NO MORE FIRE CALLS FOR HIM
FIFTY -ONE-YEAR-OLD Mr. H. S. Shepherd, Station Officer of Mitcham Fire Brigade, slid down the emergency pole on Monday morning but not to answer a call.
It was a farewell gesture.
For when Mr. Shepherd came off duty after a 72-hour spell at 9 a.m., he began his retirement.
He leaves the brigade four years earlier than is necessary. Recent changes in conditions enable officers to retire on pension after 30 years.
Mr. Shepherd was born in Mitcham and joined the brigade when he was 19. Apart from the war years, he has been with it since. In 1926, Mitcham fire brigade consisted of a chief officer, an engineer sub-officer — and Fireman Shepherd.
“The engine was a box on four wheels — but what a machine! It won competitions all over Surrey.”
“It had solid tyres, but it could travel at 45 m.p.h. — faster than engines today, hampered as they are by traffic.”
When there was a fire, a bell, and later a siren, in the Town Hall, called council roadmen and gardeners from their jobs.
They donned uniforms and helmets as the big Merryweather roared down the road.
“Fire-fighting was not as easy then as it is today . . . we had no wireless.”
During the war, Mr. Shepherd worked with the National Fire Service. He was in the thick of the London blitz.
He became Station Officer at Mitcham in 1950.
This week he will be moving with his wife and children (Roger, 10, and Irene, 20) from the station house to the home on the edge of the cricket green, which he has owned for some years.
“I shall take it easy for a bit,” he said.
“And for the first time, 1 won’t have to sleep with the telephone next to my bed.”
On Sunday. Mr. Shepherd was presented with a barometer by members of Mitcham Fire Brigade, and with a gift voucher by the officers.
From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council on 30th July 1912:
To the Fire Brigade Committee,
I beg to report that the Demonstration of the New Petrol Motor Fire Engine, carried out by the Brigade on July 27th under the instructions of Messrs. Merryweather’s representative, was satisfactory in every way, both as regards augmenting the amount of pressure of water available in the mains and also for river work, together with deep suction lifts (see attached figures of tests.)
In view of meeting the capabilities of the new engine I would suggest that additional hose and extra stand-pipes be carried to enable the Brigade to collect the water from a few hydrants when necessary.
It is a pleasure to state that from a practical point of view the Council now possess one of the best combinations of machinery for fire protection that is possible to obtain.
A.L. JENNER, Superintendent
The tests referred to in the minutes above showed that mains pressure, from street hydrants, was 50 lbs per square inch but at the hoses this was reduced to at worse 33 lbs. The new fire engine though brought the pressure up to 200 lbs. When drawing from the river Wandle, with a 10ft. vertical suction lift, 120 to 200 lbs pf pressure was achieved.
It was proposed by Mr J.M. Leather, and seconded by Mr A. Dendy, that the Council write to the Metropolitan water Board to draw their attention to the low pressure in the mains.
The Fire Brigade Committee recommended that the current steam fire engine be sold, with adverts placed in the “West Sussex Gazette”, “The Fireman” and other suitable papers.
Mr E.E. Mizen proposed that an additional £20 be added to the fire brigade budget for the new hose and stand-pipes suggested by the superintendent. He noted that this would bring said budget up to £290.
The Clerk reported that after the demonstration, the members of the Council, the two Fire Brigades and the Superintendents of several of the neighbouring Brigades, were entertained with a substantial meal at the Vestry Hall.
In the report to the Finance Committee, a cheque for £224 15s. was paid to Merryweather & Son for the motor engine.
Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Parish Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.