The Auxiliary Fire Service

The Auxiliary Fire Service was formed in 1938 and was mobilised on the 1st of September 1939 and disbanded at the end of the second world war.
In 1948 the Civil Defence Act re-established the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Civil Defence Corps as a result of the Government's concern over the deteriorating relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. A war in Europe seemed a possibility but this one would probably be a nuclear one.
It was reckoned that at least two AFS men would be required for every regular fulltime fireman and this figure would be around 55,000 men. The AFS never even recruited a third of this number.
It was realised that where the bombs landed nothing would be left, not even the Fire Brigade to put out the fires from the heat blast, so the plan was to create self contained Mobile Fire Columns in the unaffected areas and then move them into the blast zone.
The AFS equipment was old, obsolete National Fire Service equipment from the second world war, consisting of Leyland, Sulzer and Tangye Units, Trailer Pumps and Bedford and Fordson Auxiliary Towing Vehicles which were slow and unable to meet the demands required.
Plans were drawn up for new fire fighting equipment to be purchased for the AFS. The new equipment would enable the Mobile Fire Columns to be completely self contained in the terms of communication, food and fuel.
The plan assumed that war would be declared in advance of an attack and half of the Local authority red machines would be withdrawn and meet up with AFS machines to make up the columns. The new AFS equipment consisted mainly of Emergency Self Propelled Pumps or Green Goddess as they were known, Control Units, Wireless cars, Communications Units, Pipe Carriers, Hose Layers, Foam Tenders, Transportable Water Units or Bikini Units (so called as
that was the type of inflatable raft commercially sold as a Bikini, similar to the Zodiacs of today etc.), Mobile Kitchens, Motorcycles and General Purpose Lorries. The Goddess came as a 4x2 with a 400 gallon tank originally and then on a 4x4 chassis with a 300 gallon tank

On 13 May 1941 H Morrison announced that all regular brigades and the AFS would reorganise and form the NFS.

The Cold War AFS was disbanded on the 31st March 1968 along with the rest of the Civil Defence in Scotland, England and Wales but retained in Northern Ireland.

 

Glasgow AFS Stations.

Western Zone

1938 Rank Structure in the Auxiliary Fire Service

Auxiliary Fireman
Patrol Officer
Section Officer
Deputy Commandant
Commandant

The Patrol Officer was roughly equivalent to a Leading Fireman/Sub Officer and the title originates from the Home Office pre-war concept of having AFS trailer-pump patrols operating while air raids were in progress to deal with incipient fires. However, this policy was seen as impractical by most in the fire service and was little, if at all, used in practice once the raids started, appliances being ordered from stations in the conventional  manner as the raid developed in response to calls from wardens, police, public or from fire service observation posts.

 

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