RCS Motor Club

LP8389 in London

On 19th October 1915 the London County Council agreed the expenditure £22,840 for 10 motor pumps (£975 each) and 17 Motor Escape Vans (£770 each). At the time, this was the brigades’ largest order of fire engines (motorised or otherwise), and it included LP8389. On 25th January 1916, the Council would approve the expenditure for the next 20 Dennis fire engines (10MPs, 10 MEVs), in advance of the original plan; it is uncertain exactly what the reasoning behind this was, but the air raids are likely to have influenced their decision.

There were some issues with the delivery of these fire engines because the Ministry of Supply were reserving materials for the war effort. However after repeated requests from the LFB and LCC, the deliveries progressed. Dennis had reserved sufficient Bosch waterproof ignition systems (preferred by the LFB) for the batch, but some failed to meet the specification in other ways. For example LP8389 was delivered with linoleum floor coverings, as opposed to the aluminium diamond pattern, because this material was not being released by the Ministry of Supply.

LP8389 was delivered on 16th April 1916 and initially posted to Vauxhall fire station, under the threat of Zeppelin raids. LP8389 was given the appliance number 66, with LP8372 (appliance 263) being posted there at the same time. This pair of appliances took the place of the steam fire engine and escape van at Vauxhall. Appliance 66 was the pump for the station and appliance 263 was the motor escape van. Until the 1930s, it was usual for a station to have two appliances, one was the pump (carrying hook and scaling ladders) and the other had only a 50 gallon tank with a small pump and carried the 50ft wheeled escape ladder.

On Tuesday 28th November 1916, Chelsea was heavily bombed in the first airplane raid (as opposed to Zeppelin raid) on Britain by a German LGV C.IV seaplane. This caused extensive damage and 10 people were injured. In excess of 35 calls were made to the Fire Brigade, and it is probable LP8389 attended these incidents.

It is likely LP8389 was still at Vauxhall Fire Station on 30th January 1918, because the next motor pump recorded at Vauxhall was a 1918 Leyland which was not delivered to the London Fire Brigade until March. This was the date of the Albert Embankment disaster, an unimportant fire that is noteworthy because it caused the greatest loss of brigade life (outside World War II) to date. The appliance of Vauxhall fire station attended a fire at Branton’s cattle market during dense fog at 4am, when the fire had been raging for some considerable time. A collapsing wall caused the death of the following 7 firemen, and injured many others.

  • Sub officer W W Hall (Vauxhall)
  • Sub officer W E Cornford (Clapham Old Town)
  • Fireman A A Page (Vauxhall)
  • Fireman E H Fairbrother (Kennington)
  • Fireman J W C Johnson (Kennington)
  • Fireman (Coachman) W E Nash (Kennington)
  • Fireman J E Fay (Kennington)

Report from the Superintendent

Loss of Life at a Fire Collapse of Building

I submit that at 3-44 a.m of this date a call was received by stranger to a private house alight at Albert Embankment, S.E., to which Motor Escape, Motor Pump and 10 men from No.94. Station Vauxhall and Motor Pump and 6 men from No.87. station Kennington responded.

At 3-55 a.m., a “home call” message was received, viz:- It is a building of three floors about 40 x 40 ft. used as Pepper Mills alight, one hydrant in use. No.3. Westminster Motor Pump and 6 men were ordered and I attended with No.80. Motor Car and 2 men.

On my arrival I found the upper floors of abuilding of three floors about 45 x 30 ft. (used as cattle food manufacturers) well alight, and part of roof and upper floor had fallen in. The fire was practically extinquished by the use of two hydrants and 1 Motor Pump and the stop sent back accordingly.

At 5-34 a.m., owing to a considerable amount of turning over to be done, a message was dispatched to the effect that appliances would be detained for a time and a few minutes later another message asking for a Sub-officer and four men to be sent on with a view to the appliances and myself returning home.

At about 5-45 a.m. I was on the ground floor and in consequence of hearing a cracking noise, cleared everyone out of the building. Owing to the ground mist and smoke, the front of the building was hardly discernible, a hydrant was still being used up the Escape, I went to the front of the building with the men with a view of making up and removing the Escape, when suddenly I heard Sub-officer Cornford call out “Look out Sir” and saw the building collapsing. I called out “drop everything and run”, but was knocked down by the falling debris and part of the Escape, being subsequently extricated by our men from amongst the debris. On making enquiry, I found that a message to the effect that the building had collapsed and that several of our men were buried and ambulances were requires had been sent back. I gave instructions for the debris to be searched for the bodies of our men, then saw the Divisional Officer South who, on hearing of the nature of my injuries ordered me home. I have since been examined by the District Medical Officer, and placed on the sick list, nature of illness “Injury to Legs”.

I regret to have to report the undermentioned casualties:

KILLED:-

No.100. Sub-officer W.E.Cornford – No.80 Clapham.

No.616. Fireman K.J.Fairbrother – No.87 Kennington.

No.718. ” W.E.Nash – No.87 Kennington.

No.944. ” J.W.C.Johnson – No.94 Vauxhall.

No.1087. ” A.A.Page – No.94 Vauxhall.

No.1174.Temp.Fireman J.E.Fay – No.87 Kennington

SEVERELY INJURED:-

No.151. Sub-Officer W.W.Hall – No.94 Vauxhall.

since dead.

INJURED:-

Superintedent J.Barrows. – “E” District.

Station-Officer E.Partner – No.87. Kennington.

(Signed) ……..J.BARROWS

Further from Vauxhall

Vauxhall fire station became disused in 1937, when the new London Fire Brigade headquarters building opened on Albert Embankment, although it was briefly reopened in World War II. It was demolished in the late 1970s when the area was regenerated and there is now a Texaco garage standing in the approximate position of the fire station.

LP8389 moved from Vauxhall to Pageants Wharf. The exact date is uncertain. However, on 27th February 1919 she collided with a carriers van in Rotherhithe Street, and is recorded in the accident log as being based at Pageants Wharf.

Pageants Wharf was a station on Rotherhithe Street in Surrey Commercial Docks. The docks were within reach of a number of other fire stations, but due to the swing bridges they were effectively an island and it could take considerable time for appliances to make their way to fires there. The area did not have many tall buildings, and the majority of residences were on Rotherhithe Street, and so there was no motor escape van. An escape ladder would have to be wheeled by hand from the station to rescue people where the ladders carried by LP8389 were insufficient. Whilst at Pageants Wharf, LP8389 would have had to display a tax disk (this was introduced in 1924), and she had electric sidelights fitted in ca. 1930.

In 1930 LP8389 was renumbered from pump 66 to appliance 28P, and she still bears this mark if you know where to look.

Pageants Wharf fire station was in use until 1968, but was then disused for a long period before being converted into flats.

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Email: jez@imperial.ac.uk
Write: RCS Motor Club c/o Student Activities Centre, Imperial College Union, Beit Quad, Prince Consort Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2BB
Tel: +44 (0)20 759 48085 Not always attended
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