Every little boy’s dream

The long-serving Leyland-Metz turntable ladder seen here in 1933. On the right is Supt Charles Gould.
The long-serving Leyland-Metz turntable ladder seen here in 1933. On the right is Supt Charles Gould.
Simon the cat in HMS Amethyst

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This magnificent looking machine once worked the streets of Portsmouth in the days of the Portsmouth City/Police Fire Brigade when firemen wore brass helmets and carried an axe.

It must have been a magnificent sight seen speeding through the city’s streets.

Every boy’s dream must have been to become one of the men seen hanging on to whatever they could grab, rushing to an emergency with the bell clanging.

The ladder system worked on hydraulics and when fully extended soared to 100ft above the ground.

The fireman would climb to the first stage and stand on a platform. Then the ladders would shoot into the air until the fireman and his hose were positioned over the top of a fire.

One of the exercises the firemen of the time had to do usually took place at the Guildhall.

The fire engine was placed alongside the building and the ladder sent up.

The young firemen then had to climb to the top and get on to the roof of the Guildhall.

After inspection was over they then had to come down, but not the way they went up.

Running underneath the telescopic ladders was a cable that would take a man’s weight. Each fireman would get back on to the platform at the top of the ladders and attach himself to the cable.

He then had to leave the platform and let himself drop, attached to the cable, which lowered him to the ground by hydraulics. It took some nerve to do this but it had to be done at least once.

Former City Police/Fireman Eddie Wallace recalls the time he was off duty and called into the office to ask for the engine to be called out to a fire.

The officer in charge said: ‘You called it out, you go and assist.’

In his civilian clothes Eddie had to climb the ladder and received a soaking for his trouble.