After the Merryweather "Dreadnought" motor fire engine of 1910, the town has continued to keep "up-to-date" with fire engines, and today continues to be served
by a dedicated group of "Retained" firefighters.
In 1924 the town took possession of its first motorised engine, a Leyland, which it proudly named "John o' Gaunt". (I understand that this was paid for
by Mr Sperrier of Stype Grange). This vehicle was originally fitted with sold tyres.
In 1932, Stype Grange was destroyed by fire in suspicious circumstances. It is said that the fire may have been caused by the butler.
Also in 1932, the NWN reported that "Damage was caused to office equipment when fire broke out in he workshop of Mr G Willis, plumber of Eddington. Mr Willis
is himself a fireman."
In 1934 the Leyland fire engine was converted to pneumatic tyres, which increased its top speed to 50mph.
In July 1938 the Government created the Auxiliary Fire Service
(AFS) to augment the fire brigade in wartime. These part-time fireman were recognised by the issue of a lapel badge first issued in August 1938 after completion of sixty hours training, reduced in June 1939 to one month of membership. The badge was made of sterling silver until June 1939 when it became white metal.
The adjacent photographs show the Hungerford AFS in Barr's Yard in their latest fast response vehicle. Jack Williams remembered this as a "Ford V8 Pilot", but Roger Mardon (a fire service historican from Canterbury) kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (Aug 2012) pointing out that the "V8 Pilot" was not introduced until 1947, and that the vehicle appears to be a Ford Model 48 Roadster, a model introduced in 1935. The registration ABL 481 was registered in 1936. The photographs probably date from 1938-41.
The driver is Tom Cox; Officer in Charge Jack Brewer; in the rear seat are Jack Sadler and Bert Wyatt; standing is Tup Lambourne, and in the rear seat is Charles Williams.
In 1941, this was taken over by the National Fire Service.
The Hungerford crew were often sent outside the town to assist in major fires as a result of the blitz, for example west to Bath, and south to the major Fawley
The Austin fire engine, GLE 973, 1942: Hungerford's next new fire engine was an Austin, built in 1942. It acquired
the name "John o' Gaunt II", the name plate being transferred from its predecessor, the 1924 Leyland.
In the late 1940s the National Fire Service was split into many county-based fire services, and Hungerford's service became under the control of the
Berkshire Fire Service.
The NWN of 2 Nov 1950 reported "After 34 years with the service, Mr George Willis, officer in charge of Hungerford Fire Station since 1943, is retiring
shortly. When he joined in 1916 they had a Merryweather steamer which took 20 minutes to get up sufficient pressure to start the engine. Mr Willis became chief engineer in 1935".
Jack Williams joined the brigade in 1951, and remembers that the Austin was in use until c1965.
Mr Mick Paul, who bought it in 1980, and restored it, wrote:
was built in June 1942 by the Austin Motor Co of Longbridge, Birmingham and supplied to a body builder in chassis scutle form where it was fitted with a fire engine body built to a home
office "heavy pump unit" design. It was fitted with a Tangy 700 G.P.M. pump and a Ford 78 petrol engine.
On completion it was issued to No 15 fire force of the N.F.S. its station is
unknown after the war it passed to the newly formed Berkshire & Reading fire brigade who rebuilt it for peace time use in their workshops. The large Tangy pump was removed and a pump
from a Dennis trailer pump was fitted and driven via a Martin Harper transfer box from the road engine.
A hose reel and 120 gal water tank were fitted in what was the crew cab a
panel containing a tank filler five way valve and throttle control was fitted to the front near side where the lockers used to be and was fed by a small gear type pump fitted to the gear
box. (Incidentally this kit of parts was marketed by various manufactures as a means of converting war time auxiliary towing vehicles into hose reel tenders).
As the appliance was
now minus its crew cab, the sides were built up to offer some protection on the lines of the pre-war new world design. The hand operated bell was moved from the roof of the crew cab and
fitted to the near side by the officer in charge. This was operated through the cab side window. This also had the effect of reducing the height of the appliance by about six inches. Two
orange flashers and a small electric bell completed its rebuild.
The only other modifications was red paint to replace the war time grey, chrome plate on the brass work and an
Ajax ladder to replace the home office pattern carried before it was issued to Hungerford. I guess that is why the bell was moved as the old Charnham Street station was very low.
It acquired its name of "John o'Gaunt II". The name plate had come from its predecessor the 1924 Leyland.
As far as I know it served Hungerford well until it was replaced
by a Kerrer game cock water tender in the late fiftys.
On retirement from Hungerford its name plate was removed and as far as I know it is still hanging in the new fire station at
Its retirement from Berkshire and Reading fire brigade was by no means the end to its working life as it was sold to Adwest engineering at Woodley near Reading where
it served them until 1978. As a works fire engine this must have made it one of the longest serving war time appliances in daily use. It not only served the work site but was used all
over the Woodley trading estate. It was used when the Waitrose warehouse caught fire and in 1976 during the hot summer it caught fire its self when the wind changed when it was in
attendance at a heath fire causing damage to the near side. It was replaced by Adwest in 1979 and was left to deteriorate in a shed on site.
I purchased it in September 1980 for
restoration and preservation in a very poor state and I spent over 900 man hours restoring it and took it to its first show in May 1981 since then we have been to many shows around this
country and we have also taken it to Germany twice for fire service festivals.
It has been used for quite a few fire service weddings including that of Hungerford's officer in
charge Norman Barr, and for his daughter's wedding. It has also been used for fire service funerals and has appeared in the Royal Tournament at Earl's Court. It is fully equipped with
period equipment and is fully operational and has been used several times on fires on the road when we have been going to or from a show. It is my intention to use it on the road as long
as the government in Brussels will allow us to but I have to say that may not be for many more years."