No organised arrangements for fighting existed anywhere until after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Hitherto here were attempts at introducing fire prevention rules and legislation, particularly in relation to a ‘curfew’ and the extinction of fires at night. The first fire insurance office was founded in London in 1668 and by 1680 several Insurance fire brigades had been established.
The first municipal fire brigade was established in Edinburgh in 1824. In 1832, the insurance fire brigades in London merged together to become the London Fire Engine Establishment and they appointed as their Chief Fire Officer, James Braidwood, who was the person appointed to command the very first municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh. The protection of the nations’ capital through the insurance companies continued until 1866 when the Metropolitan Fire Brigade came into existence. So, in relative terms, organised fire fighting in the United Kingdom is fairly young in historical terms, but rapidly grew in structure and capability as communities of all sizes recognised the need.
As with many locations outside of London and other large cities or towns, the establishment of fire brigades across Hampshire increased in number and in pace from the mid-1800s and into the early 1900s.
Anyone could establish a fire brigade. There were no rules or standards. Fire Brigades were formed as individual entities, often as a result of a disastrous fire, the initiative of local business owners and public pressure to local authorities, including Parish Councils and also private business or landowner self-protection. These separate and individual bodies were not established to any governing rules, resulting in very different approaches, capabilities and standards. A number were set up under the control of the local Chief Constable as ‘Police Fire Brigades’.
In 1899 an attempt was made to improve the way that the emerging fire brigades were structured and operated. This was done via a private members bill in Parliament which then resulted in the creation of a Select Committee. This committee subsequently made recommendations. It was however just a committee submitting recommendations and nothing came of these recommended improvements.
Fire Brigades of the time were completely independent, could buy their own choice of equipment, were not required to help one another or attend fires outside of their area of responsibility and there were no common standards for the size and type of couplings and fittings. If one fire brigade did help another at a fire, it was often the case that hose and fittings were not compatible.
World War 1 had a huge impact on fire brigades across the nation. Firemen were not seen as being a in a ‘reserved occupation’ nor essential to ‘the war effort’. This did change slightly when London was attacked by airships and aircraft, but generally members of fire brigades volunteered for or were conscripted into military service to join those military reservists who were serving with Fire brigades on the outbreak of war. This greatly affected the availability of men to serve in fire brigades, reduced numbers and even close stations.
After World War 1, and as fire brigades increased in number, became better equipped and organised it was recognised that there was need to review how fire protection was being organised and to introduce some standards.
After this ‘war to end all wars’ and with still the disparate ways of protecting communities from outbreaks of fire, a Royal Commission was appointed in 1921 to look at the organisation of Fire Brigades and Fire Prevention. The Commission submitted a lengthy report and list of recommendations and, nothing further happened.
The mid 1930s saw the start of worrying trends again in Europe and as the prospect of Britain being involved in another war became apparent and the lessons of how things went during World War 1, the Government decided the time was right to again look at the organisation of the nation’s fire brigades and, in particular, to look again at the Royal Commission report of 1921. The Departmental Committee on Fire Brigade Services published a report in 1936 – the Riverdale Report, named after the chairman of the Committee. The report varied very little from that of the Royal Commission. It did though, in particular, highlight its concerns regarding the ability for the existing authorities to deal with conflagration risks associated with air raids should there be another war.
The Fire Brigades Act 1938, which resulted from the Riverdale Report, fundamentally changed the way that local authority Fire Brigades were organised and governed. Parish Councils were no longer permitted to provide for fire protection within their jurisdiction. The Act permitted only Rural District Councils and above to be designated as ‘Fire Authorities’.
The enactment of this legislation saw new fire brigade boundaries and the merger of all of the existing Parish brigades merged into existing brigades or being formed into entirely new organisations. Many of these changes were still taking place as the months passed into 1939 and the nation was on the pathway to war.
At the same time as Chief Fire Officers – some new in post – were setting up a new organisation, they were required by the Home Office to recruit men and women into the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), begin the process of identifying premises which could be used as additional fire stations and suitable towing vehicles which could be purchased or commandeered, should war be declared.
The AFS was born from the Air Raid Precautions Act 1937 and the recruitment of men and women volunteers began in March 1938 and increased in intensity in 1939. Women were not permitted to crew fire engines. The organisation was formed to provide an additional resource to be used in the event of air raids on the civilian population, a threat identified as another war with Germany seemed to be inevitable.
On 1 September 1939 a telegram was sent by the Home Office to all Chief Fire officers instructing them to call out the AFS and man all fire stations, including those which had been previously identified as additional to the normal peacetime stations. On 3 September the prime Minister informed the nation that a state of war with Germany now existed.
No bombs fell on the UK until May 1940 and then from June onwards raids intensified, moving through the ‘Battle of Britain’ period into the ‘Blitz’ and the heavy raids which took place throughout November and December and into 1941 with further heavy raids taking place through until March.
Throughout this period the ‘regular’ fire brigades of their attached AFS units fought the worst of the continuous air raid fires. Reflecting on the lessons learned during this period and identifying the shortfalls of the nation’s independent brigades and AFS units reinforcing one another, sometimes over great distances, resulted in HM Government deciding to nationalise all local authority fire brigades, including the AFS, into the National Fire Service (NFS), on 18 August 1941. On this date, the last Police Fire Brigade in Hampshire ceased to exist when Portsmouth became part of No 14 Fire Force.
The area of No 16 Fire Force basically covered the western half of Hampshire plus Dorset and Bournemouth. The area of No 14 Fire Force took in the eastern half of Hampshire plus Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The Fire Force Commander for 16FF had his Headquarters at Park Hill House in Lyndhurst and the Fire force Commander for 14FF had his Headquarters at Wintershill Hall, Durley.
Each Fire Force had Divisions and Sub-Division. Each station was given a designation which identified the Fire Force, Division, Sub-Division and the station letter within the Sub-Division. This designation was painted on station signs, vehicles and trailer pumps, greatly assisting the researcher when looking at photographs and documents. Various control rooms, workshops and training establishments (men and women trained separately) were located around the county.
Together with No 15 Fire Force, which today would be much of the ‘Thames Valley’ area, formed the No 6 Civil Defence Region, with its Headquarters in Reading, where the Chief Regional Fire Officer was located. The Regions, in turn reported to the Home Office
One period which can cause confusion for researchers if that of ‘Operation Colour Scheme’ when hundreds of men and women were transferred from Fire Forces in the Midlands and North of the UK were transferred to the South to provide fire protection to the build up of troops and associated equipment and stores in preparation for what became known as ‘D-Day’. The majority of these were based in Hampshire. Many of the men were embedded within the various military ‘marshalling areas’ which were created for the thousands of military units and their equipment being assembled.
The largest flotilla of Fireboats ever assembled was based along the coast, from Essex to Poole, to protect the vast number of various ships and craft being moored in ports and estuaries, with the majority within the No14 and No 16 FF areas. A Fireboat Control for all of these transferred boats and their crew was located within a requisitioned house in Fareham.
This movement of personnel which began in March 1944 and lasted for several months, including the period of threat from flying bombs and rockets and has in the past mystified family history researchers.
Throughout the period of WW2 and continuing into ‘peacetime’ era of the NFS there were many additional and, perhaps, long forgotten fire station locations. Many of these were occupied under government wartime schemes for taking over buildings or land in the interests of the nation. Buildings such as commercial garages, bus depots, local authority yards and even schools became active fire stations.
In addition to the many manned stations there were numerous ‘Action Stations’, which were designated locations to which crews from the ‘parent’ station would disperse either in anticipation of an air raid or on the sounding of an air raids warning siren.
Some remote rural area which did not have a nearby fire station has ‘Local Light Units’ which were a party of local men equipped with supplied light equipment such as hand pumps or is some case light mechanical pumps towed by a locally supplied vehicle and, a limited range of uniform to deal with fires until a crew from the nearest fire station arrived.
The NFS continued in existence until 1 April 1948 when control of the nations’ fire brigades was handed back to local authorities under the newly enacted Fire Brigades Act 1948. This time, control was not handed back to Rural District Councils and fire authorities had to be either, County Borough, City or County level. This resulted in the first ever county-wide structures.
It should be noted that prior to the formation of the NFS, Portsmouth was one of the few remaining ‘Police Fire Brigades’ under the control of the city Chief Constable.
Southampton was one of the very few who used the term ‘Department’ rather than ‘Brigade’, for many years. Southampton was granted City status by royal decree on 24 February 1964.
So, on 1 April 1948, the UK saw the second restructuring in just 10 years. Many of those fire brigades formed as a result of the 1938 had lasted for barely two and a half years. Some had only months in being as organisations before being plunged in to the very different demands and challenges of the war years. Some fire ‘stations’ were in fact originally individual fire ‘brigades’ some had been created to meet the needs of wartime cover or the needs of the NFS.
In Hampshire, this resulted in the creation of the ‘Hampshire Fire Service’ and the handing back control to Portsmouth and to Southampton to operate their own fire brigades.
The Hampshire Fire Service, as a brand new organisation, inherited 50 fire stations, plus a fully staffed and equipped a former NFS Divisional Workshops at Kingsworthy. A suitable property for a Headquarters and Control Room had been identified at North Hill House in Winchester. It had been requisitioned for use by the Admiralty was vacated by them in May 1948 and after conversions, the new Headquarters staff took occupation on 20 September. Prior to that the Chief Fire Officer and his team had been located at Litton Lodge, Winchester and the Control Room was within Winchester fire station.
At this time, Gosport had two fire stations and there was a station at Liss and at Crondall. Additionally there was a Local Fire Unit at West Tytherly.
The county was divided into 4 ‘Districts’ – A,B,C and D, later changed to ‘Divisions’. Divisional Headquarters were based at Aldershot (later Basingstoke), Fareham, Winchester (later Eastleigh) and Lyndhurst.
The second station in Gosport (Bury Road) was closed in April 1954. Liss and Crondall were closed in January 1950 and the West Tytherly was disbanded in April 1954. The county then has 47 fire stations and this number remained until 1 April 1974.
The Workshops was moved a new site at Winnall, Winchester in 1954 where the team there created their own proud history and reputation of craftsmanship and quality for not only fleet maintenance, but also designing and building fire engines from the chassis up, having kept a workforce of skilled mechanics, coachbuilders, metalworkers and painters.
Many of the inherited fire stations were deemed unfit for purpose and a massive programme of replacement took place, particularly during the 1960s/70s
The Southampton Fire Brigade had 3 fire stations, plus 1 dedicated fireboat station at the Royal Pier. Its Headquarters was within the fire station in St Marys Road. In addition there was a station at Woolston, within the Docks and later, at Redbridge Hill. The Fireboat was later moved to Town Quay with a small store building alongside. When needed, the Fireboat was crewed by the Docks station crew.
The Portsmouth City Fire Brigade had 4 fire stations. Its Headquarters was within a requisitioned building in Craneswater Park. Portsmouth built Cosham fire station and Copnor fire station to add to the Somerstown fire station which was built by the NFS. On the opening of the Copnor fire station, the Headquarters moved to this location.
The Bournemouth Fire Brigade, then within the county of Hampshire, had 4 fire stations. Their Headquarters was within the fire station in Holdenhurst Road. In addition, they had stations at Pokesdown, Redhill Park and Parkstone.
One period which should be mentioned is 1949 to 1968, when the AFS was reformed as part of the new Civil Defence organisation brought back into being as a result of growing fears of conflict with the Soviet Union – the era of the ‘Cold War’
Researchers can very often become muddled with the WW2 AFS organisation and be confused by the fact that all of the vehicles used by the AFS were painted green. This was the era of the ‘Green Goddess’ Bedford fire engine, which, all too often, is believed by many to be Army vehicles. This is caused by the colour green and that they were brought out of storage and crewed by the military during a period of strikes by firefighters. There were many vehicles types other than the Bedford Emergency Pump which were also painted green. As with the AFS of 1938 to 1941, men and women were recruited as volunteers to train for operations during wartime.
What this meant in terms of organisational structure is that the Government, through the Home Office issued all of the uniforms, vehicles and equipment required and paid for the building of garages on fire stations. Many of these buildings exist still today and amusingly are often still referred to as ‘the AFS garage’ even though the personnel using the term have little or no idea what the term means!
The next milestone in terms of national organisational change came into effect on 1 April 1974 after a governmental review of local authorities including their geographical boundaries and their responsibilities. Consequentially the number of ‘Fire Authorities’ ie those who were permitted to operate a fire brigade, were significantly reduced.
In Hampshire this resulted in both Southampton and Portsmouth losing control of their fire brigades and Christchurch, along with Bournemouth, becoming part of Dorset. So Hampshire lost one station and gained seven stations. Southampton became part of D Division with the Divisional Headquarters moving to Redbridge Hill and Portsmouth became part of B Division, with the Divisional Headquarters moving to Copnor.
During 1973 when talks were in progress about the planned ‘amalgamation’, as it was termed, the Isle of Wight was in fact going to become ‘E Division’ of the newly formed ‘Hampshire Fire Brigade’ but lobbying was successful in the Island retaining separate county status and remaining a fire authority.
Southampton and Portsmouth were however given representation on the newly formed fire authority – then known as the ‘Public Protection Committee’.
The fire stations and establishments of the new Hampshire Fire Brigade were:
Basingstoke, Aldershot, Farnborough, Fleet, Alton, Whitchurch, Grayshott, Hartley Wintney, Kingsclere, Odiham, Overton, Liphook,
Gosport, Havant. Fareham, Petersfield, Waterlooville, Copnor, Hayling Island, Wickham, Cosham, Southsea, Horndean, Emsworth, Titchfield, Portchester
Eastleigh, Winchester, Andover, Romsey, Stockbridge, Sutton Scotney, Alresford, Twyford, Botley, West End, Droxford, Bishops Waltham, Hamble
Lymington, Hythe, Ringwood, Totton, Fordingbridge, Lyndhurst, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, New Milton, Burley, Redbridge, St Marys, Western Docks, Woolston
Headquarters and the Control Room were located on one floor of ‘The Castle’, the Hampshire County Council offices in Winchester
The Workshops were located at Winnall, Winchester
The Training Centre was located alongside the fire station in Eastleigh
Post-1974, the following additions/deletions took place:
Fawley 1977 (later named Hardley 1995)
Headquarters and Control Room 1981, moved to Eastleigh
Training Centre 1983, moved Headquarters site
Workshops 2008, moved to Headquarters site, renamed Fleet Maintenance Centre
Western Docks 1984
Aldershot 1990, on opening of Rushmoor
Farnborough 1990, on opening of Rushmoor
Woolston 1996, on opening of Hightown
West End 1996, on opening of Hightown
In September 1992 a name change took place with the ‘Hampshire Fire Brigade’ becoming the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
After several years of discussion and the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (whilst retaining its own name), being managed by the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and fire stations being mobilised from the mainland, a full merger will take place on 1 April 2021 when the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service will be created, adding an additional 10 fire stations.
The Isle of Wight has its own proud and interesting history, with several independent fire brigades in existence prior to the formation of the NFS and subsequent return to the control of one the fire authority in 1948 when it became the Isle of Wight County Fire Brigade.
On 1 July 1985, the name changed to Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service
The organisational changes of the past, especially those leading up to 1974 has seen the loss of many records and historical documents which can easily frustrate family or historical research, not helped by the more recent introduction of data protection regulations resulting in even less information being available to build history or inform relatives of those who have served.
Chief Fire Officers from 1948
AW Paramor OBE LIFireE 1 April 1948 – 3 November 1955
AW Bowles CBE FIFireE 4 November 1955 – 31 March 1958
ER Ashill OBE FIFireE 1 April 1958 – 31 January 1970
G Clarke CBE FIFireE 1 February 1970 – 31 January 1978
JR Pearson CBE QFSM FIFireE 1 September 1984 – 30 June 1995
M Eastwood CBE CStJ QFSM FIFireE 1 July 1995 – 30 June 2004
J Bonney CBE QFSM 1 July 2004– 31 December 2014
D Curry QFSM 1 January 2015 – 31 December 2017
N Odin 1 January 2018 – Current
ET Hayward OBE KPFSM FIFireE
AC Tanner QFSM MIFireE
J L Johnson KPFSM 1 April 1948 – 1962
G E B Brunner QFSM MIFire E 1962 – 1 April 1974
Isle of Wight
(To be finalised)
R F Sullivan 1 April 1948 – 30 June 1965
R J Rooke AMIFireE 1 July 1965 – 30 September 1968
A F S Perks OBE AMIFireE 1 October 1968 – August 1979
L Griffiths GIFireE dates ??
D Appleby dates ??
Gordon Hurrell dates ??
P Street ?? – 31 October 2011
S Apter 1 November 2011 – 31 March 2015
On 1 April 2015, the Hampshire Chief Fire Officer became the CFO the IoW as well as Hampshire I an unusual administrative move and partnership, whereby the Island kept its fire and rescue service in name but was increasingly managed by the Hampshire FRS. So technically, by this arrangement the Island, whilst remaining independent in name, had two further Chief Fire Officers
D Curry QFSM 1 April 2015 – 31 December 2017
N Odin 1 January 2018 – 31 March 2021
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service
N Odin 1 April 2021 – Current