Challenge and opportunity

Francis Beckett explains how the War and the vision of its general secretary transformed the FBU The Second World War presented Britain’s fire service with its biggest ever challenge – to ensure the country survived a mass bombing campaign over its cities. The solution was to give the FBU its...

Sixty years on from the Smithfield fire

The tragic Smithfield fire led to the deaths of two firefighters in 1958. It also kickstarted a union campaign to modernise the Breathing Apparatus. ARGUABLY the greatest ever achievement of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the fight for firefighters' health and safety post-war has been the...

Nine weeks of struggle

The first national FBU strike in 1977 established a pay system that was to last decades. Helen Hague explains how and why Forty years ago , firefighters across the UK began their first national strike as anger over low pay bubbled up from the grassroots. The Labour government never really believed...

Burning skies

Helen Hague recalls ‘heroes with grimy faces’ who were also artists St Paul’s Cathedral stands proud and defiant against a red glowing sky as huge fires rage all around. A wall from a bombed-out building is collapsing as two firefighters stand in its shadow. A uniformed firefighter, eyes half shut...

Women blazing a trail

Twenty-five female firefighters lost their lives during the Second World War – some of the forgotten heroines of the home front, writes Lynne Wallis Women worked as firefighters long before the Second World War. They were employed by private brigades and others like the one attached to the feminist...

Austerity: 1920s style

Attacks on workers’ pay after the First World War saw the Firemen’s Trade Union (FTU) going to court to stop a 20% cut, says Helen Hague In the aftermath of the First World War trade unions were deeply woven into national life. Wartime strikes had won pay rises and the government had even forced...

Three firefighters posing for a picture in the 1950s

And so it began...

The FBU was born at a time of social upheaval, when London police officers were on strike during a world war, writes Helen Hague . When thousands of striking police officers marched on Downing Street in late August 1918, women’s suffrage campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst sensed revolutionary fervour in...