Volunteer fire crews from Huntingdon mark half-century since being disbanded

George Milbank with the AFS crew 50 years ago

George Milbank with the AFS crew 50 years ago - Credit: Archant

A team of volunteer firefighters whose job it was to help tackle fires caused by nuclear bombs if the Cold War turned hot are marking the 50th anniversary of their organisation being disbanded.

The AFS Green Goddess fire engine

The AFS Green Goddess fire engine - Credit: Archant

Members of the Huntingdon-based Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) unit will return to the town’s fire station on March 31 for a half-century reunion.

George Milbank, 84, from Huntingdon, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed it and was sad when it disbanded. They were a good bunch of lads, I couldn’t fault them.”

Members of the AFS were part of a national network expected to back up what was left of the fire service if Britain was attacked in a nuclear war and would have been sent to where they were needed.

The volunteer firefighters were equipped with Green Goddess fire engines and trucks known as “Bikini Units” which carried inflatable rafts and pumps so the crew could relay water from a source to the fire.

Former AFS fireman George Milbank with Huntingdon fire station in the background

Former AFS fireman George Milbank with Huntingdon fire station in the background - Credit: Archant

Mr Milbank said: “It was an emergency crew from the Cold War period. We had the equipment and we knew that if a bomb had come locally it would have been all over and so we would have been sent out to something 20 or 30 miles away.”

He said he enjoyed the regular training sessions with his colleagues.

Most Read

AFS members were also called in to help the full-time firefighters from time to time.

Mr Milbank, originally from London, had been a fireman in the Middlesex fire brigade before moving to Huntingdon and had also served in the RAF.

He said he had seen a poster for AFS volunteers near the old fire station in Princes Street, made inquiries and was involved in organising the team.

“I thought if I joined the AFS the money they had spent on training me to be a fireman would not go to waste,” said Mr Milbank, who was working for Eastern Electricity at the time.

He explained that the AFS was broken up in 1968, along with the Civil Defence network, because they were no longer considered to be necessary.

Mr Milbank said that Huntingdon’s Green Goddess fire engine was now part of a Cold War display at the RAF Museum in Cosford, Shropshire.