While researching for his
book "The Battle of the Flames" in 1991 David Needham realised
that the sacrifice made by those involved in Fire and Rescue
within the County had not been publicly recognised and that
no focal point existed for family, friends and colleagues to
pay their respects existed locally.
He tried on three occasions to obtain permission from the Fire
& Rescue Service to erect a memorial to those who had given
their lives in service, but on each time encountered obstacles
that, at that point, could not be overcome. In 2010 he approached
three other retired fire service colleagues and they resolved
to see the project through.
The decision to raise money
to provide a lasting memorial to those members of the Fire and
Rescue Services, who had given their life in the service of
others, resulted in a three year effort and involved stations
doing fund raising as well as applying for community funds.
Re-enactment displays were organised and street collections
carried out where the public could donate. Two people raised
money by doing a parachute jump with the Red Devils and David
Needham received no royalties from the sales of his book "The
Battle of the Flames" instead he requested 200 copies of the
book from the publishers which then were sold as part of the
fund raising, realising the sum of £1800 for the appeal.
Thanks to the dedication of the fund raisers and the connection
that the community clearly has with their Fire Service, a total
of £16,898.51 was raised during the appeal.
The decision on the form
that the memorial would take was not easy and changed over time.
At the start of the project, four of the team, Trevor Newton,
David Needham, Bryan Docherty and Alan Yeo, were invited to
visit Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service who had a memorial to
their war time crews. This is a larger than life size bronze
statue entitled "The Fourth Arm" the artist was prepared to
create a bronze of a similar size to our requirements. Excited
by the prospect of such a statue the committee began looking
for a suitable location.
From the photographs taken
during this visit one stood out and seemed to represent our
mission. With Hampshire's blessing a modified version of this
picture became the Memorial Committee Logo.
To start the fund raising
it was felt that a suitable Civic launch would set the scene
and give the appeal the gravitas that it deserved. Dave and
Alan met with The Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Cllr Jeannie Packer
and set out their aspirations and asked for her help. The Lord
Mayor was involved with the creation of two other memorials
at that time but readily agreed to give what assistance she
could. At that meeting the committee's representative were introduced
to Norman, Jeannie's husband. Norman had served as a Fireman
in the RAF and pledged his support for the memorial appeal.
True to their word, Jeanie with Norman's help organised a high
profile launch in the Old Market square in Nottingham, with
Robin Hood and an assembled press core in attendance.
Through the Lord Mayor,
The Nottingham City Council suggested that within the memorial
gardens on the Victoria embankment, at the side of the River
Trent, would be fitting and have close links to the other monuments
sited there. A considerable amount of work was done on a feasibility
study along with the City Parks and the Planning department.
It was around this time that, with the full costing of such
a venture to hand it was realised that the prospect of raising
the huge sums of money involved to commission a sculpture and
have it installed, while not unattainable, would certainly delay
the realisation of the vision by many years. Looking at other
options, the team decided that a stone monument would not only
meet the basic criteria set at the beginning "to erect a fitting
memorial to the memory of those who gave their life as a member
of the Fire and Rescue Services" but would also make the whole
project achievable in a reasonable time frame. Ben Percival
of Ernest Smith stone masons had been extremely helpful during
the discussions surrounding the bronze statue. This would have
sat on a stone plinth onto which the names that we wanted to
remember would have been carved and Ben had been an enthusiastic
and knowledgeable with experience of other memorials within
the City. Ben readily agreed to attend each committee meeting
as an advisor. His input was so valuable that he became a full
voting member, abstaining only on votes that concerned financial
decisions in respect of the stone and its carving. His suggestion
that a stone obelisk would be appropriate was agreed by the
committee and the search for a site continued. One option that
ran for a while was a site within the Nottingham Castle grounds.
Ultimately the decision was made that the City Council preferred
to keep the area for Military memorials such as the one commemorating
the recipients of the Victoria Cross. Once Jeannie's tenure
as Lord Mayor of Nottingham came to an end she and Norman were
free to give more of their time to the appeal and joined the
committee, where their knowledge of other similar appeals and
understanding of the workings of the City Council saved many
hours of work and smoothed many miles of "red tape". Two serving
members of the service, Adrian Pearce-Naylor and Arron Enever,
became deeply involved in fund raising activities alongside
David Needham and they were asked to bring their expertise to
the committee meetings. Their connection to today's service
and their enthusiasm constantly helped to move things on. Both
were serving at Highfields fire station where permission had
been given for the committee to meet, having two insiders ensured
that a room was booked whenever it was required! Discussions
on sitting the memorial continued over a number of weeks.
The one location that continually
came up was the Lace Market area of the City and specifically
St. Mary's Church. The Lace Market had been a condensed area
of large factories which as the name suggests were connected
mainly with the production and finishing of lace and its associated
trades. During World War II this area was extensively damaged
committing the Fire Service to many hours and days of fire fighting
activity. Strangely for such a high risk area, the Shire Hall
opposite St. Mary's was the location for the Fire Control room
during the war years. The Lace Market remained an area of high
fire service activity for many years after the war, being the
scene of many large fires which in some cases created the spaces
upon which toady's car parks are built! Some of the committee
members have vivid memories of huge blazes over the years involving
15 or 20 pumping appliances. Discussions with the Vicar of St.
Mary's, the Reverend Peter Harrison, indicated that the Church
felt, as we did, that this was a most suitable location.
The plans were put to the Church Council and although not passed
unanimously the matter was referred to the Southwell Diocese
for final determination. Permission to erect the memorial was
given and plans put in place to comply with all of the conditions
contained in the consent. A date of 8th or 9th May 2013 was
the target for unveiling the memorial to coincide with the date
of the worst air raid and loss of life experienced by Nottingham
during World War II.
In late 2012 a decision had to be made on ordering the stone.
Fortunately a donation from the winding up of The Nottinghamshire
Fire & Rescue Service Officers Club ensured that sufficient
funds would be available to meet this cost and the order was
placed. This gave the Mason the lead-in time to have the memorial
on site for the projected unveiling date. The Nottinghamshire
memorial committee had become affiliated to the National Firefighters
Memorial Trust, in the course of their work, the patron of which
is HRH The Princess Royal and the Trust indicated that Her Royal
Highness may available to unveil the memorial. It was felt that
this would be a fitting conclusion to the project and one that
would create a memorable day for the relatives and friends of
those commemorated by the memorial. Organising such an event
was yet another challenge for the committee and one that they
had not anticipated.
As the majority of the committee consisted of retired Officers
and serving personnel, they recognised that a formal event relating
to the Fire Service should have the attendance of the Chief
Fire Officer. Nottinghamshire's Chief, Frank Swann, was approached
and he agreed to attend and provide practical help, by assigning
one of his senior staff (Area Manager John Mann) to work with
the committee on the many tasks that had to be completed. The
unveiling was an occasion displaying the best traditions of
the Fire Service and provided a fitting climax to three years
of hard work.
The committee also wish to place on record their thanks to the
many organisations and individuals who contributed their time,
effort and money to provide this lasting memorial. Special mention
must be made of the AFS and NFS display group, the Fire Service
Preservation Group and the Mansfield Fire Museum. In particular
David Moore, Dave Madden and Terry Spalding for their support
with fund raising and in providing vintage fire appliances and
people in wartime uniform for many events including the 1940's
weekend at Nottingham's Central Fire Station, the Church Service
to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Nottingham
in May 1941 and of course their unforgettable contribution to
the Memorial unveiling.