Chronicles: Ventnor’s Fire Brigade from the 1920s

The splendid picture below shows Ventnor’s volunteer fire crew with their new Leyland FE1 engine, registration DL 3197, in the mid-1920s. Eagle-eyed readers may just be able to make out a paper number (14) affixed to the side of the overhead ladder. This indicates that the engine and its crew are scheduled as part of a carnival procession and so all have been spruced up to look their best in what is plainly a formal photograph. The particular fire tender was first registered on 11th July 1923 and is a 36-40 horsepower appliance with a pump capable of delivering 300 gallons a minute. The engine remained in use until 1940 and, in later years, was fitted with new wheels that carried pneumatic tyres.

The picture is taken in Albert Street and the fire chief standing on the extreme right (identified by the type of epaulette) is Tom Pearson, grandfather of one of the regular museum stewards, Colin Beavis. The fireman standing to his right (on his left in the picture) might be his deputy. He has smaller epaulettes, although a slightly longer line of medals, probably dating from the 1914-18 war or possibly even the Boer War. The helmet worn by Tom Pearson in the picture is on display in the Heritage Museum.

If any reader can put names to any of the other faces in the picture, please e-mail or else call in at the Museum where there will be a large copy at the front desk that can be suitably annotated. Colin Beavis actually has a similar photograph of the same engine decorated to attend a wedding in 1924 and all the crew present in that picture are named. We have tried comparing the two pictures, but the faces are difficult to match. However, the crew member next to the driver may be Bob Spencer.

Colin Beavis and Michael Freeman, Ventnor & District Local History Society.  Photograph from our Collection.  This article first appeared in the South Wight Chronicle on 1 October 2015.