AFS at Welland 2010

The Auxiliary Fire Service is back after 42 years

OK, not as part of a nationwide Civil Defence movement to protect Britain in the event of a nuclear war, but as a display group at Welland Steam Rally near Malvern a few weeks ago. A group of Green Goddesses and other vehicles typical of the AFS ran a pumping display in the arena of the three-day show.

This is believed to be the largest public display of Green Goddesses in action running a relay pumping exercise using 6-inch hose since the late 1960s, and is certainly a first for Welland.

Under the leadership of AFS enthusiast, David Moore, the group set up a static display area of AFS equipment under a covered awning made entirely of standard-issue Green Goddess kit, and then ran a 35-minute demonstration of relay pumping from a 2500-gallon dam round the arena through four Goddesses, and back up a large spout (made from Goddess ladders) back into the dam. A convoy, representing the ‘mobile columns’ of the 1960s came into the arena. Hose was laid using a hose-laying Bedford RL truck. The hose was carefully prepared so the end of the hose could be dropped, and the truck then drove off, with the hose tumbling out the back.

Water was then pumped round the arena through four Goddesses at a rate of some 900 gallons (or about 4 tons) per minute! The hose was then gathered in the trucks, and the convoy re-formed to leave the arena.

Contrary to popular myth, the Goddesses were never owned by the army, but by the Home Office. Their primary purpose was as a mobile pump, not a fire engine. If your house is on fire, you really want a modern fire engine, but if your town is on fire, you need Green Goddesses. A mobile column (and they had 40 of them in 1968 when the AFS was stood down) consisted of nearly 150 vehicles and 700 men and women. It consisted of 35 Goddesses, and a vast supply of stores, including 10,000 gallons of petrol, and food and clothing for everyone for a fortnight. Nationally, the AFS had enough hose to run a 6-inch hose and a standard delivery hose side-by side from Lands End to John O-Groats! A mobile Column of 4×4 vehicles could deliver a vast amount of water from a river or lake over 20 miles or more to a burning city.

Next year’s display should be bigger and better. If you would like to be involved, or have an AFS vehicle, please get in touch.

David Moore,

About lowdhamstation

I am a director of a small (and very technical) business, a committed Christian, a Reader (and preacher) in my local village church, husband to my dear Frances, am interested in heritage railways, and heritage fire engines. I currently run a group that displays wartime and early post-war fire engines at 1940s re-enacting events and steam engine rallies. O yes, and vintage cars and motorbikes, and we live in a Victorian railway station.
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