33 Years in the Fire Service - 1956
During this week I completed 10 years as chief officer of Bata Fire Brigade, and 33 years’ activity in the Fire Service.
It was after I had served 23 years in the public fire service that I decided to become an industrial fireman. So I resigned, submitted my application to British Bata, and was fortunate enough to succeed. In 1923, my father, who had been a fireman for 30 years, resigned through ill-health, so, to date the combined father and son service in my case is 63 years.
I think it is interesting to mention that, as my father left, I filled the vacancy caused by his resignation, and I still wear the axe and belt he used.
Many readers will, no doubt, remember the day, or, rather, the evening, of my arrival as chief officer at East Tilbury, when an underground store of highly inflammable material caught fire, and eight firemen were injured by explosions and fire-blast.
This incident set me wondering what type of factory I had come to, and how often I might expect such an occurrence. After a few house next day, I was determined that nothing like it must happen again, and to find out at once whether there was any co-operation between the management and those in responsible positions - I knew that, without co-operation, plans cannot operate effectively, no matter how efficient one may be.
It was not long before I found out, in no uncertain way, that effective co-operation did exist at East Tilbury, and that I would have full authority. It only remained for me to take advantage of this, use my brains and draw on my experience, and get things working more or less as I wanted them.
One thing which impressed me greatly on my first walk round the factory, with Chief Gatekeeper George Noble, was the excellent lay-out of the buildings. This pleased me very much; access to the buildings from all sides is what a fireman admires - good spacing between buildings.
My first impression on entering a building here was pleasure at the regulations governing cubic air-space for numbers of workers. I also quickly noticed the fire-proof staircases, placed in such a way as to allow any floor to be evacuated in a few minutes. I was very heartened to meet this evidence of fire-safety consciousness after my previous visits to factories.
I think all workers will agree that they can work better when they know that everything possible is done for their safety - it leaves the mind free for concentration on the job in hand. British Bata workers here have this safety, which they should complete by keeping clear the gangways which are provided for the sole purpose of escape in case of fire.
Improvements in the latter vitally important respect have, during my service here, been noticeable, bit it is still far from 100 per cent efficient; too many days pass when someone, in one department or another, stops up the gangway.