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World War 2 | Fire Heritage Network UK

World War 2

There were no specific medals struck for members of the Fire Service during World War II, but all of those who served for the qualifying period were eligible to be awarded The Defence Medal.  Unusually, members of one specific fire service group, the ‘Overseas Contingent’, were awarded the France and Germany Campaign Star, which was issued in the main to military personnel who saw action in this particular theatre of war.  The ‘Overseas Contingent’ was created to provide specially trained members of the National Fire Service (NFS) formed up into columns to follow military units as they progressed into Germany after D Day.  Only one of the 5 Columns originally formed was actually mobilised and they did eventually travel as far as Berlin.  A total of 443 France and Germany Stars were awarded to members of the ‘No 4 Column’ together with 441 1939-1945 War Medals (2 members did not complete the qualifying period).  It is also recorded that one fire officer, Divisional Officer T Goodman, who was sent as an adviser to Malta was awarded the Italy Star. He was later also awarded the KPFSM for gallantry for his actions in dealing with a ship fire in the North sea. There may be other single secondments of this type that qualified for a Campaign Star.

An unusual gallantry award was given to Sub Officer John May who made 3 trips to Dunkirk with the London Fire Brigade ‘Massey Shaw’.  He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.  Two other auxiliary firemen members of the crew, Henry Wray and Edmond Wright, were Mentioned in Dispatches.

 

George Cross and George Medal

The George Cross (GC) and the George Medal (GM), originally introduced in September 1940 could be awarded to members of the fire service and several such awards were made during the blitz period of World War II. The first was awarded to Station Officer William Mosedale, Birmingham Fire Brigade, on 28 March 1941. The first members of the British Fire Service to be awarded the George Medal were Fireman Jack Owens of Kingston-Upon-Hull Fire Brigade and Leading Auxiliary Fireman Cliff Turner of the Hull Auxiliary Fire Service for their actions at a petrol storage depot at Hedon, near Kingston-Upon-Hull during an air raid on 1 July 1940.  Both of these medals may still be awarded to members of the Fire and Rescue Service.

 

Kings Commendation for Brave Conduct

First introduced to recognise brave actions that did not meet the higher criteria for the award of any medal during World War Two, but subsequently used after that period.  Records of such awards have so far proved difficult to trace.  The award was denoted by the wearing of an emblem of silver laurel leaves, which if awarded to a recipient of The Defence Medal would be worn on the ribbon of that medal, otherwise directly onto the uniform jacket.

 

Awards for Gallantry for Members of the British Fire Service During World War II 

Award Regular Brigade AFS Men AFS Women NFS Men NFS Women Total
George Cross 1 1 0 0 0 2
George Medal 44 41 1 4 0 90
CBE 1 0 0 0 0 1
OBE 1 0 0 4 0 5
MBE 20 2 0 5 0 27
BEM (Incl 1 Bar) 61 81 18 27 4 191
Kings Commendation for Brave Conduct 98 193 37 48 4 380
Total 226 318 56 88 8 696

 

The above awards represent actions at 370 separate incidents.

The following gallantry awards were made to members of the British Fire Service under the age of 20, the men being messengers and the women being telephonists.

 

Age Men Women
15 1 Kings Commendation (Posthumous)
16 6 BEM, 2 Kings Commendation
17 2 BEM, 4 Kings Commendation
18 6 Kings Commendation 2 BEM
19 2 BEM, 1 Kings Commendation 1 BEM, 5 Kings Commendation

 

Total:  16 BEM, 19 Kings Commendation

 

The Kings Badge

In February 1945 it was announced that a ‘Kings Badge’ had been introduced for issue to members of the Fire Service who had served from the outbreak of hostilities on 3 September 1939 and who had been awarded a pension or other award in respect of an injury sustained in the execution of duty without self fault and that the injury had resulted in that person having to cease to be a member of the Fire Service.  The qualifying period ceased on the cessation of hostilities in Europe (VE Day) on 8 May 1945.  (The badge was also available to all qualifying members of any designated Civil Defence organisation).

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