1932 Excelsior 125cc National Fire Service Messenger Bike
Fire Extinguisher and Panniers
Wartime Black-out Headlight
This rare and attractive 1932 Excelsior 125cc with hand gear-change was impressed into service by Great Britain’s National Fire Service. At the time, this government service did not have a contract with any particular vehicle manufacturer, and used a variety of vehicles, often members’ own vehicles. The National Fire Service was formed in 1941, during war-time, so this motorcycle would have been nine years old when it was requisitioned.
This Excelsior is a delightful machine, particularly attractive because its tank is underslung and it retains its original leg-shields. It was restored some years ago, and is still in excellent condition and ready to ride.
The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) was first formed in 1938 in Great Britain as part of Civil Defence Air raid precautions. Its role was to supplement the work of brigades at local level. In this job it was hampered severely by incompatibility of equipment used by these different brigades – most importantly the lack of a standard size of hydrant valve. The Auxiliary Fire Service and the local brigades were superseded in August 1941 by the National Fire Service.
GROSE CYCLE SHOP, New Bridge St, bombed in December, 1940
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 establishment of the police Special Constabulary. Men and women could join, the latter mainly in an administrative role.
The BBC, bombed in January, 1941
An AFS was formed in every county borough, borough and urban district, and there was also one in the London County Council area. Each AFS was commanded by a Commandant, with Deputy and/or Assistant Commandants in the larger services. The services operated their own fire stations, each commanded by a Section Officer, and station areas were divided into Fire Beats, each under the command of a Patrol Officer. Services with five or more stations divided them into Divisions, each under the command of a Divisional Officer. These ranks were not laid down by the government, and some services used different systems
The Auxiliary Fire Service was reformed in 1948 alongside the Civil Defence Corps. It was equipped with 1,000 Green Goddess (Bedford RLHZ Self Propelled Pump) fire engines. It was disbanded in 1968.
Bridge built over Bank Tube Station, after Direct Hit in January 1941
During peacetime, AFS crews frequently attended fires and accidents alongside their regular colleagues. They provided significant assistance at some of the worst fires, such as that at Billingsgate Market and at Barking wood yard. AFS personnel were trained in firefighting by their own officers and with assistance from full-time fire officers. Many were trained to the St John Ambulance Higher First Aider Certificate standard – often proving invaluable at major incidents involving injury.
The AFS has never had any connection whatever with any of the British Armed Forces.