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Fire Guard

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 12th September, 1941

Fire Guard

Rushden is now in possession of the main facts regarding the reorganisation of the street fire parties as part of the National Fire Guard.

A sensible line has been taken in that any interference with the working of the existing parties will be reduced to a minimum. The dominating desire of those who have served so splendidly as voluntary watchers has been to defend their own homes, and the idea of being drafted into other locations has never been popular.

The voluntary system remains, and while it remains the general body of watchers – now Guards – will desire to defend their own homes as before. There is, in fact, no idea of asking them to do otherwise. The streets are being bracketed into groups of four, five or six, each group with its own leader, and while this arrangement should certainly aim at helping the weaker streets, it need and, indeed, must not cut seriously into the present working of the units, whose own goodwill, equipment, posts and systems are all essential to the new order of things.

At the moment it appears that the chief effects of making groups and appointing group officers will be to secure a broadening of the existing neighbourliness, a strengthening of the weaker points, a better distribution of official intelligence, a fuller understanding with the A.R.P. Wardens, and tin hats for all.

12th September, 1941

Fire Guard

The Clerk outlined the Ministry of Home Security’s plan for the reorganisation of the voluntary street parties under the title of the Fire Guard. In Rushden, he said, the responsibility for fire prevention continued to be in the hands of the Council, and the Chief A.R.P. Warden would be responsible to the local authority for making the new arrangements.

The cost involved, continued the Clerk, would rank for grant, but as far as he could see at present there would be no extraordinary expense.

There were about 2,500 persons already enrolled in the town’s voluntary street parties. He had taken steps in conjunction with the Chief Warden, and it was proposed to divide the town into four areas, with six groups in each area.

In order to prevent dislocation of the existing groups as far as possible he had addressed a letter to each of the street fire party secretaries, asking for their suggestions and observations after consultation with their personnel. Each group was also asked to nominate a member who would be prepared to act as Senior Fire Guard for the group, and a Head Guard would also be appointed. When the suggestions and nominations were received a meeting would be called.

Mr. Beetenson added that 1,200 steel helmets had already been received as a first instalment of those that would be required to equip every guard with one.

The Chairman said the secretaries would have the letter in their hands on Thursday.

In reply to Coun. Sawford, the Clerk said it was the Council’s duty to appoint the Chief Guard, but they thought it best to give the street parties the opportunity to appoint one of their own members.

26th September, 1941

Fire Guard Goes Ahead
National Scheme Accepted at Rushden Meetings - Training Surprise

Organisation of the new Fire Guard at Rushden took a step forward on Monday and Tuesday.

The town has been divided into four areas – corresponding with the A.R.P. wardens’ areas – for organisation purposes, and voluntary street fire party representatives from the areas attended separate meetings at the Council Buildings.

At each meeting the chief speaker was the Chief Warden, Mr. Malcolm S. Boyd, who explained that the Urban Council is responsible for carrying out the scheme but has entrusted the details to the Wardens’ Service, with which the fire Guard will be linked in close co-operation. Although the full Fire Watching Order, making service compulsory, has not been applied to Rushden, the modified version is in force and required the existing voluntary organisation to be converted into a Civil Defence Service.

Mr. Boyd said the Government had recognised the service rendered by the voluntary street parties and was now placing them on the same basis as other organisations as members of the Civil Defence.

The town having been divided into four areas, the four Group Wardens would automatically become Head Fire Guards for these areas. An area consisted of six groups, each requiring a Senior Fire Guard who would have to enrol in the Wardens’ Service and take the warden’s course of training. The existing street parties had been asked to nominate the Senior Guards, but if there was any difficulty in any group the wardens would be pleased to appoint one of their number as Senior Guard.

No Trespassing

There would be no trespassing on the individuality of the present sections. There would be no interference with finances or equipment, but if they found streets under-equipped they would have to see what steps could be taken.

They thought it would be better for the town, however, if they were to have a systematic and uniform duty rota, the most-favourite rota being the all-Alert sitting.

More co-operation between wardens and watchers was one of the great aims, so that the two patrolling organisations would work together with understanding. More depended on the Fire Guards than had so far been recognised.

Mr. Boyd announced that about 2,000 voluntary fire-watchers had been enrolled under the existing scheme and were entitled to compensation for injury while on duty.

At each meeting the new scheme was keenly discussed, the enrolment of the Senior Guards as members of the Wardens’ Service, required to accept the wardens’ duty rota, standing out as the chief surprise. Mr. Boyd said it would be the duty of each Senior Guard to appoint a subordinate leader.

The appointment of several Senior Guards was announced.

The meetings were presided over by the area Group Wardens, Messrs. A. L. Sanders, L. Woodley, J. H. Carratt and G. C. N. Fountain.

14th November, 1941

Rushden Fire Guard Progress
2,500 Members with 625 Stirrup Pumps

An impressive report on Rushden’s voluntary Fire Guard organisation, with its 2,500 members, and 625 stirrup pumps, was received at Wednesday’s meeting of the Rushden Urban Council.

The Clerk (Mr. W. L. Beetenson) reported that about 2,500 Fire Guards had been enrolled, the rotas providing for about 300 to be on duty at each “Alert.” The personnel represented one for every two houses in the town.

Equipment in the hands of the Fire Guards included 220 ladders, 250 long rakes, 280 long shovels and 625 stirrup pumps. With those in use at factories, business premises and in the Wardens’ Service, the estimated number of pumps in the town was at least 1,000.

Half the personnel had been supplied on loan with steel helmets and an order was being placed for sufficient helmets to equip the other half. Armlets were on order.

The War Emergency Committee stressed the importance of all householders making arrangements for water always to be available in buckets or other receptacles.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 8th December, 1944

Fire Guard Released - Rushden Had 2,500 in 1941

  Informed by the Government that Fire Guard activity can now cease in Rushden, the Urban Council is calling in stirrup pumps, helmets and eyeshields.

  “Fire Guard and Service chevrons need not be returned,” states a letter sent out to party leaders, who are informed that any Fire Guard can purchase one of the used stirrup pumps for 7s.  6d.

  In a message of thanks on behalf of the Council Mr. T. L. Watts (Clerk) expresses appreciation of the enthusiasm shown, adding: “Fortunately, as there have been few raids on this district, the duties have not proved too onerous.  Nevertheless, the knowledge that the organisation was in being, and its members keen and efficient to deal with fires if caused by enemy action, was reassuring.

  “As local Civil Defence Controlling Officer, I would like to add an expression of my personal appreciation and to express the hope that should there unfortunately even yet be enemy activity over Rushden, members of the Fire Guard organisation would be willing to render such assistance as might be possible.”

The First Rush

  Street fire parties began to form spontaneously in Rushden towards the end of 1940 when the “blitz” on England was at its height, and the official organisation – still on a voluntary basis – took shape in January 1941.  By April or May of that year about 2,500 members were enrolled.  Many were afterwards called up for the Forces or placed on other duties, and the most recent estimate showed a membership of 1,400.

  Coun. J. H. J. Paragreen has made a log of 145 Alerts in Rushden, and Mr. R. W. Norman estimates the number of siren duty hours as 307.  The longest Alert, according to Mr. Norman, was 12½ hours and the shortest two minutes.

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