London Fire Brigade Museum To Record Blitz Firefighters' Memories

By David Prudames | 19 January 2005
Shows a photograph of a group of Fire Brigade veterans standing around an old fire engine.

The Second World War wasn't only fought on the battlefields. Courtesy Newscast.

The London Fire Brigade Museum is set to save the memories of firefighters who fought the blitz during the Second World War for future generations.

With a grant of £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, the museum will be able to create an exhibition of oral histories from Fire Brigade veterans who witnessed the blitz and the devastation of the V1 and V2 rockets.

The grant is part of a £7.3 million joint funding initiative from the Big Lottery Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund, which provides grants to fund activities across the UK to commemorate the part played in WWII by those on the home front.

As well as firefighters, the scheme will honour the wartime sacrifices of the auxiliary services, nurses, Bevin Boys, dock workers and many others.

"The Home Front Recall Scheme has given the London Fire Brigade Museum the opportunity to record the history of the wartime fire fighters which will last for generations," said Esther Mann, museum curator. "Without this fund the personal history spoken by themselves may have been lost forever."

Shows a photograph of 99-year-old veteran firefighter, Cyril Demarne standing beside an old fire engine.

Cyril Demarne, 99, was Chief Fire Officer at West Ham in London's east end. Courtesy Newscast.

"This is an exciting project which will hold a host of information for visitors and researchers," added Esther, "and guarantee we never forget the efforts made by these brave people in saving London, and saving lives."

Veterans’ memories will be recorded on DVD and run as a series of talking heads. Copies will be sent to the Imperial War Museum and made available to schools and other museums.

Cyril Demarne OBE was Chief Fire Officer at West Ham in London during the Second World War and saw the worst of the blitz. Now aged 99, he believes the scheme offers younger people a great opportunity to learn about our history.

"We need to let our children know what things were really like during the war," he said. "They need to be aware of what their country went through during those six years and why we must never let it happen again. I think this scheme will contribute a great deal to this."

Shows a photograph of a group of Fire Brigade veterans standing around an old fire engine.

London Fire Brigade control centre veterans Irene Carter (left) and Olive Whitcombe (right) with Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, chair of the New Opportunities Fund. Courtesy Newscast.

Another supporter of the scheme is Emily Carter, a veteran of the London Fire Brigade control centre.

"I was 19 when I went to work in the sub station control room on Buckingham Palace Road," she recalled. "I remember the night when a Spitfire came hurtling down followed by a German bomber, which crashed into shops in Victoria. The Spitfire pilot managed to parachute onto a nearby roof, I don't know what happened to the bomber crew."

Home Front Recall is part of a three-pronged programme of funding to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the events leading up to the end of the Second World War.

Veterans Reunited was launched in January 2004 and aims to ensure that all generations of UK residents can commemorate the anniversary together, both at home and abroad.

As well as Home Front Recall, the programme includes Heroes Return, a £10 million initiative to provide funding for WWII veterans to visit overseas areas where they served. It also includes Their Past Your Future, a UK-wide education scheme intended to give young people the chance to learn from veterans about their experiences.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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