Canadian FireFighters in England During WW II


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September 11th, 2001
God Bless The Firefighters
Part VIII . . . The Farewell
(diary entries of Sam Posten in quotations)

Canadians To Go Home

ca. January 1945

OTTAWA-(CP)- Plans to demobilize the Civilian Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters overseas has been announced here by the National War Services Department. The present strength of the corps is 324. The first group will leave Britain shortly and others will follow at intervals as stations are closed.

The announcement said conditions no longer made it necessary to maintain the corps as a protection against enemy attacks. While some had volunteered for service with a special contingent to serve on the Continent there is not sufficient reason for them to remain overseas.


LONDON-(CP)- The Civilian Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters who in 1942 left the safety of their Dominion homes for the dangers of fighting blitz-created blazes overseas have paraded for the last time to hear the official farewell from a Britain that was thankful for their aid. Led by a 15-piece band, members of the Canadian Corps marched through the heart of London, smart in their blue uniforms with the red "Canada" flashes on their shoulders and as militarily correct as Guardsmen on parade, to be reviewed by the heads of the fighting services and Home Secretary Herbert Morrison. Canadian High Commissioner Vincent Massey was also present and made the official farewell speech. Leading the Canadians on the parade was Gordon Huff, M.M., former fire chief at Brantford, Ont., and now head of the overseas corps.

Mr. Massey told the men, "Nowhere has the civil defence of Britain been more admired than in Canada. You have played a very fine part in that work. Now your work has come to an have done a grand job. I want to thank you for all you have done."

Later the fire fighters gathered outside London for a banquet where Miss Ellen Wilkinson, M.P., thanked them for their efforts, pointing out that although they had missed the big blitzes, "Almost all of you have heard the whistle of a bomb and seen the blue-white light of an incendiary." She told how Canadians had been stationed in such badly hit port cities such as Plymouth, Bristol and Southhampton.

Canadian fire fighters had, she added, proved their adaptability by quelling all types of blazes, including "Tankers with 3,000,000 gallons of aviation spirit aboard, oil tanks containing several thousand tons of oil set on fire by enemy action not so very long before D-Day and fires in military stores, which, thanks to you, now are overseas instead of having been turned into ashes. No job was too hot, too smoky or too dirty for you; you tackled them all with a true fireman's courage and enthusiasm."

Adieu to Canadian Fire Fighters - The Lord Mayor of Plymouth at the final parade of the Canadian fire-fighters before their departure for home.

Returning Home after Doing "A Grand Job"

The members of the Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters -numbering about 400 and representing 107 Canadian municipalities - are about to return to Canada, after having been over here since June, 1942, and served in Southhampton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Bristol and other places on the south-west coast.

At a farewell march past in London on Monday Mr. Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary, took the salute in front of Canada House and the firemen were addressed y Mr. Massey.

"You have done a grand job," said the High Commissioner. "Nowhere has the Civil Defence of this country been more admired than in Canada, and you played a very fine part in that defence. I thank you very sincerely, and as the representative of Canada here I have been proud of you in the last two and a half years. Relations between you and the N.F.S. have been very happy. The Canadian Fire Fighters came to this country at a time when the fire services were very hard pressed, and did some very good work."

At a farewell luncheon the same day Cdr. A.N.G. Firebrace, Chief of the Fire Staff and Inspector-in-Chief, Fire Services, said all members of the Corps must have benefited from their fire experience over here. They had taken part in serious fires of many types. No job was too hot, too smoky or too dirty for them. They tackled them all with true fireman's courage and enthusiasm.

"The time has now come for you to return home - your duty done - your reputation as a fine, well-disciplined body of men secure - your skill and powers of endurance as fire fighters fully appreciated. You cannot but have a feeling of pride and satisfaction at the way you have spent these war years. We feel the same about you. These feelings and memories will be very precious things to us all in times to come. On behalf of the Ministry of Home Security I thank you for coming, I thank you for the work you have done, and for the example you have set of steadiness, of good behaviour, of whole-hearted cooperation with your comrades in the National Fire Service. I wish you all a safe voyage and a speedy return to your homes." Fire Chief G.E. Huff, the Canadian commander, said they took back the happiest of memories, and added: "The finest thing that can be said of anyone is that he knew his job and did it. I think that can be said of the Canadian Fire Fighters. The N.F.S. will go down in history as one of the finest fire services in the world."

City Farewell

Plymouth said her official farewell yesterday to the Canadian fire-fighters who came to this country in the hour of need and are shortly returning home.

The Lord Mayor (Ald. H.G. Mason), accompanied by the Deputy Lord mayor (Mr. H.J. Perry), inspected the men, who were lined up outside the fire station which they themselves built at Tor. and afterwards addressed them from a platform draped with red, white and blue.

Senior Company Officer H. Lambert responded. Other officers on the platform were Fire Force Comdr. G. Drury, Divl. Officer R.J. Smith, and Divl. Officer A.Goldberg.

Citizens of Plymouth would remember their sojourn among them, the Lord Mayor said, and recalled that it was in the summer of 1941 that the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Mackenzie King, had visited this country, and after seeing the devastation largely caused by fire went home with the happy idea of forming a fire-fighting unit. That idea made history, for it was the first unit ever mobilized in one country to fight fires in another.


On March 16, 1942, the Canadian Fire-Fighting Corps was formed, and within three months some 43 of their number were in Plymouth and within six months double that number.

Although they had not been called upon to take part in any if the very big fires such as were experienced in 1941 they had proved their efficiency in five or six raids and on a number of occasions during lull periods. They had dealt with these fires with commendable efficiency and it was also no mean feat on their part that they had been able to establish that fire station. It was to their great credit that in spite of difficulties they had turned to on their own and erected the station, which would probably remain as a memorial of their visit for some time.

The Lord Mayor went on to compliment the men on their conduct during their visit; it had, he said, been exemplary, and added: "You have been good citizens while among us and I commend you for it." He also complimented them on their Plymouth brides and said it would forge another link between Canada and this country.

Speaking of the co-operation which had existed between them and the National Fire Service, the Lord Mayor expressed the hope that the experience they had had would be of considerable value to them on their return home.

Speaking of their keenness, enthusiasm, and outstanding efficiency, which he said were worthy of the greatest praise, the Lord Mayor wished the Godspeed, happiness, and peace on behalf of the citizens of Plymouth.


Senior Company Off. Lambert said that the force would like to have remained until the end of the hostilities. He thanked the Lord Mayor and "all those responsible for making our stay in Plymouth most enjoyable." The citizens of Plymouth had at all times extended to them the most gracious hospitality in very trying conditions. One of the most outstanding things they would remember was the way in which the people had carried on. That was something they would never forget.

On behalf of the force he thanked Fire Force Commander Drury, and said it had been a great experience to serve with the N.F.S., and they had gained considerable knowledge which would be very beneficial to them. A great bond of friendship was made between the British and Canadian firemen. The visitors were afterwards entertained to tea at the fire station.

The Canadian Fire Fighters who are leaving Plymouth received distinguished visitors during the week. Left to right: Company Officer Mason, Lady Hartington, Senior Company Officer Lambert, Lady Astor, Company Officer Bryce.



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