The Auxiliary Fire Service in Hull

I grew up in Hull just before the War. My father was in the Police Fire Brigade and I lived with my parents in the Central Fire Station in Worship Street. All the staff in the Brigade used to live nearby so they could get to the Station in an emergency; we called it being "attached to the bell". Our house was near the Little Theatre and New Theatre and I used to see the actors who were appearing there. I remember Stewart Grainger and James Mason. There was also a dressmaking business run by Madam Clapham who had made clothes for the Royal Family. She was very strict with her staff.

When the war broke out my father was asked to train people for the Auxiliary Faire Service (which became the National Fire Service in 1941). We moved to Temple Street, to what used to be a dogs home and I remember my mother and I had to clean out the rooms with scrubbing brushes. A little later my father started training AFS staff at Blundell's Corner, where the Hull Daily Mail offices are now.

My brothers were in the fire service as well as my father and I joined the Auxiliary Fire Service as a telephonist. After a while I went to work in the underground control room in Queens Gardens, on the opposite side to the police station. It is not there now, but it was built underground to be safe from bombs. There were several telephones and when there were air raids the wardens posted around the city used to call in with information about where the bombs had fallen and fires had started. We passed the information on to other AFS staff who told the fire stations around the city where to send the fire engines. We would work all through the night if necessary, and would never know what the city would look like when we came up to the street in the morning.

At first there was no ventilation and it would be very uncomfortable but we all stuck to the job. Once when there was heavy bombing I remember the telephonist next to me taking calls from the fire watchers about where the bombs had fallen, and saying "Oh,that's my house" but she kept working right through the night.

One of the things I remember about the war was the way everybody tried to do their job as well as possible and would help each other.

I met my husband because he came to work at the same place as me after he was de mobbed from the Air Force. I was working as a telephonist at the Western General Hospital and was told about a man had started work in one of the offices. The other telephonist said he was a very good looking man but I hadn't seen him. He used to ask me to connect phone calls for him so I found out he had a very nice speaking voice but one day he came to the telephonists room to meet me. We started going out on 10th May, were engaged in June and married on 13th July 1947. We were happily married for 27 years until he died of a heart attack in January 1974.

Edith Waddingham


Copyright (C) 2003 Edith Waddingham/The People's War.
Article ID: A2101393

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar