Firemen went to blazes from corporation stables

Portsmouth's original Central Fire Station in what was then Park Road, in 1939
Portsmouth's original Central Fire Station in what was then Park Road, in 1939
Tom Glover's mid-1970s' photograph of the remains of the old Gosport ferry Viva.

NOSTALGIA: A year in the life of an old Portsmouth wreck

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Former Portsmouth policeman and friend of Remember When, Eddie Wallace, took issue with a recent snippet recalling the huge fire of 1934 which destroyed the Co-op department store in Fratton Road.

It came from a book which claimed the old Portsmouth City Police Force, which was also responsible for the fire brigade, could not stop it spreading because it was ‘criminally undermanned’.

Eddie says: ‘It was not the fault of the police or the Watch Committee. At the time the country was coming out of the worst depression ever and there was no cash available.

‘This was despite requests from the committee to the Home Office for an increase in officers for the brigade and an up-dated or new Central Fire Station which was then in Park Road, now King Henry I Street.’

The station had been built in 1872 as the corporation’s stables and altered to take fire appliances with single men’s quarters above.

He adds: ‘Because of Home Office refusal to provide extra cash, police cadets were taken on as apprentice firemen with training supplemented by regular officers.

‘At the time of the Co-op fire the brigade comprised 18 police officers plus six cadets. It earned the respect of the Home Office Inspectors of Constabulary and Fire Services.’

He watched the Co-op blaze as a teenager and the firemen’s work inspired him to want to join the service.