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Britain celebrates 70 year anniversary of Auxiliary Fire Service

Members of the UK's Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) fighting a fire on Oxford Street during World War II. The London Fire Brigade is holding a national event to celebrate the anniversary of the AFS
Members of the AFS tackling a fire on Oxford Street during World War II
National event will highlight the contribution of AFS officers

London Fire Brigade is hosting a national event to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), which was mobilised at the outbreak of World War Two on 1st September 1939.

The AFS played a vital role in protecting the country from fires and other emergencies for over 30 years. Its members worked tirelessly alongside regular firefighters to deal with the fires caused by German bombing raids.

By 1 September 1939 about 8,900 men and 6,000 women had been mobilised countrywide for full-time service in the AFS. In post-war years, because of cold war threats, the AFS remained in place. It was disbanded in 1968 when tensions reduced.

Brian Coleman AM FRSA, Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, who is hosting the event, said: "These people are heroes - they gave up their time to help protect Britain from fires, sometimes in terrifying circumstances, and for that I commend them. This anniversary is also close to my heart because my mother served with the AFS during the war. Without her, and the thousands of AFS members like her, Britain would almost certainly not be the place it is today."

Many of the people who will attend the event fought fires during the second world war; others signed up to protect the public during the post war years. Guests joined the AFS in every decade of its existence, from the 1930s through to the 1960s.

David Millar, 95, from Pimlico in London, served in the AFS during World War Two (David will be attending the event on September 1). David joined the AFS aged 25 at the start of the war and was a driver and radio operator for one of the most senior fire officers in London. His role was vital in that he was the ‘eyes and voice' of the senior commander he worked for. David attended all of the major fires in London caused by German bomb attacks, including those during the Blitz.

Lyn Brooke, former AFS officer: "The AFS firefighters were a special breed - completely selfless"

David said: "The bombings during the Blitz will stay with me forever, especially the relentless attacks on the London docks. I feared for my life more than once - there were buildings burning down all over London - but I was so busy there wasn't any time to be too afraid." David Millar went on to work full time for the London Fire Brigade as a driver and radio operator. He retired in 1970.

Lyn Brooke, 88, of Hampshire, joined the AFS in 1939. She carried out various roles and rose through the ranks to become a senior officer, which was quite unusual for women at the time. During the war Lyn was responsible for running an emergency control centre in London which was staffed by 20 women. They took calls from people about the fires breaking out across the city during the war. Lyn went on to become a fitness trainer, ensuring female firefighters were prepared to deal with any challenges they might face.

Lyn said: "The AFS firefighters were a special breed - completely selfless - what they dealt with was horrific."

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