yeovil at war


Yeovil's Wartime Fire Brigade


In 1938, as the Government prepared for what appeared to be inevitable conflict and that such conflict would almost certainly involve the use of bombing from the air, each Fire Authority was required to form an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), under the direction of the local Chief Fire Officer, but whose role was solely to prepare for the eventuality of war and for dealing with fires that would follow an air raid.

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 Police Special Constabulary.

The part-time firemen of the AFS were recognised by a lapel badge, seen here, first issued in August 1938 after completion of sixty hours training, reduced in June 1939 to one month of membership. The badge was made of sterling silver until June 1939 when it became white metal.

To overcome some of the earlier problems the fire service was again re-organised into the National Fire Service (NFS) bringing together the 16,000-plus fire brigades within the country. This force came into existence on the 18th August 1941 and all brigade and AFS personnel were transferred into it. The service was responsible, through regions, to the Home Office directly which meant that the chain of command was much simpler and the standardisation of training and equipment could be more efficient.




See also 

Fire Watchers and Fire Guards
Auxiliary Fire Service alternative fire station
Auxiliary Fire Service garage
Charles Gillard


Courtesy of Bob Banfield

The Yeovil Auxiliary Fire Service parade on 23 April 1939 in what is thought to be Petters Way (and photographed from outside the law courts).


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

The 1946 disbandment parade of the wartime Yeovil Division of Special Constables in the Petters Way car park.

Yes, I know they're not firemen, but at the centre is the Auxiliary Fire Service practice tower that appears in several photographs of Auxiliary Fire Service personnel below. The houses behind that are in Hendford - at the left is glimpsed the Manor Hotel and at top right is Seaton's tower.



Yeovil Fire Brigade and the Auxiliary Fire Service, 1940. Many thanks to Eric Taylor who wrote "My father is here, second row down from the top second person in from the left. His name was George Taylor and lived at 12 South Street. He worked for JH Swaffield & Sons in South Street at the time as an agricultural engineer."

This photograph, like several below, was taken in what is now Petters Way car park (where the market used to be held, adjoining South Street). The training tower behind was used to hang the hoses from.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

Officers and Leading Firemen of the Yeovil Auxiliary Fire Service photographed in 1940 outside the Courts building in Petters Way. Patrol Officer Charles Gillard is seated at far right.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

Yeovil Auxiliary Fire Service dinner, circa 1940. Charlie Gillard is at the top table, 4th from right.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

The AFS Heavy Rescue Crew photographed in the terraced garden at the rear of Hendford Manor, around 1940-41.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

Members of the Yeovil Auxiliary Fire Service - 18 men and 14 ladies - pose for a photograph.


Courtesy of Sharon Pickford

This photograph dates to 1952 (when the film "Red Skies of Montana" was released). Sharon noted "This is the additional building the Fire Brigade used near the car park in Petters Way. The building was situated at the bottom of the market site at the top of Petters Way facing out onto South Street. It was most likely constructed during the Second World War by members of the National Fire Service (NFS) to house the additional appliances that were stationed at Yeovil at the time. The appliance on the left is a Dennis F7 and was one of the first new Fire Engines delivered to the newly formed brigade. The one on the right is a wartime Austin 60Ft hand operated Turntable Ladder which remained in Service at Yeovil until 1971."


Men of the Yeovil Division of the Auxiliary / National Fire Service, 1940-42, by the Patters Way training tower. Thanks to Simon Rowley "Leyland FK6 pump escape, BYC 145, that was supplied to the brigade in May 1936. This appliance survives, fully restored, in the care of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service."


The signatures on the reverse of the above photograph.


Same place, probably same time as the above photograph, but clearly a different crew.


Courtesy of Roger McElliott

Men of Yeovil's Auxiliary Fire Service personnel pose with their water tender (sorry, I don't know which type) by the Petters Way training tower.


Courtesy of Roger McElliott

Same equipment, different location, different crew of Yeovil's Auxiliary Fire Service personnel.


Courtesy of Nigel Vine

A crew of Yeovil's Auxiliary Fire Service personnel, circa 1940. This photograph must date to before May 1941 as the men are all wearing AFS badges. At the extreme right is Leading Fireman Wilfred Jenvey, who was stationed in Yeovil throughout the war. Since he lived at 118 Mudford Road, this photo may have been taken in the Hundredstone AFS Station.


Courtesy of Nigel Vine

Leading Fireman Wilfred Jenvey, enlarged from the previous photograph, showing the Auxiliary Fire Service uniform and the special "AFS Yeovil" badge.


Certificates of Service were issued by the National Fire Service when the service was down-sized after the war.


During the war the National Fire Service issued Yeovil with at least two Austin K2 auxiliary towing vehicles (ATV) coupled with trailer pumps and one of these was probably at a sub-station. This illustration is of an Austin K2 ATV in National Fire Service livery, towing a Coventry Climax FSM-Type trailer fire pump.


In 1943 Yeovil was issued with a Leyland Beaver with a 100ft Merryweather turntable ladder similar to this photograph. This appliance stayed at Yeovil until 1955 when it was sent to Cheltenham and Yeovil received an Austin K4 with a Merryweather 60ft turntable ladder that had initially been issued by the NFS to Barnstaple. This vehicle was preserved.


A small (4" x 3½" - 100 x 90mm) leather AFS wallet. Whether this was issued officially or not is unknown.