Review of ‘Bradwell Fire Service - The First Fifty Years 1939-1959’, by Frank Cooper

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 19th April 2004, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.


by Frank Cooper
Published by Ashridge Press
ISBN 1-901214-16-8 (2004)

Frank Cooper, author of this comprehensive and entertaining book, is one of 12 men to have served over 20 years with Bradwell Fire Brigade in its first half-century. So he is well placed to go behind the scenes, up the ladders, down the shafts and places where others would fear to tread - for little financial reward but an abundance of community spirit and job satisfaction.

Bradwell is a retained fire station, meaning that its firefighters are part-time volunteers rather than full-time employees. Over the years many of them have been released to save lives and property through the generosity of their employers: Newburgh Engineering and Blue Circle cement works, now part of the Lafarge Group. At one time a typical crew might also have included an insurance man, a painter and decorator and an electrician/TV repairer.

After years of talk about a local fire service, Bradwell was provided in 1938 with two lengths of hose, one brass fitting, a stirrup pump and two buckets of sand. The war years were looming and the story continues under shades of Dad's Army. The Auxiliary Fire Service premises was a wooden hut, firefighting equipment was transported on a builder's handcart, two wooden ladders were borrowed on trust, and uniforms consisted of navy blue boiler suits, wellingtons and army tin helmets painted fire service grey. A later change from black to yellow was achieved with a tin of paint. The village fire hydrants were originally supplied from a reservoir which dried up every summer, the first sign being tadpoles coming out of the taps!

From these humble beginnings Bradwell Fire Brigade has progressed to modern-day equipment via a Green Goddess fire engine - with a bell! - new premises with a telephone, and a siren fixed to the chimney of Mr Johnson's ironmongery shop.

The author has unearthed stories of indenciary bombs, the 'rescue' of a tin containing a farmer's life savings, animals hauled from mine shafts, and moorland fires extinguished after weeks of gruelling effort. Things once grew really hot when the parish council faced charges of trespass on fire service property.

Frank Cooper spices his yarns with humour while taking pains to record the immeasurable service given by colleagues past and present. With 204 pages and over 70 photographs 'Bradwell Fire Service, The First Fifty Years' is published by Ashridge Press.

Review by Julie Bunting

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