AUXILIARY FIRE SERVICE: United Kingdom. 1937-1945.  Established in 1937 under the Air Raid Precautions Act, the Auxiliary Fire Service was one of a complex series of organizations and services designed to carry out civil defense in the United Kingdom in the event of war.  In essence, the Auxiliary Fire Service became the first truly national fire service in England, Scotland, and Wales.  The Auxiliary Fire Service was trained by local fire brigades, operated under their operational control, and was provided facilities, vehicles, and the other services that created an operational organization.  At the same time Auxiliary Fire Service units were provided pumps, hose, and equipment, and a single uniform per fireman, and were regulated by the Home Office.  As a result, there was constant competition for scarce resources in the broader scheme of national mobilization for what became World War II, and local authorities often complained that funding was inadequate. 

As was to prove to be the case when the Auxiliary Fire Service was reconstituted in 1949, considerable thought and effort was devoted to the design of appropriate equipment to meet the needs of the Auxiliary Fire Service units.  As a result, standard appliances were developed that were within the capabilities of volunteer crews to operate, especially considering that these crews were recruited from those either too young or too old for military service.

At the height of operations, the Auxiliary Fire Service numbered approximately 180,000 men and 41,000 women.  Auxiliaries were not necessarily received with open arms by the full time local brigades, with harassment not being uncommon even to the petty level of not allowing members of the Service to use the shower facilities of regular stations.  However, the Auxiliary Fire Service distinguished itself in some of the hardest fought fire bombing attacks of the war, operating at a high professional standard under enemy fire as the bombs fell.  The Auxiliary Fire Service officially became part of the National Fire Service when that organization was established in May 1941.

Sources:  Ramsey, Winston G., editor, The Blitz: Then and Now, Volume 3, London, United Kingdom, Battle of Britain Prints International, 1990.

Entry 0397 - posted 22 August 2003