The Auxiliary Fire Service


The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) was first formed in 1938 in Great Britain as part of Civil Defence Air raid precautions. Its role was to supplement the work of brigades at local level. In this job it was hampered severely by the incompatibility of equipment used by these different brigades - most importantly the lack of a standard size of hydrant valve. The Auxiliary Fire Service and the local brigades were superseded in August 1941 by the National Fire Service.

Members of the AFS were unpaid part-time volunteers, but could be called up for whole-time paid service if necessary. This was very similar to the wartime establishment of the police Special Constabulary. Men and women could join, the latter mainly in an administrative role.

An AFS was formed in every county borough, borough and urban district, and there was also one in the London County Council area. Each AFS was commanded by a Commandant, with Deputy and/or Assistant Commandants in the larger services. The services operated their own fire stations, each commanded by a Section Officer, and station areas were divided into Fire Beats, each under the command of a Patrol Officer. Services with five or more stations divided them into Divisions, each under the command of a Divisional Officer. These ranks were not laid down by the government, and some services used different systems.


During the War Years there many awards of Gallantry Medals and we have managed to pull a little bit of History on some of the recipients. Brave men one and all, read their selfless acts here.


Awarded The George Medal

27th September 1940,


George Archibald HOWE, Manager, Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.

William SIGWORTH, Manager, Anglo-American Oil Company Ltd.

George Samuel SEWELL, Engineer, Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.

Jack OWEN, Fireman, Kingston-upon-Hull Fire Brigade.

Clifford TURNER, Leading Fireman, Kingston-upon-Hull Auxiliary Fire Service.



Those named below have been brought to notice for good services in connection with Civil Defence

27th September 1940,


Thomas Gant, Handyman, Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.


During a recent air raid bombs were dropped on an oil depot, petrol tanks being pierced in several places, causing serious fires. Mr. Howe showed outstanding leadership and organization in fighting the fires and conspicuous bravery in entering the tank compound, which contained burning spirit, to open the valves so that the stock could be transferred. He was assisted by Mr. Sigsworth who also entered the tank compound and who was untiring in his efforts to extinguish the flames. Mr. Sewell led a party of men into the tank compound and was also continually on the tank roof whilst the gas inside was burning, endeavouring to extinguish the flames by playing foam over the tank top and placing sandbags over the roof curb. Fireman Owen volunteered to operate a hose on the top of an almost red hot tank after wading through petrol and water to a depth of about four feet. His clothes were thus soaked with petrol and might have caught alight at any moment. Leading Fireman Turner volunteered to assist Mr. Howe in fixing hose on a tank-top surrounded by flames from burning petrol. Their clothes were thus soaked with petrol and might have caught alight at any moment. Handyman Gant showed considerable resource and at great personal risk endeavoured to extinguish the flames



Those named below have been brought to notice for brave conduct in Civil Defence

23Rd May 1941


Assistant Commandant, Hull Auxiliary Fire Service.




Awarded the British Empire Medal

15Th August 1941,


Police Sergeant, Hull Police Fire Brigade.

During air raids Police Sergeant Marriott has shown courage and resource in his duty, and his initiative and leadership have been responsible for the saving of much valuable property.When a H.E. bomb damaged the Fire Station, Marriott refused to give up and went in search of another building. Having secured one he superintended the removal of equipment and was able to get all the fires in his area under control and damped down before the raid was over




Awarded the George Medal.

19th September 1941,


Auxiliary Driver,

Hull Auxiliary Fire Service.

Buildings were hit by bombs and many fires broke out. Colletta took charge of a hose line in front of a warehouse. He remained there, amidst the falling debris and encircled by flames, playing water on the building. There was no cover and a nearby wall collapsed within inches of where he stood.

Later in the raid it was necessary for a hose to be played on the back wall of a museum, which was separated by a distance ofOnly six feet from the wall of a blazing five-storey warehouse. The heat was terrific, but Colletta insisted on remaining in the narrow alley formed by the two buildings although the wall was expected to fall at any moment. His courage was an inspiration to his colleagues.




Awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division)

19th September 1941


Leading Fireman,

Hull Auxiliary Fire Service.


Auxiliary Fireman,

Hull Auxiliary Fire Service.

George Edward BLADES,

Second Line Towing Vehicle Volunteer,

Hull Auxiliary Fire Service.


These men were engaged in fighting a large oil fire and, although aircraft were using this fire as a target area, worked continuously to subdue the flames. Blazing oil ran down the street and affected many houses, in one of which a woman and her five children were trapped. Without any consideration for themselves and regardless of the danger, the three firemen rushed into the house and, though the heat was almost unbearable, succeeded in removing the woman and children to a place of safety




Awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division):

26th September 1941,

Thomas Henry RUMSEY

Inspector, Police Fire Brigade, Hull (now Divisional Officer, No. 6 (Hull) Fire Force, National Fire Service).

During an enemy air attack, despite the fact that H.E. bombs were dropped around them, Inspector Rumsey and his crew continued in their efforts to subdue a fierce fire and were instrumental in saving a building of vital importance. Inspector Rumsey's outstanding devotion to duty and untiring efforts were an inspiration to his crew





26 Th September 1941,

John WINSHIP, Acting Leading Fireman, Hull Auxiliary Fire Service (now National Fire Service




To be An Additional Officers of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

1st January 1942.

Alderman, Joseph Henry STARK, Honorary Commandant,Hull Auxiliary Fire Service




Awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division)

.31stJuly 1942,

George Arthur RYDER, Chief Officer, Works Fire Brigade, Kingston-upon-Hull.


A bomb damaged a building and fractured water and gas supply pipes. Mr. Ryder helped several people to safety and carried an Aged lady to a First Aid Post. He forced his way through wreckage, girders and live electric wires and turned off the water valve. He then entered the wrecked building and found that the upper floor had collapsed over the main gas valve. He crawled underneath the fallen roof and managed to reach the valve and turn off the escaping gas. He managed to crawl back through the building and almost immediately collapsed from the effect of the coal gas.Ryder showed courage and devotion to duty without regard for his own safety





26Th November 1942,


Acting Leading Fireman, Hull Auxiliary Fire Service (now National Fire Service)






 Hull had its very own Fire Float in the name of Clara Stark and it is said that she could pump 10 tons of water every minute. We have a few pictures of her here

clara 2





This shot is of her c1967 (Copyright David Jessop)






I found this photograph on flickr and asked the owners of the pic if we may show it here and they agreed. Jill says of her "I lived aboard her from 1989 to 2000.I bought her from brighams ship yard in hull when she was on the hard at hull marina. When she was relaunched Graham Stark, Claras Grandson did the
honours with a bottle of bubbly, I still have the press shot somewhere. We stayed on the trent for a couple of years working her for towing and salvaging then moved round to the Norfolk broads were she was bought by David Riley and he lived aboard and moved her to France and that's the last I heard of her. I brought my youngest daughter becky up on her." It is lovely to see that she wasnt scapped and given much love. A big part of Hull's History.


MV Clara Stark courtesy of Jill Ransom






This Picture was sent in by Howard who says "This was my grandfather (front row third from the right) in the fire brigade during the war."