GREENOCK FIRE DEPARTMENTFIREMASTER’S REPORT – AIR RAID 6th. MAY 1941
The Air Raid Warning “Red” was received at 00.49 and the Air Raid Message “White” at 03.25
During the period of the raid 25 incidents were recorded at
Headquarters. These were expeditiously dealt with and with the exception of the
undermentioned, presented no particular difficulty although serious damage was
caused in several instances.
The most difficult fires to handle were at Belville St. (incident No.15) where, shortly after the arrival of the Brigade, a high explosive bomb destroyed the water main, (eliminating water pressure over a wide area), and the 5000 gallon steel dam provided for the area. This circumstance necessitating relaying water from Victoria harbour, a distance of about half a mile.
The raid, although on a fair scale, was well within the scope of the local service.
Attached is a summary of the calls received and attended
A. S. Pratten
Fire Brigade Headquarters
15th May 1941
|Incident No.||Time of 1st call||Units Attending||Address of Incident||Fire Damage|
|1||0:49||1||Torpedo Factory||False Alarm|
|2||1:25||1||2||1st.||37,31,43,45||One Tenement demolished|
|T.O.||Belville Street||and fired by burning gas.|
|Reg.||Damage in order tenements|
|Confined to roof|
|3||1:50||1||1||Ferguson Bros.,||Ferguson Bros. yard and a|
|Port Glasgow||church. No material damage.|
|4||1:52||1||Newark Street||Tenement roof.|
|5||2:00||1||Lamont’s Yard||No material damage|
|6||2:03||1||2||Gourock Ropework Co.||Robert St. Flax Store|
|Port Glasgow||Stock considerably damaged.|
|7||2:09||1||5 Wilson Street||Kitchen severely damaged.|
|8||2:24||1||42 Fox Street||Room severely damaged|
|9||2:27||1||Lyle Road||Whins only|
|10||2:27||1||Kingston Yard||No damage|
|11||2:29||1||2||Glen Yard||Flax Store and Store and|
|Port Glasgow||twisting shed severely|
|12||2:31||1||5 Peil Street||Roof|
|14||2:22||1||1||1||Kilmacolm/Bawhirley||Three steel houses burned|
|Road||out. One severely damaged.|
|15 &||2:45||2||6||1||Hose||76-85 Belville St.||Tenement gutted.|
|18||Van||St. Lawrence, Laurieston||Minor damage to other|
|& East William Streets||tenements.|
|16||2:50||2||Sinclair Street,||Three stacks of timber and|
|Railway Siding||two trucks.|
|17||2:59||1||Ladyburn Engine Shed||Sheds and offices|
|19||3:05||1||1st.||Carwood St., East||Several garages and huts|
|T.O.||Crawford St. &||destroyed.|
|20||3:05||2||Border Street.||Fires among debris of two|
|demolished tenement blocks|
|21||3:20||1||Opposite James Watt||False Alarm|
|22||3:22||1||51 Belville St.||Roof.|
|23||3:29||1||Gray Street.||Pair of steel houses|
|24||3:50||1||1||East end Library||Library gutted.|
|25||5:02||1||Robertson Street||Outbreak among wreckage of|
|seven demolished tenements.|
|26||5:42||1||1||Woodhall, Port||Outbreak among wreckages.|
GREENOCK FIRE DEPARTMENT
FIREMASTER'S REPORT AIR RAID 7th. MAY 1941
The Air Raid Warning "Red" was received at 00.26 and the Air Raid message "White" at 03.39.
Incidents. 56 actual incidents were recorded on the tally board at the Fire Brigade Headquarters, but 9 proved to be false alarms, so far as the Fire Service was concerned, probably given with good intent when incendiary bombs were dropped in the area. A number of incidents were not reported until they had received the attention of A.F.S. units already engaged in the area, a number were dealt with by wardens, fire watchers, etc., and a number burned out without attention.
Details of Raid. In the very early stages of the raid a stick of high explosive
bombs struck the Ardgowan Distillery and fired a warehouse containing about three million
gallons of whiskey. A tremendous body of fire was almost immediately generated and, from
this time on, the area was systematically bombed, many neighbouring premises being set on
fire. The Fire service was powerless to control the initial fire, in the circumstances,
and the situation rapidly depreciated as succeeding buildings were fired. The raid then
became more widespread and a serious fire situation developed.
For the purpose of dealing with the fires, operations were organised in three main areas, namely:-
(1) Baker Street to Cartsburn Street, and from the Victoria Harbour to the railway behind the Distillery. In all, an area of about 600 yards by 300 yards.
(2) About 250 yards of Cathcart Street and turnings off, and Brymner Street.
(3) Belville Street area.
There were numerous other individual fires if varying size scattered over the town, and the most serious, probably, involved three floors of a section of the Municipal Buildings.
Area (1) was later divided into two sub areas and the premises destroyed or severely damaged by fire included
Railway yard and various stores.
Electricity Power Station. Distribution gear.
Shops and tenements.
(1b) Engineering Works.
Church and Chapel.
Shops and tenements.
Area (2) involved about 27 blocks of shops, offices and dwellings, a provision warehouse, paint store, contractors premises, restaurant, bank, two chandler's premises, hotel, etc.
Area (3) was comprised entirely of tenements.
Details of the individual fires are given on the attached list.
Water Supplies. In the early stages of the raid, the water mains were so badly damaged as to be useless for the larger areas of fire and it was necessary to relay water from the harbours and from aqueducts at the back of the town. Distances between water supplies and vital points at fires were as follows:-
|Distillery area||600, 400, 200 and 200 yards|
|Belville Street area||750 yards|
|Cathcart Street area||400 and 300 yards|
|Municipal Buildings||300 yards|
|Main Street area||200 yards|
Two of the earmarked supplementary water supplies were brought into use. These were fed by water sent down aqueducts from the Corporation's reservoirs to the south of the town and the Water Department quickly put this supply into operation when requested. It is interesting to note that for the second night following, even the supplementary supply in the vital spot was damaged by high explosive bombs. On this occasion, blast wrecked garages, through the rear walls of which holes had previously been made for suction hose.
Reinforcements. As soon as it was apparent that a heavy raid had developed,
assistance was requested of the Area Officer. Owing to damage to telephone lines, it took
10 minutes to make the first call and during this period it became necessary to increase
the number of pumps called for from 10 to 30. This message was completed at 01.40.
At 02.50 a further 20 pumps were called for, after which reinforcements were built up to a final total of 92 pumps and 100 men without pumps were ordered on from Edinburgh.
Reinforcements arrived in a steady flow between 02.40 and 08.45. They were handled fairly well and the crews worked hard to give the local Service all possible assistance. Owing to the geographical situation of the town, reinforcements must, of course, take some while to arrive and it appeared, at one time, that the town might be more severely damaged for want of pumps at hand. Practically a third of the reinforcing pumps were light and were of limited use in dealing with fires which had assumed large proportions. Furthermore the quantity of hose carried with light pumps is totally inadequate in a "blitz" area.
Only 31 of the 92 reinforcing pump crews brought Nominal Roll forms and this was responsible for some slight delay at the reception bases.
Special Officers. At 02.05 three "Special Officers" were called for
and sent on from Glasgow. These were put in charge of the Cathcart Street, Main Street and
Belville Street operations and rendered invaluable service.
The Firemasters from Glasgow, Paisley and Johnstone also attend and offered their services, which were gladly accepted for the Municipal Buildings, Distillery and Victoria Harbour (1b) areas respectively.
The "Special Officers" were relieved at about 12.00 by three further officers who were, in turn, relieved at about 23.00. The Special Officers on duty the night following the raid were relieved and returned to Glasgow immediately it was known that a raid had taken place there.
Fire Fighting. Having regard to all circumstances, particularly the lack of
pumps and manpower at a critical period, the lack of pressure water supplies and the
intensity of the raid, the fires were, generally, well handled and some very good
Unfortunately, some calls were received when there were no pumps to dispatch and it was necessary to await the return of a local pump or the arrival of a reinforcing pump before attention could be given.
When the Municipal Buildings were on fire it was necessary to use half the communication staff, the maintenance staff, sailors and civilians for fire fighting operations.
However, when the raid was over, progress in controlling the fires was rapid and I was able to report to the District Commissioner, at 10.15, that the fires were well in hand and should be blacked out before the following night. Apart from the spasmodic outbreaks and a small section of the distillery this was possible.
Reliefs. With the fires under control, reliefs were planned and effected on the following lines.
From 09.00 - As and when pump crews reported back at a station they were relieved.
Reinforcing crews sent home. Local men sent home - full-time day watch for two hours -
night watch until 18.00
12.00 The Edinburgh contingent arrived about mid-day and were used to relieve all pump crews at fires. The men relieved were treated as those above.
18.00 The full-time night watch and a number of part-time volunteers relieved the Edinburgh contingent, which was then billeted at a local drill hall for the night.
08.00 The full-time day watch and naval 8/5/40 detachments relieved the night men and the Edinburgh contingent was sent home.
Excepting for reinforcements standing by in case of a further raid, the local Service, assisted naval ratings, took over all fire operations as from 18.00 on the day of the raid.
Preparation for the raid the following night. Owing to the need for retaining pumps at work relaying water to cooling down operations and to some being out of commission, it was not possible to release 20 of the reinforcing pumps on the day of the raid and only a few of the local pumps were back in commission before nightfall. Consequently, I applied to the Area Officer for 10 pumps, with skeleton crews, to stand by in various stations ready for service should a raid develop the following night. These pumps and men were returned to Glasgow immediately after the "all clear" the following morning.
Communications. The telephone service was of negligible value during the raid.
Telephonic communication with the auxiliary station nearest to the main fire area failed
completely at about 01.45.
At about this time all telephones failed, to be restored and fail again later.
At no time was it possible to contact the Area Officer direct. Messages had to be relayed, via Millport, and were confirmed by despatch rider
The Post Office staff operated from an emergency exchange and for a while could make a call to the Fire Control but not receive one. During this phase messengers conveyed messages to the exchange.
The messenger service and motor cycle despatch riders did invaluable work.
Petrol and Oil. Petrol and oil supplies were maintained and no pump was allowed to stop for want of same. There was, however, a difficult period when all supplementary transport and spare men had to be utilised for fire fighting and there was also a slight delay in getting the assistance of the local Petroleum Depot staff. Once this was overcome no difficulty was experienced.2,700 gallons of petrol were used.
Naval Assistance. Considerable assistance was obtained from the local Naval Authorities, who readily made the following officers and ratings available for fire brigade work.
|Wednesday||7th May||08.00 to 18.00||200 men|
|Thursday||8th May||08.00 to 18 00||89 men|
|Thursday||8th May||18.00 to 24.00||50 men|
|Friday||9th May||00.00 to 06.00||30 men|
|Friday||9th May||09.35 to 12.00||20 men|
|Friday||9th May||13.00 to 18.00||17 men|
Fire Float. For the second night in succession, the fire float did good work in relaying water into the town.
Casualties. It is with regret that I have to report that Patrol Officer D.
McKinven was killed on duty aboard the fire float.
Two other part-time members of the service were also killed, but were not on duty.
The following were injured and are detained in hospital:-
R. Smart - Fractured thigh bone.
D. Morrison - Fractured ribs.
N. Lever - Severe burns.
J. Humphreys - Broken leg.
R. Johnstone - Deflated lung and fractured shoulder blade.
S. McCable - Eye injury.
Twelve other men were unfit for duty following the raid, but ten have since resumed duty.
Appliances. Contrary to first beliefs, no pumps or vehicles were destroyed. At
the moment there are eight pumps and three vehicles out of commission, but these are
capable of repair.
When the pumps and vehicles were withdrawn from the fire operations considerable attention was necessary to put then back into commission. The work was quite beyond the Brigade's resources in a short while and I obtained for a day the assistance of eight civilian mechanics from Paisley and three A.F.S. mechanics from Glasgow, through the co-operation of the respective Firemasters.
Tyres suffered severely from broken glass and debris and a number have had to be replaced.
Billeting and Feeding. Tentative plans had been made for the billeting and feeding of reinforcing A.F.S. and A.R.P. personnel but these collapsed, owing to damage to earmarked premises and to all caterers going out of business, due to lack of essential services. Recourse had to be made to mobile canteens and individual help was rendered by Glasgow Fire Department in this connection.
Hose Ramps. It was found that the Government issue of hose ramps and the larger hose ramps made by the Brigade were unsuitable for the large amount of heavy traffic which passed along the main road the following day, and an improved wider ramp is obviously essential.
"Bombed out" Personnel. One of the post "blitz" service problems is the re-housing of "bombed out" Auxiliary Fire Service personnel. An effort is being made to re-house these men in Corporation property and, temporarily, the best possible arrangements for the men are being made at the Auxiliary Fire Stations.
Fire Watchers. I have insufficient evidence to pass a general opinion upon the value of either street fire parties or business premises' fire watchers during this raid. There is evidence that a few premises were undoubtedly saved by fire watchers but beyond that it is not possible to go. It must be borne in mind that a considerable number of high explosive bombs were used and it is doubtful whether the average fire watcher will stand his or her ground in such circumstances.
Military Co-operation. Arrangements have now been made, through the District Commissioner, for the services of 100 soldiers who will be used to the best advantage as street fire watchers in areas where evacuation has taken place.
Conclusion. The local Fire Brigade organisation stood up to the
"blitz" remarkably well. It was overwhelmed by the number and size of the fires
which were started in so short a time, but the organisation did not collapse and when
reinforcements started to arrive the issue was never in doubt.
The control organisation worked smoothly and well and was proved to be capable of dealing with an even greater raid.
A marked feature of the whole experience has been the ready co-operation and willingness to assist on the part of other brigades. In particular, the Firemasters of both Glasgow and Paisley, and the Regional Fire Brigades Inspector, have been most helpful and this has had a decided effect upon the problems facing the local service.
Fire Brigade Headquarters
16th May 1941
|Incident No.||Time of 1st call||Address of Incident||Fire Damage|
|1||1:09||29 Sinclair Street and Quarrier||24 flats burned out at|
|Street.||Sinclair street and 24 at|
|2||1:05||Corner of Lansbury and Cobham||Gas main.|
|3||1:18||Gourock Fire Station.||Regional re-inforcements.|
|4||1:24||Ardgowan Distillery and||See area (1) on page of report.|
|Dellingburn Electricity Works.|
|5||1:29||Forsyth Street.||False alarm.|
|6||1:36||Cook & Blairs, Rue End St.||Public Weighbridge office.|
|7||1:45||Cathcart Square.||Eventually combined with|
|Municipal Buildings fire.|
|8||1:46||Wellpark West Church.||False alarm.|
|9||1:46||Mansionhouse Lane.||See area (2) on page of report.|
|10||1:51||Scottish aviation, Dalrymple St.||One 'plane damaged.|
|11||1:58||G.C.C.S., Terrace Road.||Undertaker's dept., garage and|
|office burned out.|
|12||2:00||Farquhar Road and Mitchell||False alarm.|
|Street, Port Glasgow.|
|13||2:04||Chapel House, Gibshill.||False alarm - blast.|
|14||2:05||Mearns Street and Shaw Place.||Roofs of several tenements.|
|15||2:16||East William and St. Lawrence||See area (3) on page of report.|
|16||2:18||St Lawrence (Boys) School,||No fire at this address - See|
|Belville St.||area (3) on page of report.|
|17||2:19||54 Belville street and Belville||- do -|
|18||2:29||Main Street.C6||Dockyard sawmills and two|
|timber sheds burnt out.|
|Several small fires in shipyard.|
|19||2:30||Sir Michael Street Church.||False alarm.|
|20||2:31||Duff Street.||See area (2) on page of report.|
|21||2:35||Lamonts Dry Dock, East Breast.||Two drifters and joiner's shop|
|22||2:35||Beaton's garage and stables,||Burnt out.|
|23||2:36||Smith's Warehouse, Cathcart Sq.||False alarm.|
|25||2:41||Net Works, lynedoch St. and||Top floor of net store burned|
|Westburn Sugar Refinery.||out.|
|Syrup warehouse, engine shop,|
|raw sugar and char end depts.|
|and coal hopper severely|
|damaged - largely by H.E.|
|26||2:42||Terrace Road.||See area (2) on page of report.|
|27||2:42||112 Cathcart Street.C24||- do -|
|28||2:42||Model lodging House, Sugarhouse||Burnt out.|
|29||2:43||Scott's Foundary.||See area (1) on page of report.|
|30||2:44||25 Auchmountain Road.||Pair of houses burnt out.|
|31||2:44||Mechanics Institute, Sir Michael||Institute and adjoining|
|Street.||mission hall burnt out.|
|32||2:45||G.C.C.S. garage, Mearns Street.||Small quantity hay, straw and|
|33||2:45||Highholm Street, Port Glasgow.||One room burnt out.|
|34||2:50||Ivybank, Port Glasgow.||Roof and bedroom slightly|
|35||2:52||7 Mill Street and Prospecthill St.||Lofts.|
|36||2:55||11 Belville Avenue.||Block of six flats burnt out.|
|37||2:58||Municipal Buildings.||Three floors at front of|
|building also adjoining shop|
|and block of offices burnt out.|
|38||3:00||Fleming Reid's, Drumfrochar Road.||Very slight damage in|
|39||3:00||Alderwood Road, Port Glasgow.||One cottage burnt out.|
|40||3:00||22 Lansbury Street.||False alarm.|
|41||3:01||Shaw Place.C45||Roof of first aid post.|
|42||3:02||Thos. Black & Sons, Cathcart St.||See area (2) on page of report.|
|43||3:02||Broomhill Street.||Fire in wreckage of four|
|44||3:04||Junction of Kilmacolm Road and||Block of four steel houses|
|Strone Cres.||burnt out.|
|45||3:05||Birt's Store, Sir Michael Street||Huts and garage burnt out.|
|46||3:07||Gray Street||Pair of steel houses burnt out.|
|47||3:08||20 Serpentine Walk||Seven blocks of dwelling|
|houses (42) also stables and|
|detached house burnt out.|
|48||3:09||St. Lawrence Chapel, Dellingburn.||See area (1) on page of report.|
|49||3:10||106 Lynedoch Street.||Loft.|
|50||3:15||Dalmally Street.||Two tenements (12 flats).|
|51||3:18||26 Lynedoch Street.||Roof burnt off.|
|52||3:31||McAllister & Fyffe and Boom||See area (2) on page of report.|
|53||3:40||Hillend Drive.||No. 36 burnt out.|
|54||3:52||Lochore & Ferguson, Upper||Upper floor of confectionery|
|Ingleston Street.||works burnt out.|
|55||3:56||Blanche's Public House, Anne||Public house and dwelling|
|Street.||above burnt out.|
|56||3:58||Patterson Bros. Charles Street.||Warehouse burnt out.|
This is a copy of the Firemaster's report typed on 26/10/96 and some of the figures may
not be correct as the original was faint in places.
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