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Blazing days of wartime heroes recalled

PUBLISHED: 22:02 13 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:39 03 March 2010

MEMORIES of dodging bombs in the line of duty and working for as long as three days without a break came flooding back for four Ipswich firemen who were reunited after more than 30 years.

MEMORIES of dodging bombs in the line of duty and working for as long as three days without a break came flooding back for four Ipswich firemen who were reunited after more than 30 years.

Bill Read had organised the reunion for those who had served during the wartime years after attending the recent funeral of a colleague.

The 90-year-old managed to track down eight of his former fellow firefighters and three of them managed to make it to the informal reunion.

Mr Read, of Martin Road, was joined by Bill Moore, of Risby Close, Ernie Caddick, 93, of Cobbold Street, and Mr Catling, of Bramford Road, who at 78 was the baby of the bunch.

Mr Read said: "It's been really interesting. We've been talking about all that happened during the war and what we got up to.

"I enjoyed every minute of being in the fire service. I had good colleagues and we worked well together. I'm not going to say we didn't have our differences but we got through."

All four of the group served for the Ipswich unit between 1939 and 1948 – although some were also firemen before and after the war.

Mr Moore, 89, joined the Ipswich force when it was based in Bond Street in 1938 and served until 1968.

One of his most vivid memories of his wartime service was tackling a fire at a London oil refinery. His unit was on standby at Brentwood when the call came in and he was one of the first firefighters at the scene.

"I worked for 72 hours without a break or a meal," he recalled. "It was in 1941 and we were being bombed continuously.

"By the time I finished there were 2,000 men fighting the fire."

"It was that particular fire that caused my disability," he added. "The discs in the bottom of my spine have been burned out and the nerves in my left leg are trapped."

Firefighters during the war worked for £4 a week, often not knowing whereabouts in the country they would be sent or when they would be home. And many people did not realise they were providing a public service.

Mr Moore recalled a farm fire near Stowmarket in which the farmer lost livestock and farm buildings.

He said: "It's surprising how little the public knew about the service.

"When I saw this farmer he asked how much it was going to cost him, because there had been so many firefighters there. I told him it would cost him nothing. He couldn't believe it."

All four who attended the reunion look back upon their firefighting war years with fondness.

Mr Moore said: "They were good years of experience."

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