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1915: Air raids - a fire engine needed?

Cuckfield Rural Parish Council and present difficulties.

1915 Dennis Fire Engine

Several topical questions came up for discussion at the Meeting of the Cuckfield Rural Parish Council held last Friday evening at the Old Bank Cuckfield. Colonel Stephenson R Clarke CB, JP, High Sheriff of Sussex, presided, the other members present being Messrs. H H Bert, S Caffyn and W Fit, with Mr H Plummer (Clerk).

Mr T Best wrote declining office as a Trustee of the Middleton and Burrell Charity, to which the Council had elected him at the previous meeting, subject to his consent. Thereupon Mr W Fry was elected.

As the outcome of a circular letter received by the Chairman, the question of organising fire and salvage parties in case of air raids was disclosed, not the only decision arrived at was to adjourn the matter for a time until it was seen what other parishes proposed to do the Chairman and the Clerk being authorised to call a special meeting, if necessary, at their discretion.

The Chairman said that it was advised that farmers should not crowd their stacks round the farmhouses. The air raids on the East Coast had been very serious matters, but he could not think that it was likely that one would occur in Cuckfield Rural. They had not even got the town of Cuckfield in it — only scattered farmhouses and dwelling houses.

Mr Burt thought that nevertheless it was advisable to take precautions.

The Chairman suggested that some hand pumps might be obtained and would be useful for putting out fires if used in the early stages.

The Clerk thought that when they were away from hydrants the pumps would not be of much use, as they would not have sufficient power on ordinary ponds. They really required something in the nature of a fire engine, but that was out of the question, as the cost would be so great.

The difficulty of parochial organisation was the great stumbling-block, the three centres of population - Ansty, Brook Street and Staplefield - being widely separated from one another. It was pointed out by Mr Fry that they would all have to have organisations of their own if anything effective was to be done.

Mr Caffyn said that risks would be lessened if farmers put their stacks in separate fields, and not close together.

Whilst agreeing with the principle, other Councillors pointed out that there would be considerable difficulty in threshing in the winter-time under such conditions.

The Chairman sad that if the Council decided to purchase anything in the nature of fire appliances the money would not be wasted, even if there was not an air raid, because the things could be at hand and available for use in future years.

The Clerk promised to see the Captain of the Haywards Heath Fire Brigade with a view to ascertaining particulars of appliances which might be of use to the Council.

It was also remarked that the several Fire Brigades in parishes surrounding that of Cuckfield Rural would be willing to come out of their own districts if a fire broke out, as on previous occasions.

Mid Sussex Times, 15 June 1915.

Many thanks to Terry Pinnegar who published the above photo of the fire engine on Flickr and has kindly allowed us to use it.

1915 Dennis Fire Tender Parked up and glistening in the morning sunshine at Beamish Museum this 1915 Dennis fire engine. The brass plaque on the forward bulkhead proudly announces 'The Dennis Patent Turbine Fire Engine'. The plaque, together with all of the other metalwork on the tender (and it's crew!), has been polished until gleaming and is an absolute credit to the team that turned it out in this way.

The fire engine, registered G-810, is in the livery of Aberdeen City Fire Service and, complete with it's equally highly polished crew, was a very popular visitor to Beamish Museum for the April 2015 Great North Steam Fair.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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