Memorial service to firemen who lost their lives in a blaze at RAF Neatishead

Places - AAcle firemens funeral.The hearses, preceded by Station Officer R.R. Duncum, on their j

Places - AAcle firemens funeral.The hearses, preceded by Station Officer R.R. Duncum, on their journey to Acle Church.Two firemen who died in the R.A.F. Neatishead fire. All the shops in the village closed for the funeral and extra chairs were put into the 14th century church for the service to accommodate about 300.The two were 52 year old Leading Fireman Herbert Durrant and Fireman John Holman aged 23.Mr Durrant a part-time fireman had worked for about 20 years for F.W. Sutton, the Acle butchers. Mr Holman was a full-time fireman.The service was taken by the Rector of Acle church Reverend E.W. Alexander.Dated 28 February 1966Plate P9442

A memorial service has been held to mark 50 years since three courageous firefighters lost their lives in a blaze at RAF Neatishead.

The service, at St Peter's Church, Neatishead yesterday, was followed by a reception at the RAF Defence Air Radar Museum, which is adjacent to the RAF Neatishead radar station where the tragedy occurred in an underground bunker on February 16, 1966.

The three fire officers who died were divisional officer, Gordon Robert Dix, 52, from Holt; leading fireman Herbert James Durrant, 52; and fireman John Stuart Holman, 23, both from Acle. They had entered the bunker to try to locate the source of the fire, but were overcome by smoke.

Attending the memorial service were colleagues, friends and family of the men and representatives from the fire service and the RAF.

Russell Allen, 77, from Great Yarmouth, had served with John Holman for five years as a firefighter at Acle and was called out to help tackle the bunker fire.

He said: 'It was really quite sad. I had served with John on the same crew before I moved to Yarmouth and you think 'there but for the grace of God'.'

Roy Harold, Norfolk's chief fire officer, said the events at Neatishead had led to the introduction of knotted guide lines, to try to ensure firefighters did not get lost when entering burning buildings.

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The damage was estimated at £1¼m at the time and led to the closure of the bunker for a lengthy period.

Airman John Cheesman was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to arson and starting the fire.

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