The War Years Sawbridgeworth Fire Brigade 1897 - to the early 1970's and beyond.
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Sawbridgeworth Fire Brigade - The War Years
World War 2 memories RAF Sawbridgeworth  
 Page last updated: 29/08/2021

For pretty obvious reasons the amount of information available in both written and picture form is rather scarce. It is though somewhat surprising that it took some time for it to be realised that some very positive organising would be necessary albeit that things were hotting up by mid-year in 1939. By December the circulars to Local Authorities nationally from The Under Secretary Of State, Home Office (Fire Brigades Division), Cleland House, Page Street, London S.W.1 were pouring out thick and fast and issued to local authorities, most of which were also duplicated to "The Chief Officer of the Fire Brigade". These documents show many things that one may not have considered in terms of the enormous impact the state of war must have had on general local authority administration of the time. In 1940 the National Fire Service was yet to be established - Air Raid Wardens and certain fire personnel given, by statute, the right of entry to property to fight fires (136/1940); Fire fighting appliances issued to local authorities on loan (129/1940); Establishment of Watching Posts (124/1940); Cement control (117/1940); Requisitioning and taking possession of Garages (109/1940); Clearance of Lofts Order! (107/1940); Insurance of Emergency Vehicles (105/194); Provision of food for Civil Defence personnel (99/1940); Rates of Pay for Civil Defence Volunteers (98/1940). All of these and many more are available as set out in the 'box' < right> below through the provided link where they can be viewed and or downloaded individually or as grouped within zip files.

[PDF Version] [PDF Version] Downloadable to view in Adobe Acrobat© format.  
Home Office Documents 1940

For those site visitors who may be interested in the 'actual' documents (for historic research or interest) and their contents - those retained by Frank Wright are all available from the link below.
Frank Wright was made responsible to 'action' these for Sawbridgeworth Fire Brigade, he then personally kept the majority on file for interest - some though were mistakenly disposed of some years ago!

[ Go to Home Office Documents 1940 ]
These two (left) are just a sample of an early communication from the Home Office. There are around 200 such documents  which were addressed to the 'Chief Officer' between 1939 and 1941. In his capacity as Water Officer, Frank Wright had a quantity of technical books on fire fighting and particularly on the subject of Water, most of which he gave away in later years. The 44 page booklet to the left, dated 1943, is typical of many issued by the NFS.
Air Raid Precautions
. This notice was found tucked away in the loft of the Fire Station when it was cleared for moving to new premises. As with the rest of the UK then, the telephone was only installed in a very few households and this 'record' of history indicates how few they were - in a town then of some 3,500 people the number shown to call is Sawbridgeworth 3! Even shortly after the war I can recall that one of the local company telephone numbers was Sawbridgeworth 25
For National Fire Service (NFS) Records - Sawbridgeworth 1940's see Log Books


Some WWII childhood memories of the Webmaster can be viewed here [ HERE ]


National Fire Service: Fire Area 12, Division B, Sub-Division 4, Station X  March 1945.  

This Official Photograph was taken on a very wet Sunday Morning to record the disbanding of the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and National Fire Service (NFS) at Sawbridgeworth. Even in this print careful reference to the road gutter shows rain water flowing. In the original picture the knees of those sitting can be seen to be very wet! Unfortunately, the weather put off many of the Brigade Members attending believing that the arranged photograph would not go ahead. The photo. therefore does not represent the whole of the Brigade based at Sawbridgeworth - it is believed the numbers were actually about 40 personnel. The names of those in the picture are provided on the Photo Gallery page of the Web Site or, you can download the picture above.

In the background can just be seen an Austin TV (Towing Vehicle). These were NFS standard vehicles and were relatively 'lightly' equipped painted mid grey in colour. They were very 'square', similar to a 1960's - 1970's Box Van, carrying a 30' extension ladder on top and standardised " canvas hose and other equipment housed under boxed seats that ran the length of the vehicle both sides, for the crew. In a sense this seating was an innovation as the crew were protected from the elements, the open back being capable of being closed by canvas curtains! The fire fighting capacity was provided by towing a Trailer Pump which carried two sections of 4" suction hose connected to which was a wicker filter basket over a pieced metal one. Again, these trailer pumps were pretty standard either made by Coventry Climax of Coventry or Dennis Bros. of Guildford. Sawbridgeworth had the Coventry Climax. For those technically minded, the difference between the two types of Trailer Pump was that the Coventry Climax created the vacuum to lift water from rivers etc. by diversion of the engine exhaust through a venturi and had to be run at very high revs. to pick up water and the Dennis by a reciprocating piston twin  'pot type' vacuum pump driven by the engine. I believe both types had a single stage centrifugal pump with an output of around 250 gallons per minute but there were larger versions too.

The Webmaster has made a contribution to the BBC Web Site that has taken personal contributions about people's World War 2 memories. These are Personal Memories of the war in Sawbridgeworth as remembered and seen through the eyes of a 5 - 10 year old boy of that time - see right... Web Site at:
 The contribution can be read HERE or Downloaded as a PDF - Child War Memories
Sawbridgeworth Aerodrome. Sawbridgeworth had its own part to play in World War Two as the host of one of the RAF Airfields which, during that time, had close associations with the fighter station of North Weald. The very interesting and informative Web Site "Wartime Airfields" is well worth a visit. A Memorial dedicated to the Sawbridgeworth Airfield was officially opened in May 2006 the details of which can be seen here. Very soon after 1945 the airfield huts became the home of squatters from the London area and many remained for several years. However, the main buildings and area around were ideal for Sawbridgeworth Fire Brigade to use as drill areas and some buildings were used for ladder work and rescue into the early 1960's.
A Sawbridgeworth story of valour - Wing Commander James Hardy Marks DSO and Bar, DFC (With acknowledgement to [ PDF Copy ]
Other items that may be of interest:
The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) - A Crown Film Unit 1940/41 Film - An hour long film to represent the task of units in London - Link HERE
Commemorating the National Fire Service (NFS) 1940 - 1945 -A Pathé film - Link HERE (With thanks to Simon Lincoln for spotting it on Facebook).
Another interesting site is the record of Bombs dropped on London and Greater London during the Blitz... See: