In 1930 the union took the name we use today: the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
The name change was instigated by general secretary Percy Kingdom, who wanted to prevent any confusion with railway and ships’ firemen. He felt that changing the word “trades” to “brigades” would help avoid incorrect association with the very different role of other firemen who were responsible for running the steam engines on ships and trains.
The union has had a proud sense of independence ever since it was founded in 1918. Yet its biggest threat was losing firefighters to rival unions. These rivalries were not restricted to smaller unions but also involved larger general unions, which tried to recruit firefighters into their ranks.
Losing members was not the only risk. The TUC was keen to reduce the number of trade unions through amalgamation. There were talks about one big public sector trade union. It was even debated that the union should return to the NUCW, but the move was rejected, not least because of the animosity still felt by the NUCW over the FBU’s formation.
So the union’s rebranding exercise was about more than just looking pretty on paper. The Fire Brigades Union, with its bold logo (or badge), was a successful attempt to strengthen the union’s identity and pride within its membership.
Since the first badge of 1930 there have only been two more rebrandings of its badge, which again reflected the changing image of the union and the work of firefighters.
By the postwar period the union had gained an agreement from the TUC at its annual conference that the FBU should be the only union recruiting in the fire service.