents of Willow Row, or one of the adjoining streets to come and ring the bell and request help because her husband or another neighbours husband had gone home rip roaring drunk and a fight was in progress. So, it was not just fires that the Firemen had to be prepared to control.
We had a recreation room over the station and Harry Kerslake, one of the Red Riders (they were the original firemen) used to play the piano or his accordion when time was available but, come an alert message and then there was not a second to lose. I hope there are some members around who can remember Harry's wonderful talent.
I wonder how many people can also remember the Chief Fire Officer Mr Galloway and his next in command Mr Horobin. They were Red Riders but we the Auxiliary members were in the care of a Mr Robinow and the Green Goddess Fire Engines came into their own for the men to use at the sub stations but come the transfer to the National Fire Service and all changed. Everything got bigger and perhaps more efficient. I got made up to a Leading Firewoman and later to an Assistant Group Officer and as I lived nearest to Park Street Fire Station. I usually reported there in an emergency. By that time all stations had an eight day rota with two women on each night. It worked out quite well except in the case of illness. In an emergency they would need extra cover. As the war had progressed and there was more bombings in parts of the country, and we were expected to report after an alert, they would send someone to accompany the Firewomen to the station. One night when I was getting my things together as I knew I might be needed my mother answered the knocking at our door and I heard her say 'You have to come and accompany Miss Bunting and who, young man, will accompany you?' A dear little messenger boy looking no more than some four foot nothing tall had been sent on this errand of mercy. Are any of these little Messenger Boys still around I wonder. They did a wonderful job. Perhaps they are all grandfathers now too.
I was on duty at 2V Park Street the night that the railway station was bombed. I was sitting in the control room and suddenly the reception window flew open and hit me on the back of the head. I was prepared to give someone a piece of my mind when, looking out I saw several of the Firemen lying on the ground in the passageway. The bomb blast had blown them all off their feet. I never got round to saying a word because it was all systems go from that moment on. It was our incident being not a stones throw away from our station.
We were orignially housed in premises that belonged to Bemrose the printers, in fact I understand they had their own fire engine at that time, and allowed us to share their engine house. But we had to have larger premises. As more equipment was acquired we moved to the Old Co-op Butchers shop in Park Street where we had a lovely shiny pole from the recreation room upstairs. When the bells went down it was a mad rush to the pole and one night I was up in the recreation room and one of the Firemen said 'you do not have to use the stairs, get on the pole, it's quicker and I will be behind you, so you will be ok.' I grabbed the pole and he grabbed me. We went down a little way together then a halt. We were stuck. He was in full fire fighting uniform and the axe they wore had got caught in the wooden surround of the trap door. I am sure he did not get out with the first crew that night and never lived it down.
I have heard today that they are removing the poles from some Nottingham stations because of the danger. I am still here after my experience some sixty years ago and I did get used to sliding down the pole on my own. I thought it was less dangerous than the stairs and much quicker too.
I make it sound as though we never did any serious work but I can assure you that had we not have had the lighter moments we could never have got through those days. We all had some connection with hsomeone in the Armed Forces and shared many sorrows. So the light moments were very much needed to keep us all ticking over efficiently.
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