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The 1950s to Modern Times
Callout Systems
The Broadway brigade had never had a very effective system for calling out the crew. In the early days there was a hand operated bell on the roof of the fire station which was, later, replaced by a small siren on the police station. Neither system proved to be very effective.
In July 1948, another siren to call out the crew was delivered. This was fitted to a chimney on the roof of Gordon Russell's furniture factory. The site was probably chosen because of its central position, and the availability of a 415 volt three-phase electrical supply which was needed to power it. The siren was of a type similar to those used to warn of air raids during the Second World War. It was, in fact, capable of being switched to 'wail' in the way that sirens had prior to an air raid. But only the single, steady, 'all clear' signal was ever used by the fire brigade. Electrical heaters were built in to the siren to prevent it freezing in the winter. It was powerful enough to be heard, indoors, all over the village. In addition, bells were installed in the firemen's houses. These were controlled by G.P.O. telephone lines, were sounded simultaneously with the siren, and were loud enough to wake the whole household, (and often the next door neighbours too).

Unfortunately, at about this time the telephone exchange at Broadway was changed to an automatic one, and it was not technically possible to operate the siren and bells remotely from the nearest manned exchange at Evesham where 999 calls would have been received.
The problem was solved with the help of The Lygon Arms Hotel, which was situated almost next door to the factory where the siren was located. Their switchboard was staffed twenty-four hours a day, so fire calls were diverted to them, and they were able to switch the siren on from there.

A siren similar to the one in use at Broadway after 1948
A few years later equipment was introduced to allow the siren and bells at Broadway to be controlled remotely from the continuously manned watch-room at Evesham fire station. Despite the problems with this system, for the first time, the village's brigade had a successful method of calling out the crew in the event of fire. Not until April 1968 was equipment installed which enabled the siren and house bells at Broadway to be operated directly from the fire control room at Worcester.

In January 1971 members of the crew at Broadway were issued with radio pagers. The pagers were, and still are, known in the Fire Brigade as personal alerters. For many years the crew referred to them, simply, as ‘Bleeps’. The radio signal to sound the alerters, and call the crew, was transmitted from equipment installed at the fire station. This transmitter was operated by Fire Brigade Control, at Worcester, using Post Office telephone lines.

This system of calling out the brigade was a remarkable improvement on the siren and house bells. Although bulky by modern standards, the Pye alerters were small enough to be fitted into a top pocket; although it was more usual for them to be clipped to the trouser belt. At night they were slipped into a battery charger by the bedside. The fire call was an intermittent bleep tone, and the test was a continuous tone, both of which sounded for about sixty seconds. As it was not possible to operate the test call from the control room at Worcester, a fire call was sounded at exactly 08.00hrs every day, except Sundays, in order to ensure the equipment was working. Although pagers are now commonplace they were quite a rare item when first issued in the 1970s, and for many years firemen were regularly asked by inquisitive members of the public to explain their purpose. In 1986 the Pye alerters were withdrawn and smaller ones, supplied by Multitone, were issued. These were replaced, ten years later, with NEC pagers, which were only a quarter of the size of the original Pye model.


As early as 1951 the Worcester City & County brigade had two way wireless sets installed in a few vehicles, and in their control room. But radio equipment was not fitted to the Broadway appliance until 1966. At first the brigade used the same frequency as the Worcestershire police, so when calling the control room the mobile would ask for ‘YKA’, (the police being ‘YK’). The Broadway water tender’s call sign was ‘48’ up until 1974 when it changed to '303' ('three zero' denoted the station number, and 'three' identified the appliance as a water tender).
Wireless communication provided another great advance in the efficiency of the fire brigade. When at an incident it was no longer necessary to find a telephone in order to send information to Brigade Control and, more importantly, assistance could be ordered without delay.


Ever since the formation of the Broadway fire brigade in the 19th Century, lack of training had been seen as a problem. Drills and practices were only held on rare occasions. The Parish Council’s recommendation, in 1919, that three practices should be held each year, gives some idea of the poor standard of training in the early days.

Soon after the Second World War the principle of weekly, two hour, practice sessions for retained crews was firmly established nationally. Initially, at Broadway, these were held every Sunday morning from 10.00 until 12.00. The crew used the time to maintain and test the equipment. Occasionally they would travel to Evesham fire station to listen to lectures. Nationally, competitions and exercises were organised to encourage stations to improve their training standards. The Broadway crew attended many of these. Most notable of which was "Exercise Grand Slam", which was held on Sunday 2nd November 1952 near Oldbury. The object was to simulate atomic warfare conditions, and all available appliances and personnel took part in an exercise which lasted nine hours.
Proper training became increasingly important as the equipment used by the brigade became more and more sophisticated. Up until the early 1970s most of the gear carried on the fire appliance was very basic, and was purely for fire fighting. There was little equipment used at that time which would have been unfamiliar to a pre-war fireman. The rescue equipment carried was crude, and consisted of crow bars, a hammer, cold chisels and hacksaw. Breathing apparatus was introduced to the Broadway appliance in 1974, but it was many years before all members of the crew were trained to wear it.

Broadway fire station has never had a drill tower, so ladder training has always been difficult. In order to be proficient with the 10.5 metre ladder, and in later years with the much heavier 13.5 metre ladder, it has been necessary to find somewhere to fully extend them. The lack of a tower has meant ladder practice has been carried out either at Gordon Russell's factory or some other suitably high building. This is no substitute for a custom built tower and, in any case, the use of these other sites has been restricted in recent years due to insurance and safety considerations.

The crew from Broadway taking part in a high expansion foam exercise at Evesham fire station in 1977
Attempts by the Brigade to provide a drill tower for Broadway fire station have been viewed unfavourably. The idea has been opposed by the Parish Council, with aesthetics apparently being deemed, by some, more important than a proper training facility.

To check the crew's speed of response to fire calls they were, in the 1950s, ‘60s and early ‘70s, subjected to a test turnout every few months. A senior officer would attend the fire station, often around midnight, and order the control staff to operate the siren and bells. Using a stop watch he would then note the time it took for the crew to attend the station, and to drive the fire engine on to the forecourt with the crew on-board. Even at night, times as short as 3 minutes 30 seconds were not unusual. Test turnouts were discontinued in 1973 as, presumably, the better monitoring of turnout times by Fire Control would have shown up any problems.

The Fire Station

In 1964 the original fire station, built in 1898, and extended in 1952, was demolished to make way for a larger building to accommodate the Dennis water tender which had been assigned to Broadway. The new station was a very simple, flat roof construction, consisting of a bay for the fire engine and a small room at the rear for use as office, lecture room and watch room. Electric storage radiators provided heating, and lighting was from ordinary tungsten bulbs. Originally, there was no mains water on the premises apart from a tap on the forecourt. As well as the County Brigade carrying out improvements over the years, the crew have done what they can, themselves, to improve life at the station. They installed fluorescent lighting, supplied curtains and carpet for the watch room, and carried out regular painting and re-decorating. The area around the station was concreted by contractors in order to provide car parking for the crew, and somewhere for them to practice.

Broadway fire station and Dennis Water Tender in 1967.
This area was enlarged, later, on the recreation ground side of the station, to provide more parking. A toilet, washing area and shower were added in the late 1970s. Prior to this the crew used the public toilet facilities in the nearby recreation ground. Although, obviously, an improvement on the original 1898 fire station, the new building has never been considered suitable, and is now well overdue for replacement.

Fire Appliances

In 1939 the Broadway brigade had been supplied by the Home Office with a trailer pump, which remained in service after the war. The pump carried no water but was either supplied from a hydrant or drew water from any nearby pond or stream. It was hauled to fires, as stated earlier, by Steward’s builders lorry until sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. At that time the fire station was enlarged to accommodate the auxiliary towing vehicle (ATV) assigned to Broadway.

The auxiliary towing vehicles had been built during the Second World War, to Home Office specifications, to haul the huge number of trailer pumps supplied to fire brigades at that time. It had been expected that private vehicles would be pressed into service to haul the pumps, but when this proved not to be the case the Home Office ordered the construction of a fleet of towing vehicles. They were built on the Austin K2 chassis with a six cylinder, twenty-four horse power engine. A ladder was carried on the roof of the van body. There were lockers inside where equipment was stored, and benches to seat the crew. A canvas sheet closed the back in bad weather.
Some of the ATVs, including Broadway’s, were later fitted with a one-hundred gallon water tank, pump and a hose reel. This made it possible to get water on to a fire immediately, without having to connect into a hydrant. The hose reel jet is, to this day, the quickest and most effective way of fighting most smaller fires.

The Dennis SS which was stationed at Broadway from 1985

In 1965 the Broadway crew received their first water tender (modern fire engine). Carrying four hundred gallons of water, and fitted with a pump capable of delivering over four hundred gallons per minute it was a considerable improvement on the auxiliary towing vehicle and trailer pump. Built around 1955 by Dennis, it was powered by a Rolls Royce petrol engine, had a crash gear box, and carried the registration number NFK 705.
In 1976 it was replaced by a nine year old Bedford, and some years later that in turn was replaced by a 1974 ACB Angus on a Ford chassis.

The brigade’s policy of keeping older appliances on small retained stations was completely reversed in 1985 when Broadway received, as did many other small stations in the Brigade, a brand new Dennis SS. The Dennis, registration number B361FAB, was fitted with an automatic gearbox and anti-lock brakes,
and represented the very best of fire appliance design. This appliance, having covered only thirteen thousand miles, and in excellent mechanical order, was replaced in 1998 with one which was built two years later but with over fifty thousand miles on the clock. This was in line with the brigade’s then current policy of automatically replacing appliances when they reach a certain age.

Officers in Charge

At some time during the Second World War the officer in charge of the Broadway brigade became known as Leading Fireman instead of Captain. The change probably came about with the formation of the National Fire Service in 1941.
When the Broadway brigade became part of the Worcester City & County Brigade in 1948 its Leading Fireman was Frank Turner, whose full time job was at Gordon Russell's furniture factory.
It is worth noting at this point that in the period since the Second World War, the majority of men (to date there have been no woman)* who have been crew members, and who have provided twenty-four hour cover, have been employees of Gordon Russell Ltd. It is thanks to that company's willingness to let crew members leave their work to attend incidents that there has been such a high level of fire cover in the village. Sadly, the trend for people to work away from the village has made it increasingly difficult to recruit crew members able to provide cover during the day time.

Frank Turner served as officer in charge at Broadway until he retired from the brigade in July 1961.
Reg Diston, who had been a brigade member since soon after the Second World War, was then promoted to Leading Fireman. He remained in charge of the station until his retirement from the service in 1969.

When Roy Ingles became the next Leading Fireman he was, at twenty-five years of age, probably the youngest ever officer to have been in charge of the station at Broadway, or indeed, any station. This was in keeping with the youth of the rest of the crew in the early 1970s. In 1973 only two of the nine crew members were over thirty, the oldest being only thirty-six.
Roy was an enthusiastic officer who did a lot to improve the efficiency and the image of the Broadway brigade. He expected a high standard from his crew, and continually sought to obtain better equipment and facilities.

The greatest problem he and the Broadway crew had to cope with was the twenty year old Dennis fire engine, which was outdated, even by the standards of the time. It had on one occasion, when turning out to a fire, to be pushed down the lane by the crew in order to start its engine.

Reg Diston was Leading Fireman at
Broadway during the 1960s
Roy was determined to remedy this situation. He had no success through the usual channels, so during a social gathering at Evesham fire station one Saturday evening he put his case, forcefully, to the Brigade's Chief Fire Officer, Mr Doyle. Within a few days the Dennis had been replaced with much more modern appliance.

When Roy left the Brigade around 1990 his place as officer in charge was taken by Frank Trowman. Frank followed Roy's example, and maintained high standards at the station. After about eight years in the post, and twenty-six years as a fire-fighter, Frank decided to leave the brigade in order to take life easier. Sadly, only two years later in February 2000, he lost his life in a motorcycle accident on Fish Hill.


The standard of fire appliances and equipment supplied to Broadway’s fire fighters, as with the rest of the Brigade and, indeed, nationally, continued to improve through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Much greater emphasis was placed on the personal safety of the fire-fighter, and on training the crew to use the ever more complex equipment. Up until the early 1970s the only protection, available to the Broadway crew, against smoke inhalation were Second World War gas masks. It was quite normal for crews to work for hours whilst breathing-in smoke. It would now be unthinkable for a fire-fighter to enter a burning building, or any other smoky atmosphere, without breathing apparatus.
As stated earlier, victims of road traffic accidents were extricated using crowbars, hacksaws, cold chisels and lump hammers, where now, every front line appliance carries hydraulic cutting and jacking gear.
Communications have been revolutionised by the introduction of portable radios and an on-board computer. Modern fire appliances carry a huge array of lighting equipment; everything from hand held torches to halogen lamps powered by 110volt generators. Foam for fighting oil fires is carried on most pumps, and can be generated quickly when required. Water remains the main medium for extinguishing fires, but pumps hose and branches have been greatly refined and improved over the years.
*My comment regarding the absence of women serving in the Broadway Brigade was true when this history was written in the 1990s. However, it's pleasing to note that a number of female fire fighters have joined the ranks at Broadway since 2003.

Also, throughout this history I make reference to 'Fireman' or 'Firemen', rather than the now universal term, 'Fire-fighter'. The more modern expression acknowledges, correctly, that fire-fighters are of either gender. I have simply used the term which was current during the era I happen to be discussing, and do not intend any disrespect to modern day crew members. Similarly, since this history was written, other terms have changed. For example, the acronym 'RTA' (Road Traffic Accident) has been superseded by 'RTC', but I believe it is not always helpful to continually edit in order keep pace with changing labels.