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Members of volunteer fire service reunite 50 years after disbandment

PUBLISHED: 09:24 19 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:32 19 April 2018

Peter Walker, Wendy Catchpole, Pam Shaw and Mick Howes, who met to commemorate 50 years since the Auxiliary Fire Service was disbanded. Picture: Courtesy of Peter Walker

Peter Walker, Wendy Catchpole, Pam Shaw and Mick Howes, who met to commemorate 50 years since the Auxiliary Fire Service was disbanded. Picture: Courtesy of Peter Walker

Archant

A group of men and women who supported fire brigades amid the threat of nuclear war have gathered to commemorate 50 years since the disbandment of the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS).

An old photo shows members of the Auxiliary Fire Service. Picture: Courtesy of Peter WalkerAn old photo shows members of the Auxiliary Fire Service. Picture: Courtesy of Peter Walker

Peter Walker, who has lived and worked in Lowestoft for most of his life and volunteered for the AFS, was intent on bringing together surviving members who gave up their spare time to attend drill sessions.

Having more or less dissolved during the Second World War, the service was reformed in 1948 when the threat of nuclear war arose and would have been tasked with providing assistance in areas affected by attacks. The Lowestoft branch was based at the old Normanhurst Fire Station before the AFS was eventually disbanded in 1968.

March 31 marked the 50th anniversary of the AFS national stand down and, having appealed for ex-personnel to come forward, Mr Walker met with three former members on April 11.

“We reminisced about the organisation and, interestingly, only one of us had any photos from our time in the AFS,” said Mr Walker.

The AFS consisted of both men and women, who would have been tasked with providing assistance in areas affected by nuclear attacks. Picture: Courtesy of Peter WalkerThe AFS consisted of both men and women, who would have been tasked with providing assistance in areas affected by nuclear attacks. Picture: Courtesy of Peter Walker

“I vaguely knew Mick Howes - the gentleman who came along - but I’d never had any contact with the two ladies, Wendy Catchpole and Pam Shaw - despite having been in Lowestoft for so long.

“We chatted about the town and how things have changed; it was a lovely day and a pleasure to meet them.”

At the invitation of Russel Punchard, station commander at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, the group also had the opportunity to tour the south Lowestoft fire station, where they compared today’s state-of-the-art equipment with that of the mid-20th century.

“It was fascinating to see the modern equipment, which is so different to how things were for us,” added Mr Walker. “The firefighters were also interested to see how things used to be done in the AFS days.

“All in all, we were so glad we decided to meet and hopefully we’ll inspire others to do the same. If there are any other former members who would be interested in reuniting then please do get in touch.”

Anyone who is interested in meeting fellow former AFS volunteers - or knows someone who would be - can contact Peter Walker via email at onaway@live.co.uk.

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