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15 October 2014
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A Solicitor in the Fire Brigade

by Bridport Museum

Contributed by 
Bridport Museum
People in story: 
Arthur Lyall, David Lyall, George Hecks,
Location of story: 
Bridport, Dorset
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 April 2005

Interviewee : Mr Arthur Lyall Date of Birth 16.10,1910

At the outbreak of war I was a solicitor , in Bridport. That's why I came here you see, in 1937. My partner was disabled. He had polio as a schoolboy and it left him with residual lameness. He couldn't do anything physically during the war so he stayed here part of the time. Then eventually he went to Bath, I think to the Food Office. He wanted to do something. The office virtually ceased working. We still had the office and when the war finished we resumed. My partner came back, I came back, the two clerks who had gone came back, so we resumed. The office was still there and we were still the tenants. There was an old man who came to help during the war, he was an evacuee from Birmingham. He'd been an accountant in his active life - he was between 60 and 70 then - and he came in as a part-time accountant. He did the books such as they were. And then he stayed on for a short time after the war.

When they set up the Auxiliary Fire Service I joined that, before the war.

It was a part-time occupation and we were all volunteers. Once there was a big fire at Gosport and practically all the surrounding fire services were sent there. We had a message to go to Gosport, just one crew went. The crew that was on that night went - we drove to Gosport. It took quite some time - there was no lighting, no street lights. Anyway we got there. I remember we were supposed to be clearing up a factory that had been bombed, but we couldn't do very much. Similarly, when Weymouth was bombed, we were sent to Weymouth to try and save as much as possible of a bottling factory. The Fire Service was nationalised in 1941 and I and quite a lot of the others were transferred elsewhere. And in my case it was to Bournemouth, to the Fire Service there. And after that I was transferred to the Regional Headquarters in Lyndhurst in about 1943. It was an old hotel there on the outskirts of Lyndhurst, between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst, and I was there for some years. But that was purely on administrative work. So I was no longer at the end of a hose - I was at the end of a pen, really!

I remember after the fall of France - it would have been about 1942; our eldest child David, he was just over one year old, and my wife was bathing him in our house in Broad Lane, and the bathroom windows overlooked the town. It was rather an elevated position, and I remember - and she remembered too, presumably a German plane coming over, and dropping - getting rid of its bombs, before returning to France. It dropped them on the Star Inn, which is what is now the dairy in West Street and the son of the owner, George Hecks was standing outside and he was killed. He was, I suppose, the first casualty. And another casualty on the same occasion was the bombing of a pair of semi-detached houses where the East Street car park is now. One of the houses was occupied by a lady called Mrs Norman who was the sister of Mr William Edwards who was the founder of William Edwards - rope and twine manufacturers. She was killed on that occasion.

Although it was a time of much disturbance there wasn't much hardship. I think the surrounding countryside , the local farms - like this one - kept the people going. Unofficially you know ...

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Childhood and Evacuation Category
Fire Duty Category
Cambridgeshire Category
Dorset Category
Hampshire Category
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