AUXILIARY FIRE SERVICE EQUIPMENT: United Kingdom. 1938-1945.  Initial designs for fire appliances for the Auxiliary Fire Service were developed by the Home Office under the constraints of limited budget, competing priorities, and the need to develop, manufacture, and deploy large numbers of pumps quickly.  Furthermore, the operational concept for the Auxiliary Fire Service did not envision its firefighters operating or maintaining the more complex and advanced appliances.  Although these designs were not optimum when judged against peacetime professional fire suppression standards, in the main they did excellent service under very difficult conditions.  Eventually the Home Office ordered 20,000 pumps designated originally in four major categories (the extra heavy pump was an addition) (see Table 1).  A large number of manufacturers produced these appliances, primarily because so many were needed in such a short period of time that no single manufacturer had the capacity.

Table 104-1.  Auxiliary Fire Service Equipment

Appliance Description Manufacturers
Extra Heavy Pump

skid mounted pumps with self-contained engines

1,100 gallons per minute capacity

6 delivery valves

built by Gwynne, powered by a Leyland engine

chassis included Austin K4

Heavy Pump

skid mounted pumps with self-contained engines

750 gallons per minute

4 delivery valves

built by Sulzer, powered by a Ford V8 engine; Gwynne, powered by a Leyland engine; Tangye, powered by a Ford V8 engine

chassis included Fordson 7V, Morris Commercial, Austin, Dennis 40-cwt, Bedford WL, and Bedford ML

Large and Medium Pumps

trailer mounted pumps

250 to 500 gallons per minute

2 delivery valves

Dennis, Coventry Climax, Scammell, Beresford

Light Pumps

detachable, trailer mounted pumps

150 to 175 gallons per minute

one delivery valve

Dennis, Coventry Climax, Scammell, Beresford

Wheelbarrow Pump portable, designed to be used in confined spaces and capable of being carried for short distances by one man


Auxiliary Towing Vehicle

2 axle, van body vehicle fitted with a towing hook for a trailer pump, a ladder gantry on the roof, and lockers under inward facing seats for hose and equipment

crew of 6

2 ton Austin K2, Fordson WOT2 15-cwt chassis
Escape Carrying Unit coach built body with crew cab, equipment lockers on the side, hose reel and Barton pump, water tank, towing attachment for trailer pump, and a wheeled escape ladder Fordson 7V chassis
Mobile Dam Unit a lorry with a collapsible 500 or 1,000 gallon steel framed canvas dam - some vehicles carried a steel tank  
Hose Laying Lorry a vehicle with racks on which lengths of hose could be faked out for laying by connecting one end to a pump or hydrant and then driving the vehicle to the delivery point  

The Home Office's initial concept was that local authorities would provide the transportation for the various pumps.  Trailer pumps could be towed by loaned, donated, or purchased saloon cars or conscripted taxis, typically also equipped with a ladder mounting and a ladder.  Some of these vehicles were modified by having their roofs removed and outward facing seats installed; a more serviceable design placed a van type body on the chassis with inward facing seats to provide protection against the weather and falling debris.  Eventually in 1941 the standard Auxiliary Towing Vehicle (in Table 1) was adopted. 

However, the heavier pumps required a lorry for their mobility, with response time of the lorry and loading time being added to the fire response time.  In addition machinery was required to load the pump on its skid onto the lorry.  It was quickly realized that this was not an operationally feasible solution, and the first step was to issue large four wheel trailers.  These were of marginal utility, as they required a heavy truck to tow them.  Starting in 1938 purpose built 2 or 3 ton chassis vehicles were produced with the pump already mounted, an enclosed cab for the firefighters, equipment lockers on both sides of the body, and an overhead rack to hold a standard 30 foot ladder.        

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

Entry 03104 - posted 12 September 2003