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Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society 1971 / 1972. Page 18.
The Mersea Fire Brigade is about to move to its brand new headquarters in Barfield Road and a new Rolls Dennis Fire Appliance will replace the Dodge, which has been a familiar sight for the past fourteen years. The siren, too, is being replaced by 'bleep' radios, which will give simultaneous warning to each fireman without waking the entire neighbourhood. I imagine some of the youngsters will be rather sorry about this, as the sight and sound of the Appliance hurtling down the road, wailing, has a magnetic appeal to most of them.
The Mersea Fire Brigade was formed in 1929 under the leadership of Mr Leonard Mills, who was known as 'Captain'. It was entirely voluntary and funds were raised by holding whist drives, jumble sales, etc., to provide all the necessary equipment. The other nine members of the original team were Messrs Herbert Burgess, Leslie Cathercole, Alec Green, Edgar Jopson, Robert Key, Arthur Mills (the Captain's son), Ivan Mole, Horace Whiting and his son Oscar Whiting.
Until Mersea had its own Brigade it had to reply on Colchester and there were times when a sum of money had to be negotiated before the Colchester Appliance left its base.
Mersea had no siren in those days. When a fire was reported the police would find Mr Mills, who would jump on his bike and ride round the village blowing a bugle to alert his men. It could take 15 minutes or more to summon them before piling the hose, ladders etc into the green grocer's pony and trap. Later the trap was replaced by Mr Horace Martin's solid-wheeled lorry, but this had its disadvantage, as Mr Martin was a builder and the lorry was not always available. Sometimes the lorry was in Colchester.
About 1930 the local Council began to take an interest in the Brigade and it got its first proper appliance - a hand cart! But that had its drawbacks. The men did not jog with it, they ran as fast as they could, some pushing, some pulling, and woe betide the pullers if the pushers were too fast for them! The men were often exhausted by the time they reached the fire. Mr Horace Whiting was the Officer in Charge at this time - a post he held for 23 years.
In 1935 the Station in Melrose Road was built and the hand cart was replaced by a solid-tyred Dennis. In 1939 the Fire Brigade was nationalised and after the war it was taken over by Essex County Council. They provded a Commer - the first Appliance Mersea had had with its own water tank. The was followed by an ATV (Austin Towing Vehicle) and in 1957 by the Dodge we know today. The siren was not always in Melrose Road. It was first at Woodstock , St. Peters Road, and then at the Telephone Exchange in Yorick Road (now The Pantry). The land in Melrose Road on which the Station was built, and the siren, were bought like the equipment, with money raised by holding whist drives and jumble sales.
Mr Oscar Whiting became the Officer in Charge in 1946 and, on his retirement in 1966 after more than 36 years service, Mr Len Harvey took charge. He was followed in 1969 by Mr Joe Mussett, who still heads the team.
The firemen have many stories to tell. There was the day when the water tower in Upland Road caught fire in the 1930s. The Appliance used was still the hand cart and the nearest water supply was at the Fountain. The hose was just not long enough to reach the tower. It would have been if the men could have got at a length of hose kept in the tower, but the heat was too much for them. The Colchester Brigade came to the rescue.
If the fire was off the island it meant more money, for by this time the men were being paid one guinea a year retaining fee and 3/6d per call. In 1938 Fingringhoe Mill was ablaze and one of the crew that year was Mr Gordon Mussett. The bonus paid that day enabled Gordon to buy a pram for his baby son David. It's an ill wind ........ David Mussett is a leading Fireman today.
The biggest fire on the island was the complete destruction of the twelve Coastguard Cottages in Churchfields. Mr Oscar Whiting was the Officer in Charge at the time and he is justly proud of the fact that no one was even slightly injured. The smallest rescue was saving a pigeon caught in the high tension wires outside Susan play's the hairdressers, and the Station holds a certificate presented by the R.S.C.P.A. for rescuing a cow from a fleet between Moor Farm, Peldon and the Pyefleet Channel.
Photo: Mersea Museum
Image ID MIS_1972_020
Category 2 Mersea-->Fire Brigade
This image is part of the Mersea Museum Collection.