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Sawbridgeworth Fire Brigade - Drills and Competitions
Page last updated: 20/03/2021
Fire Drills.
Drilling in the 1920's Taking a rest during drilling in the 1920's. In the background 2nd Officer Harry Taylor looks on while those needing the break are left to right: Bill Horsnell, Bill White, Frank Wright, Jack Baker and Bill Taylor.

It is clear that fire fighting relies greatly on getting things done both quickly and efficiently. This was obviously realised very early on, presumably even before the 'locally sponsored' brigades were becoming the modern way to deal with the growing problem of fire. Certainly the Brigade in Sawbridgeworth were aware back in 1898 that practice makes perfect, the AGM that year directing that the Secretary should write to Commander Wells of the Metropolitan Brigade (later the London Fire Brigade) asking for permission for the Brigade to attend at one of their drills at Headquarters Southwark. This was apparently granted with an invitation to attend on March 29th 1899. The Committee Meeting of the 13th March decided "that each member actually losing time at his work, shall be paid for such time, out of the funds of the Brigade and also his railway fare and be allowed 2/6d for food etc. on the occasion".

In 1903 the National Fire Brigades Union were contacted to determine where the Brigade could obtain a course of drills. At the19th June 1903 General Meeting the recommendation was, that contact should be made with Captain Miller of Leyton Fire Brigade and or, Superintendent Woollard of the Ilford Brigade. No reply had been received from Supt. Woollard and Captain Millar's Charge would be 1. 1. 0 plus second class fare - the meeting considered this cost too high. The Secretary was directed to again write to Supt. Woollard and also to enquire of Messrs. Shand Mason & Co. (steam fire engine manufacturer) their charge for sending a man. At the General Meeting of the 10th July a letter had been received from Supt. Woollard agreeing to give a series of drills at an inclusive cost of 10s/6d for each drill and a decision was made to proceed with six drills commencing at 6.30pm on Thursday 23rd July.

Competitions, Trophies & Certificates.
Trophies on display The results of early competitions. It is considered that this picture was taken around 1908 - 1910. This is based on the presence of a very young Harry Taylor (bottom left) who was first elected a member on the 12th September 1905 having tried to join before but having lost the ballot against 3 other applicants. Others in the picture are - top left.. E. F. (Frank) Wright, Bridgefoot Farm, Station Road (Uncle of my Father); top right.. Walter Stacey; bottom right.. Walter Tarling?; centre..? Annual Competition (Escape Drill)  
The Brigade's own certificate - 1933
  By the 1920's competition between the various Fire Brigades, Local Regional and National, had become a tradition and required the full commitment of both the current members and any potential recruits. This was both an opportunity for pride and of course to travel to 'distant places' for those qualifying to take part. There were cups trophies and certificates galore to be won and Sawbridgeworth Brigade and individuals had a good share of these. It must have been a pretty challenging commitment to make at weekends when one considers the venues of some of the competitions - Colchester, Essex; Ipswich and Felixstowe, Suffolk; Edmonton, North London and Bedford were just some of the towns. Considering the modes of transport available (see picture below) and road conditions at the time, the travelling time must have been considerable in its own right. There were closer encounters too, both at Bishop's Stortford and Harlow.
Hose Cart Drill Good Exercise! Man with a Stop Watch... A Hose Cart, four men and 4 lengths of hose, a standpipe and a branch... "Stand-by - Get to work"! First Place - Hose Cart Competition
An individual certificate for a team Member
Well Done!

Competition Team

The Winning Team. The team are those who are in the first picture - under Fire Drills - above. Note the mode of transport. Team: Bill White; Bill Taylor; Bill Horsnell; Jack Baker; Frank Wright. First Prize - Motor Pump Competition
Competition Team. This photograph just has the date of "1930" on the reverse but the scene would appear to be at a competition venue somewhere. Left to Right: Walter Stacey, Frank Wright, Bill Horsnell, ?, Bill Taylor, Jack Baker and Billie Prior.
An individual certificate for a team Member

Prize Money The first mention of the Brigade having won money at competitions is at a meeting of the 27th January 1904 where it was decided that the prize money of 28/- (shillings...1.40) won at a competition at Bishop's Stortford should be divided  among all the members of the Brigade. However, by the meeting of the 26th August that year, more prize money had been won and a total of 3. 4. 0. distributed as before. In June 1906 it was decided by the General Meeting to purchase a Prize List Case in which to keep a record of prizes. By 1909 Sawbridgeworth were running their own Open Competitions and at the Annual General Meeting on the 25th July 1910 the accounts of both the 1909 and 1910 Whit. Monday events showed a balance of 50. 15. 9d. It would seem by this time that the winning of prize money in general had become common place and was no longer recorded as an 'event'!

Day of the week: For many years the regular drill night of each week was a Thursday but on January 6th 1959 it changed to a Tuesday. This was at the 'request' of the County. Changing to Tuesdays enabled joint drilling operations with other brigades in the East Herts area - e.g. Bishop's Stortford and Much Hadham.

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More Recently....
An Open Day at Bishop's Stortford (BS) Fire Station in Hadham Road in the 1970's that shows Firemen Paul French, David Burrell and Andy Ballisat possibly Paul Burrell who were then 'Junior' firemen. They were representing Sawbridgeworth station using an old Leyland. There is one other ex Sawbridgeworth  fireman in the picture who is the late Ray Howe who was on duty on the BS Ambulance that day but is looking on. Also the late Roy Tomlin is there in the background who was the Station Officer for several years.

Photo and information provided by Andy Ballisat (March 2021)

Another, apparently rather wet, Open Day at Bishop's Stortford this time in the 1980's. All taking part including the Sawbridgeworth crew lined up here with the Dennis Rolls F Series NNK 568H Water Tender. Moving along the line there are two Dennis Water Tenders and NNK 568H is the second one which has a darker shade of red colour. In the photo is Sub Officer Keith Woods (BS) facing and addressing the onlookers. Also in the Photo is Keith's father, in the brown suit, the retired Sub Officer of Bishop's Stortford who had earlier succeeded Bert Waterman in that role. The Letchworth historic Steamer fire appliance can just be seen in background manned by a Sid Wheeler and Assistant Divisional Officer Dennis Brooker.
The fact that the day was very wet it was encouraging for all those carrying out the drills and demonstrations that a good crowd of onlookers braved the day!

Photo and information provided by Andy Ballisat (March 2021)

This is the same Open Day of the 1980's and more noticeably rather wet. This drill/demonstration was by the Sawbridgeworth crew using their Coventry Climax Light Weight Pump (LWP) to take the supply of water from the underground reservoir and relaying the supply to the Main Pump on the appliance. Leading Fireman Brian Rochester is the Main Pump operator and Fireman Dave Dellow operating the Light Weight Pump. Immediately behind the LWP is Fm Tony kitchener and looking down the reservoir is Andy Ballisat. Completing the crew but out of the photo are Sub/O Geoff Burrell and L/Fm Peter Roberts.

Photo and information provided by Andy Ballisat (March 2021)