GREEN GODDESS: United Kingdom. 1953 to date.  Properly known as the Bedford SHZ Self-Propelled Pump or the Bedford RLHZ Self-Propelled Pump.  This fire appliance was developed as the standard fire fighting vehicle for civil defense use in the 1950s to replace wartime fire engines that had been the first equipment of the reorganized and reestablished Auxiliary Fire Service in November 1949.  The design concept was based on fire-fighting in the aftermath of nuclear attack with the appliances operating as part of Mobile Fire Columns of response vehicles in any part of the country and in any terrain.

A prototype was produced on the Bedford 7 ton 4x2 SHZ chassis in 1952, and manufacture extended over the period 1953 to 1956, with the RLHZ chassis superseding the SHZ model.  A large number of coach-building companies produced the actual bodies of the Green Goddesses working from a standard design with steel over an ash frame.  These builders included Commer, Harrington, Hoskins, Papworth Industries, Park Royal, Plaxton, Strachan, Weymann, Whitson, Willowbrook, and Windover. 

The Bedford RLHZ Self-Propelled Pump model weights 8.4 tons, and is equipped with a 4x4 four wheel drive, giving it some cross country mobility (reports indicate that it could climb a 45 degree slope).  The vehicle chassis was a standard British Army truck chassis.  The vehicle engine was a standard Bedford 6 cylinder 110 British horsepower petrol engine.  Behind the gearbox a transfer box directed power either to the pump or to either or both of the axles.  The SHZ pump had a 4x2 rear wheel drive system.  On both vehicles, the primary water pump, a four-delivery Sigmund FN4 single-stage rear-mounted pump made of gunmetal, could feed four hoses with 900 gallons per minute at 100 pounds per square inch at a pump speed of 3000 revolutions per minute.  The system is fitted for firefighting foam induction, and current vehicles carry two 25 litre containers of foam concentrate and a FB5X foam branch.  A second, Coventry Climax 300 gallon per minute Feather-weight Portable Pump is carried in a locker, with a cradle that allowed lowering to ground level for easy removal from or reloading on the vehicle, for use in restricted access situations.  Hose carried was usually in excess of 32 lengths of 2 3/4 inch canvas hose; hose reels are fitted on each side of the body.  Current vehicles are equipped with 1600 feet of hose and draught hose for drawing water from open sources.  The RLHZ carries 300 gallons of water in its tank; the SHZ model had a tank capacity of 400 gallons.  The vehicle carried a 35 foot extending ladder on its roof; vehicles are now equipped with an additional 15 foot ladder.  Both vehicles were capable of road speeds up to 50 miles per hour.  The vehicles are not equipped with radios.  The standard crew was an officer and 5 firefighters.

The Green Goddess was designed and equipped as a pumper, not as a general-purpose fire fighting vehicle, and is not equipped for heavy rescue and other related tasks.  Water is delivered through a low pressure, as opposed to modern high pressure, system.  Vehicles have been updated with modern blue lights replacing the original amber flashing lights, up to date turn indicators and tail lights, and with a two tone horn replacing the hand-rung fire bell. 

With the disbandment of the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1968 a substantial number of the appliances were disposed of, some to county fire brigades and some to the Atomic Energy Authority.  The entire fleet of the Bedford SHZ 4x2 pumps appear to have been in the 1968 disposal.  The remaining vehicle fleet is owned and maintained by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (see Table 72-1).  Maintenance is performed by a private transport firm, TNT, at a facility near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire.  The vehicles are reported to be easy to maintain, largely because of their original concept of being designed for use by crews of volunteers.  In service rates are reported to be high; in 1990 report of 218 pumps at the Bruntingthorpe aerodrome depot, 215 were ready for response.  Vehicles have low road mileage, with 3,000 miles being typical.

Table 72-1.  Green Goddess Appliances

Deployment Location Originally Constructed Deployed in 2002
England 4,311 644
Scotland 520 111
Wales 189 40
Northern Ireland 130 32


5,150 827

Surviving Green Goddess retain to this date their Auxiliary Fire Service dark green color scheme designed to distinguish them from local authority fire vehicles, updated with high visibility striping, with the exception of vehicles in Northern Ireland which are painted yellow.  Northern Ireland vehicles are also fitted with mesh screens for their windows and lights.

The Green Goddess has been used in a number of cases in the aftermath of natural disasters because of its pumping capability.  However, the most visible use was in the 1977 (20,750 service men staffed over 1,000 Green Goddeses) and 2002 national Fire Brigade Union strikes.  In both case military crews drawn from all of the armed services provided fire fighting coverage from their barracks using Green Goddesses from the storage depots.  In the 2002 strike, titled Operations Fresco by the Ministry of Defence, two crews of 5 enlisted personnel led by an officer or non-commissioned officer staffed each appliance for 24 hour coverage.  Response to calls mirrored the incident command system task force concept with each appliance accompanied by a police car to clear traffic and provide radio communications.  Rescue equipment is carried by a more modern military service vehicle with a Breathing Apparatus Team (known as a BART) or a Rescue Equipment Support Team, also escorted by a police vehicle.  This results in a significant increase in the number of emergency vehicles at any incident scene.  During the 2002 strike the Road Haulage Association expressed concerns about the lack of modern rescue equipment, breathing apparatus, or supplies to handle hazardous materials accidents, but as of 1998 the government stated that there were no plans to update the fleet.

Sources: United Kingdom, Ministry of Defense, "Op Fresco: Green Goddesses," location, accessed 27 July 2003.  Road Haulage Association, "Firefighters strike causes concern for road hauliers says RHA," location, 22 October 2002.  BBC News, "Is the Green Goddess up to it?" World Edition, location, 22 October 2002.  Mardon, Roger C., "Green Goddess," in Roger C. Mardon, location, accessed 27 July 2003.  "UK Emergency Vehicles > Fire > Fire Strike," location, accessed 27 July 2003.  "Graham Damps Down That 'Goddess' Media Hysteria," Heritage Commercials Magazine, Issue Number 158, location, February 2003.  "'Green Goddesses' Stand By," Heritage Commercials Magazine, Issue Number 155, location, November 2003.  Wright, Bob, "1955 Bedford RLHZ Self Propelled Pump (Green Goddess)," in Strathclyde Fire Preservation Group, location, accessed 27 July 2003.  Merseyside Fire Museum, "NYR 516," location, accessed 27 July 2003.

Entry 0372 - posted 28 July 2003