Auxiliary Fire Service 1948 to 1968.

In 1941 during the second world war the Fire Service was nationalised, becoming the Nation Fire Service or NFS with appliances painted grey. Photo by Ian MacPherson.

A1 Austin NFS

In 1948 the NFS was disbanded and the fire service responsibility, given back to the Local authorities to be run independently. Photo by Pete Matten.

A2 bedford major pump

At this time the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) was reformed along with the Civil Defence Corps. A huge fleet of vehicles was put together, with the idea of creating mobile columns in readiness to move into areas affected by a hostile attack, or other emergency situation. The colour of these AFS vehicles was Land Rover Bronze Green. The major concern would be the availability of large quantities of water. With this in mind the primary role of the mobile column would be to provide adequate supplies of water to where it was needed the most. The main stay of the mobile column was the self-propelled pump or SP as it was known as. There were 2 models of SP, both built on Bedford chassis’ powered by a thirsty 4.5 litre 6 cylinder petrol engine. The earlier model was a 4×2 rear wheel driven vehicle, which was superseded by the 4×4 4 wheel drive version. 

4×2 version. Photograph by Pete Matten.

A3 4x2 bedford sp

4×4 version. Photo by Ian Hucker.


These self-propelled pumps were designed to work in a water relay using 6 inch diameter hose connected between each appliance, so enabling vast quantities of water to be pumped over long distances.Photo by Nigel Tipping

A5 water relay

Each pump was capable of pumping 900 gallons of water per minute over a distance of half a mile. The SP’s were also fully fitted out fire appliances, with a range of equipment including a portable Coventry Climax pump. Most of the hose fittings such as standpipe’s and branches were made from lightweight aluminium, as opposed to brass fittings used in the regular fire brigades.Photo by Nigel Tipping.

A6 SP locker

The 6 inch diameter rigid plastic hose was carried on special hose carrying lorries based on the Commer or Bedford 4×4 chassis. Photo by Ian McPherson.

A7 afs bedford hose lorry

The hose carriers also carried 15 feet sections of  6 inch aluminium tubing, which was used to construct bridges, when the need arose to cross over roads. Photo by Nigel Tipping.

A8 afs water bridge

The mobile Columns were self-sufficient with a wide range of vehicles and equipment assisting the SP’s including.

Land Rovers.


Staff cars for column commanders. Photo byemdjt42.

B1 afs a40

Mobile Control Units. Photo by messy_beast

B2 Afs Control unit

General purpose lorries. Photo by mickyman13.

B3 AFS Bedford GP Lorry

Motor cycles for dispatch riders. Photo by vintage bike.

B4 afs matchless 350

Recovery vehicles. Photo by NFS & AFS vehicles group.


One specialised vehicle was the Bikini Unit, based on the popular Commer Q4 4×4 chassis. Photo by snaptophobic.

B6 bikini unit

This unit was designed to carry equipment for working on water such as lakes or rivers. It carried 3 inflatable rafts, and 9 Coventry Climax portable pumps. The rafts were propelled by a jet of water produced by one of the portable pumps.

Most Fire Stations had an AFS division involving volunteer firemen, who attended for weekly training sessions and drills, and also joined other stations for organised exercises. Photo by Nigel Tipping.

B8 vehicles in line

Brownhills fire station had a 4×2 SP, No SP7 Registration No NYV 471.

B9 SP7

Also a staff car, 2 land rovers, SXF 116 & SXF 117, and a six bike dispatch rider section run by Sub Officer David Ryder.

The AFS was disbanded in 1968, and all of the earlier 4×2 SP’s were sold by auction, along with the specialised equipment. The majority of the 4×4 SP’s, or Green Goddess’s as they are affectionately known, are still kept in storage around the country. These can be made available for emergency situations, and were used by the Army during the Fire Brigade strike in 1978.

Some of these vehicles were purchased by enthusiasts for preservation, and are taken to vintage rallies, shows, and re-enactment displays. Others like this 4×2 SP have been converted for other use. Photo by Brian Gooding.

C2 converted sp to wrecker

And this Q4 Commer 4×4. Photo by Lady Wulfrun.

C3 Commer Q4 red

12 Responses to “Auxiliary Fire Service 1948 to 1968.”

  1. onefouronetwo Says:

    Ah, the nostalgia of it all!

  2. David Says:

    Is the original water-relay pic by Nigel Tipping ?

    I would like to use it in a book I’m writing, and seek permission to do so.

    Please advise via email.


  3. max clarke Says:

    i have a fully restored 1967 bsa c15 ex afs and i am trying to trace its history. engine & frame no c15g 1580 any leads? thanks max.

  4. BigT Says:

    What fun we had on exercises at Moreton in Marsh Aerodrome! It still had the old runways, hangars, huts and the Astra cinema!

    I recall a weekend exercise when the column drove off to do a lengthy circuit, ‘guided’ by dispatch riders (Don R’s). The column should have taken about two hours but some stragglers were still coming back eight hours later! They made us do the exercise again the next day!

    • Dave Says:

      Never did a weekend exercise as you describe at Moreton in the Marsh but once did one of the courses there which lasted a week. I remember putting in for an extra weeks leave from English Electric at Stafford,not expecting to be paid for this as the company had a fixed two week holiday where everyone took this time off. They gave me paid leave and the Home Office also paid me the same amount also. I presume that anyone who did need to take leave,whether in the AFS or TA ect did the same

  5. Graham Baillie Says:

    Good to see the old girls I was a pump operator up to 1968 I was stationed at B 21 Clapham old town London we was the last operational crew to standown should have been midnight but we done the full night shift had to hand in our pillows and blankets but could keep our uniforms donated mine to L.F.B museum I still have happy memories of past times drove lots of vehicles

  6. Luda Pete. Says:

    We had a pipe relay excercise in the London Docks circa 1965.
    We drove in convoy from Northampton ,to experience driving on the
    M1,which at the time finished there. Does Graham have recall of this??

  7. Graham Baillie Says:

    Sorry about the long delay yes I do remember the docks 1965 I was given the radio van for the exercise very important job guess what?iwent to the wrong docks still it was fun watching the chaos Happy memories even now 73 years young now all the best !

  8. Terence Kenny Says:

    Came across this by accident. I was in Dudley AFS from ’62 to ’68. Lved every minute of it. I thought the London exercise was in ’66 to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the Great Fire of London. Stayed in barracks and met a girl from Stoke who became a girlfriend. Happy days and still in touch with old colleagues.( I’m also 73 now and still using the axe I retained!!

  9. iptv Says:

    You must participate in a contest for among the best blogs on the web. I will suggest this website!

  10. Tom Zalewski Says:

    Great write up! However, you did miss including the Austin Gipsy and BT8 Brockhouse trailer in your list of AFS equipment.

    Like the Land Rover, the Austin Gipsy was used to transport AFS personnel. Both the Land Rover and the Austin Gipsy were capable of towing the Brockhose trailer that had a 1275cc Coventry Climax engine and double pump, that could run 2 fire hoses, and pump a serious amount of water in a short time. Trailer also carried all hoses, attachments, tools, shovel, axe, etc.

    My son and I co-own a Austin Gipsy (CYY 291C) which was sold out of the 1997 BCA Measham Sell off. It still has less than three thousand original miles on the odometer and has its original tilt, original tyres, etc. Bought it off individual who had bought at auction there in the UK and had shipped to New Jersey, USA. Great vehicle!

    For anyone with more interest suggest four websites:

    Happy motoring!

  11. Graham Baillie Says:

    We where very lucky in the London AFS prior to disbandment we were fully operational our last training by a regular station officer at our station was on breathing apparatus and hook ladders. The officer said you want to play firemen the LFB we will teach you. after learning all that they disbanded us .all the best Firemen. Graham.

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