History of the Trust
Gerald Clarkson CBE, QFSM, then, Chief Fire Officer of the London Fire Brigade, founded the Trust, just prior to his retirement. This formal creation in its original name, The Firefighters Memorial Charitable Trust Fund, was set out in a Deed dated 21st March 1991, which sought to commemorate the lives of those Firefighters who were killed in the line of duty during the Second World War, 1939-1945. The Trust Deed allowed for the erection and maintenance of a Memorial Statue and the staging of an Annual Service of Remembrance.
A symbolic site on the south side of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was secured and, on the 4th May 1991 a memorial, then named ‘Blitz’, was unveiled by Her Majesty, the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, following a service in St Paul’s Cathedral. The Memorial was the work of sculptor John Mills, depicting a Fire Officer and two Firemen, cast in bronze engaged in firefighting duties. On its base, also cast in bronze were the names of the 997 men and women who, sadly, lost their lives during World War 2. The style of lettering used is the same as used on the Ration Books of the period – ‘Gill Sans’.
In the early years of the Trust it was the London Fire Brigade Retired Members Association, with the agreement of the Trust, who organised the Annual Service of Remembrance and Wreath Laying Ceremony on the second Sunday in September each year, to mark the commitment and the sacrifice of the men and women of United Kingdom Fire Service during World war 2. September was chosen for the Service of Remembrance to coincide with the month in which the ‘Blitz’ of London started. The ‘Blitz’ commenced on the 7th September 1940 and lasted until 10th May 1941.
In 1996 the Board of Trustees established a database, ‘Rollcall’, recording the details of all Firefighters, meeting the Criteria, as defined by the Trust, who had lost their lives as a result of their duties in both in time of war and in peacetime.
In the year 2000 HM Government, responding to a growing feeling that a memorial to peacetime Firefighters was long overdue, invited the Trust to consider combining such a memorial with our existing World War 2 ‘Blitz’ memorial. The Trustees were pleased to agree and John Mills the original sculptor was charged with designing a new base in bronze that would increase the height of the existing Memorial, in order to accommodate the names of all members of the Fire Service killed or dying as a result of their injuries in peacetime, and to widen the criteria beyond wartime London.
Later, the Trust accepted an invitation from the Royal British Legion to be the organising body for the Retired Firefighters Contingent at the Annual Cenotaph Memorial Service in November each year.
In 2002, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, graciously agreed to become our Patron and in September 2003, we were privileged to have her rededicate the newly elevated and renamed ‘Firefighters Memorial’, which then had an additional 1,192 names of those members of the Fire and rescue service who had died in the course of their duties during peacetime added to the base.
Following the elevation of the Memorial, the then CEO of the Fire Service College, Mr Terry Glossop QFSM suggested that there would be benefits to be gained if the Fire Service Chapel, located at the Fire service College were to be placed under the control and direction of the Firefighters Memorial Trust, in perpetuity. Using his authority and, with the agreement of the Trustees, he placed the Chapel and it’s Books of Remembrance, into the care of the Trust.
In 2005, HM Government, via HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services, invited the Trust to accept responsibility for the existing ‘Fire & Rescue Service Garden’, located at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire. The existing plot was completely re-designed and a new and fitting ‘Fire & Rescue Service Monument’ was created to recognise the contribution to our communities made by members of the Fire & Rescue Service, past and present. HRH The Princess Royal unveiled the new Monument on the 20 May 2008.
The 4th October 2010 saw the status of the Trust further enhanced when Her Majesty The Queen graciously granted a Royal Charter to the then re-named ‘Firefighters Memorial Trust’. This led to a Ceremonial Standard being designed in July 2011. HRH The Princess Royal attended a dedication ceremony at which she presented the Royal Charter and the ceremonial Standard to the Trust.
The year 2012 saw the Trust widen its compass of activity once again. HM Government decided to sell the Fire Service College, located in Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire, into the private sector. However, the College, over many years, had accumulated a significant collection of heritage assets, gifted to the United Kingdom Fire & Rescue Service and thus, not in public ownership. Representatives of HM Government concluded that The Firefighters Memorial Trust was the most fitting body to hold all the heritage assets in trust for the UK Fire Service. A Deed of Gift was duly signed, transferring ownership to The Trust. The collection, now known as ‘The Firefighters Memorial Heritage Collection’. Included within the collection is a range of Fire & Rescue Service related historical paintings, sculptures, firefighting equipment, paper records and photographs, uniforms, mess table silver and various other memorabilia all located within the College.