Like father, like son

This proud man is my great grandfather, Charles Benjamin Buscall Deaves (all forenames), my maternal grandfather’s father (1864-1937).  He is dressed in the uniform of the Andover Fire Brigade – Fireman No. 12; helmet, buckle and button shining, his hand rests upon his fireman’s axe.  I am certain this was taken in 1923; there is a group picture of the Fire Brigade in C J J Berry’s Old Andover – 340 pictures covering 120 years, published in 1976.  In the book, Charles is standing in front of a fire engine in identical uniform and pose, looking exactly the same age.  “Andoverians took great pride in their Fire Brigade which was under the direct control of the Borough Council.  For 33 years from 1903 to 1936, its highly respected commander as Capt. F.A. (Arthur) Beale, of Beale & Sons, the local builders and under him the Brigade had a fierce esprit de corps and excelled in efficiency and in competitive drills, winning dozens of trophies and diplomas”.

I imagine Fred and May calling at his father’s house just before he goes for the group photograph, May heavily pregnant with my mother, born in August 1923.  Charles’ wife Alathea (née Deaves): “Doesn’t your Dad look grand Fred, go on take his picture.  I can’t believe it, he will be sixty next year and then he is finished with the Brigade, my, doesn’t time fly.  There will be a vacancy coming up Fred, perhaps you could take his place when he retires – the extra money would come in handy now you’ve got May and the baby to think of “.

Charles Buscall Benjamin DeavesSure enough, Fred’s 1966 obituary includes the following:  During World War II he was a full-time fire officer in the Andover Fire Brigade, having joined in 1925 and served until 1945.  He was called to help at the blitzes at Portsmouth and Southampton.  I am particularly fond of the picture below which at first glance appears to be just a bunch of ‘old boys’ gathered round some up-turned boxes drinking tea, maybe laced with something stronger; my grandfather, Fred, is seated second from the left.  Look more closely though and at least two are in the uniform of the Andover Fire Brigade (AFB badges) whilst one blackened individual looks fresh from an inferno.  On the far right of the picture, on the ground next to the bucket, is a rolled up fire hose.

FiremenIs this the morning after, have they just returned from war torn Plymouth or Southampton or has there been a more local tragedy.  C J J Berry’s book states that “A solid-tyred Dennis engine was bought in 1927 and converted to pneumatic tyres in December 1933” – Charles and Fred would have both been familiar with this machine.  “The first big fire it attended after conversion being that at the Heronry, Whitchurch, a country mansion blaze in which two died; the Duc de la Tremoille and Capt. the Hon. J.H.B. Rodney”.   The Andover Advertiser report on the fire includes this chilling detail:  The finding of the charred remains of Prince Louis Jean Marie de la Tremoille, premier Duke of France, was told by Supt. S. Bennett, of Andover.  The chauffeur, Jackson, said Capt. the Hon. J. H. B. Rodney, was apparently not seriously injured after his leap from the window, and it was a surprise that he died soon after admission to hospital.  It seems certain that Fred would have been in attendance that tragic night.

This final picture was taken at Andover Football Ground, sometime between 1941 and 1945.  Fred is standing on the front row, sixth from the left and the AFB badges have now been replaced by the NFS insignia – the National Fire Service.  This organisation was formed in 1941 by the amalgamation of the wartime national Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and the local authority fire brigades; Andover Fire Brigade was one of 1600 such local authority fire services.  Like his father before him, in this pictuire Fred is edging towards retirement from the Fire Service.

National Fire ServiceOne final note worthy of an ‘anorak’: despite initial assumptions, the fire engine shown in the group photograph above is almost certainly grey and not red.  The white banding around the wheel arches is consistent with other vehicles painted in the standard grey livery.

Royal Flying Corps – Aboukir

In an earlier post I made reference to my maternal grandfather, Fred, being amongst young men in their prime having the time of their lives, securely distant from the horror of the trenches.  Whilst there must be an element of truth in this, life at the Royal Flying Corps Training School at Aboukir, Egypt was always close to the edge.  On the ground or in the air, this picture taken by Fred soon after the incident, conveys the ever present dangers of life at No3 SoMA (School of Military Aviation).

Historic aviation writer David Bruce ( describes this incident as follows:  An aircraft (looks like a D.H.9) ends up nose deep in the roof of a hangar. This is unlikely to have been a crash from height – the aircraft is too intact for that. It is more likely that a trainee pilot made a heavy landing, and by a mixture of throttle mismanagement and a lack of control managed to bounce his way towards the hangar.

Fred survived the war but as we know, his brother William did not.  His local release form from Aboukir is dated 19th January 1919 with a destination of Railway Station nearest home: Andover.  The sea journey back home would take him to No.1 Dispersal Unit Fovant where he was finally authorised to travel to Andover on 18th February 1919.  Did he know that William was gone or did that tragic news await him as he stepped down from the railway carriage that bleak winter’s Tuesday.

Life goes on.  On 21st October 1921 he would marry the pretty Florence May who would eventually turn into ‘Mrs Kipper’, my fearsome grandmother.  It is disconcerting how people can change both physically and mentally as life grinds them down from day to day.

In his obituary the Andover Advertiser newspaper describes Fred as a skilled fitter who was keen on motor-cycle and motor trials and with Mr Macklin built a car which was used for racing.  I am inclined to think this happened between 1919 and that fateful day in 1921 as I am not convinced Florence May would have countenanced such magnificent activity by men in their machines.  Not for the first time, I could be wrong about Mrs Kipper.  The family story is that the car, a Lea-Francis bolted together from two crashed halves, was raced at Brooklands so now I am in touch with their archive to see if this can be confirmed.  I am longing for this to be true.