AFS and NFS 1938-1948
Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and National Fire Service (NFS) 1938 – 1948
The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) was formed as a result of the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Act 1937 which placed a responsibility on Local Authorities, to host and manage an ‘Emergency Fire Service’, Government funded through the Home Office and established to assist “Regular’ Local Authority Fire Brigades in dealing with fires caused by air raids. All uniform and equipment was issued under Government contract by the ‘Fire Department’ of the Home Office. Recruitment of men and women into the AFS picked up from mid-1938 onwards. Some spent periods as full-time paid members but the vast majority were part-time volunteers.
In light of the lessons learned from the experience of the many raids of the ‘Blitz’ period, with some of the heaviest and most severe raids from mid-1940 through to May 1941, all Local Authority Fire Brigades, the whole of the AFS and some Works/Industrial Fire Brigades became part of the National Fire Service on 18 August 1941. The NFS then continued right through until 1 April 1948, when control of the Fire Service was handed back to Local Authorities but at a different level of governance than existed prior to the formation of the NFS.
Women in both the AFS and the NFS were not allowed to be crew fire engines and engage in fighting fires, other than basic training that they received to be able to deal with small outbreaks caused by incendiary bombs etc, using fire extinguishers, buckets of water and sand or stirrup pumps. They played a major role in the operation of control rooms on stations and later in larger locations controlling and organizing larger numbers of resource for Sub-Divisions, Divisions, Areas, Regions and at the overarching national Home Office Control. They also performed a range of driving and support roles, including motorcycle Dispatch Riders. They were often very much in the ‘Front Line’ performing their role.