Nostalgia: Romford’s hero firemen of the First World War

PUBLISHED: 15:25 20 March 2013 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 March 2013

Bygone Havering. Pic: Chris Van-Holby

Bygone Havering. Pic: Chris Van-Holby


Take a glimpse into the past. We want you to share your old photographs from around the borough with readers. They could be of local landmarks, residents or family members. This week we feature these fabulous pictures and story of a former Romford fireman sent in by proud grandson Chris Van-Holby

Chris said: “During the First World War, Romford Fire Brigade was called to a fire at a munition factory on the River Thames.

“The bravery of the Romford crew went unreported until the end of the war but eventually six firefighters were to receive the OBE from the King for the parts they played in rescuing several young women from a munitions factory at Rainham.

“The building was well ablaze when the Romford crew arrived with their equipment comprising wet cloths to aid breathing, a whistle and a hank of string to keep them together, they removed 12 young women who all survived.

“Minutes later the factory was blown hundreds of feet into the River Thames.

“An inquiry found sadly that the cause of the fire was the night watchman smoking a cigarette in the powder room.

“My grandfather, George Alfred Holby and his brother Edward Holby, were two of those men.

“My grandfather served for 44 years in the Romford Fire Brigade, first as a volunteer on horse drawn firepumps and then as a full-time fireman on the new motor engines.”

Send pictures and your contact details to or post to Media House, 539 High Road, Ilford IG1 1UD or call 020 8477 3878.

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