Of The Mission
The following feature
on Canadian Fire Fighters in England during WW II is based on photographs
and articles provided by Kathy Posten. Kathy discovered the photographs,
taken by her father, Sam Posten, while he was stationed in England during
WW II as a member of Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters, #4 Company, and
wished to share them with you, in recognition of her father and the
other men and women who contributed to the war effort in the Corps of
Canadian Fire Fighters in England. Most of you will be aware of enormous
damage resulting from the "blitz" bombing of the cities of England,
particularly London and Plymouth, during WW II. The damage from the bombs
and the resulting fires is clearly seen in the following photographs,
a personal account of the images seen by Sam Posten, who, armed with
a Brownie camera, had created this historical record. At the time of
this writing, Sam is 86 years old and unfortunately, has suffered memory
loss of this period in his life. As such, many of the locations of the
photographs and the names of individuals pictured are unknown. If you
recognize any of the individuals or the locations of these photographs,
or have any other information to contribute in this regard, we would
love to add it to this feature (email The
Samuel "Sam" Posten
by Kathleen Posten
Denis Samuel "Sam" Posten was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, on
July 24, 1914. He is the son of Dumitru R. and Floarea, Postelnicu, "Dan
and Florea, Posten," who came to Canada as Romanian emigrants in 1911.
They settled in Regina, where they owned and operated a corner grocery
store. He has three brothers and three sisters, and one stepsister. He
attended public and collegiate school in Regina and after graduation was
employed as a butter and ice cream maker with the T. Eaton Co. Ltd.
From August 1940 to May 1942, Sam Posten was in reserve army training with
the Second Battalion of the Royal Regina Rifle Regiment, as a Rifleman. On
June 6, 1942 in Ottawa, he enlisted with the Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters.
Despite having no previous fire fighting experience, he was taken on "Strength
of the Corps," on June 8, 1942, with the rank of Junior Fireman. On August
26, 1942 he was posted to Station 19A-1L in Plymouth, England, from H.Q. London,
for basic training. After basic training he received a service promotion to
the rank of Firemen on December 8, 1942. He received a promotion to Senior
Fireman on June 8, 1943, and to Leading Fireman on June 8, 1944.
The Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters in England began to demobilize in December
of 1944 and Sam Posten returned home in January, 1945. He was officially discharged
from service on March 6, 1945. Sam returned to his former life and on Nov.
10, 1951, in Regina, married Mary Eva Glasser from Prelate, Saskatchewan.
They have two children, Denis and Kathleen. From the age of 65 to 85 he was
employed with the Corps of Commissionaires, working at the National Defense buildings of HMCS Queen and the Regina
Like many people who have directly experienced the horrors of war, Sam
Posten does not talk about them often, except around Remembrance Day with
comments like, "War was HELL and I hope you never have to go through it!"
He has occasionally mentioned the bombing Blitz on Plymouth and London,
and all of the damage that was done. He recalls the air raid sirens and
the sounds of the bombs - "sort of a wired whistling sound, both would
start shivers down your back and the hairs on your neck to stand up."
Of his view of the role of fire fighters in England during WWII, he says,
"we worked long and hard, like crazy fools sometimes." (see diary entries
by Sam Posten in "The Destruction" section)
Firefighters in Britain
reprinted from FIRE 1943 Overseas Edition
The Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters was formed subsequent to a visit to Britain
in the summer of 1941 by the Rt. Hon. William L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister
of Canada, who assured the British Government that Canada would be only too
willing to assist in the Battle of the Blitzes with a corps of Canadian firemen.
It was at first the intention to have the corps come over as a branch of the
Canadian Army, and be recruited under the Department of National Defense.
Later, however, it was deemed advisable that inasmuch as the Fire Service
in Great Britain was operating as a civilian organization the Canadian contingent,
too, should be a civilian body. Major-general L.R. La Fleche, DSO, the then
Associate Deputy Minister National War Services, was charged with the responsibility
of providing a firefighting corps representative of the Dominion for duty
in Great Britain with the National Fire Service of that country. On January
30, 1942, the Canadian Cabinet Council ratified, by Order-in-Council, the
appointment of Flight-lieutenant G.E. Huff, MM, Royal Canadian Air Force,
who was at that date fire prevention officer No. 2 Training Command, Winnipeg,
as commanding officer. In normal times he commanded the fire department of
Brantford, in Ontario, which force he had entered in 1919, but, on the outbreak
of war he had been granted leave of absence, for the duration of hostilities,
so that his fire engineering skill might be at the disposal of the Royal Canadian
On February 16, 1942, he reported to Ottawa, seat of the Dominion Government
and without delay began the task of banding together the various units which
now constitute the Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters. It was decided that the
corps should be truly representative of all parts of Canada and with this
thought in mind, the commanding officer asked his brother fire chiefs from
coast to coast for aid in enrolling the personnel. The response by those Canadian
fire chiefs was magnificent; it resulted in very successful recruiting, and
at no cost to the Canadian Government. Coincident with the announcement of
the first "blitz" raids on England, countless numbers of professional firemen,
and civilians alike, had volunteered their services to the British Fire Service,
through the medium of the Canadian Government, and had been prepared to give
up their positions, leave their homes, families, and all that was near and
dear, to assist in the battle. However, it was not until the formation of
the Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters was finally approved by Order-in-Council
on March 3, 1942, that their dream began to materialize.
This was the opportunity for which personnel of the Canadian Fire Service
and civilians alike had been waiting since first hearing of the magnificent
work done by the British Fire Service during the Battle of Britain. The response
to the first announcement was spontaneous as is proved by the fact that the
corps has representatives from the nine Canadian provinces and 107 Canadian
municipalities, in the East from Halifax to Vancouver in the west, a distance
of almost 4,000 miles. At no time was there any shortage of applicants. Even
to-day there is a long waiting list of candidates on file.
Members of the corps received a complete medical examination prior to reporting
at Ottawa and, upon arrival, a final medical examination was given, including
inoculation and vaccination, similar to the Canadian Active Service Forces.
After being enrolled in small groups, the members began preliminary training
in Ottawa during the time they were waiting to be supplied with uniforms and
equipment prior to embarkation for overseas.
The advance party arrived in Great Britain by air on May 24, 1942-Victoria
Day, a Dominion holiday, and the first contingent arrived exactly one
month later. Completing its training - the trailer pump to the Canadian
firefighter in the Dominion is essentially a British appliance - this
first contingent assumed active duty on August 1, 1942.
The final contingent arrived on December 19, 1942, and, six weeks later,
was in its operational stations. Thus the corps was formed, organized,
and operating in Britain in less than 12 months from the date of Chief
Huff's reporting at Ottawa.
For the purposes of pay and allowances, medical care,
treatment, pension for disability and death, members of the corps have the
same rights as if they were members of the Canadian Active Service Force;
while for operational duties they are an integral part of the NFS. They man
their own stations in four key cities on the south-west coast of England.
They are under their own officers, and the corps has its own administrative
headquarters in the London region.
Seventy per cent of the officers and men of the corps are professional firefighters
vitally interested in gaining experience which will benefit them upon their
return home. Every endeavor has been and is being made to have them attend
advanced courses of instruction in the NFS schools and college. They undergo
physical training courses at Royal Marine barracks and personnel are attending
army and industrial schools on war gases and so forth.
The corps is unique in that, for the first time in history, a group of professional
firemen has left its own country and volunteered to operate, in its own
profession, in a theatre of war.
of Canadian Firefighters