First of all, I feel I should apologise for my lengthy absence, however as many of my world readers may not be aware Britain has managed after many years to have a couple of weeks of really warm weather, and I have been out enjoying this, ready for the next few months of torrential rain. Anyway on to the latest article from me 🙂 I was out the other day and I found in a sidestreet, a vintage clothes shop, happily working my way through the rails of fairly modern battledress so loved by the fashionable youth, I found a 1972 pattern RAF volunteer Reserve jacket, not much unusual in that and it’s price, a meagre £20, again nothing unusual about that, what caught my eye however was the medal ribbons, or more correctly what was attached to the medal ribbons. In checking the jacket over I saw a name penned in the collar, hurriedly the jacket was paid for and I left happy for the day (although probably much to my mothers chagrin as she is not too fond of my “smelly old uniforms”).
The Jacket is a “1972 pattern service working dress, the wartime working dress uniforms were replaced for all ranks with the 1972 pattern No 2 uniforms. Made of a smooth woollen and man-made fibre mix material the jacket was a loose blouson design with a front zip fastener and epaulettes. Earlier RAF blue crew-necked woollen pullovers were replaced with a new V-neck design featuring blue-grey cloth elbow and shoulder patches plus a pen holder patch on the left sleeve.”
The thing that caught my eye however was a small silver laurel spray, on some RAF blue tunic material on the end of three medal ribbons; the Defence Medal, War Medal and the Fire Brigade Long Service Medal. I figured it had to have an interesting story behind it, and indeed it had. It was a Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct, a sort of non-combat MID, it basically means not in contact with the enemy, you tend to find it to people like rescue workers in the blitz etc.
In searching the London Gazette I found that a certain Aubrey John Fruin had in 1974 been commisioned into the RAF Volunteer Reserve Training Branch, as a Pilot Officer.
On the 11 May 1954 at 1500 hours, a five story warehouse caught fire and this fire continued to burn until approximately 2230 hours on the same day, it was attended by over 100 firemen and 6 men were unfortunately gravely injured (Sub Officer Sidney Peen, Leading Fireman Ernest Datlin, Fireman Kenneth Aylward, Fireman Charles Gadd, Fireman Frederick Parr and Fireman Daniel Stocking) and two members of the Clerkenwell firestation; Station Officer Fred Hawkins and Fireman A E J Batt-Rawden, sadly died.
Click on the video below to see Pathe news coverage of the incident….
TWO FIREMEN KILLED IN COVENT GARDEN FIRE
His entry in the London Gazette:
18th June 1954: Aubrey Whiting John FRUIN, Fireman, London Fire Brigade. (East Dulwich, S.E.22.) For services when a fire broke out in a five story building.
I am slowly piecing together information about this fire;
“Clerkenwell firefighters paid dearly at a fire at Covent Garden on May 11, 1954.
“While fighting a fire in a warehouse containing fruit and vegetables, adjacent to Covent Garden, London, Station Officer Fred Hawkins and Fireman A E J Batt-Rawden, both of Clerkenwell Fire Station, lost their lives,” according to Fire magazine. “Sub Officer Sidney Peen, Leading Fireman Ernest Datlin, Fireman Kenneth Aylward, Fireman Charles Gadd, Fireman Frederick Parr and Fireman Daniel Stocking were all sent to hospital. Three of the injured required plastic surgery treatment.””
News of the fire made it all the way to New South Wales:
It also bought to light some failings in the way the fire brigade had acted:
i. No recording and supervising of men entering and leaving the incident. In fact one fireman was only unaccounted for when a roll call was taken at the fire stations which had responded to the incident.
ii. No means of summoning assistance in an emergency – Crews took nearly an hour to locate a trapped colleague after a collapse.
iii. No evacuation signals to warn men to withdraw if signs of collapse became evident.
I am looking for a more detailed idea of why he was decorated but to be the only man, it must have been something fairly special.