Auxiliary Fire Service
The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) was first formed in 1938 in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 as part of Civil Defence
Civil defense
Civil defense, civil defence or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation, and recovery...

 Air raid precautions
Air Raid Precautions
Air Raid Precautions was an organisation in the United Kingdom set up as an aid in the prelude to the Second World War dedicated to the protection of civilians from the danger of air-raids. It was created in 1924 as a response to the fears about the growing threat from the development of bomber...

. Its role was to supplement the work of brigades at local level. In this job it was hampered severely by the incompatibility of equipment used by these different brigades - most importantly the lack of a standard size of hydrant valve. The Auxiliary Fire Service and the local brigades were superseded in August 1941 by the National Fire Service
National Fire Service
The National Fire Service was the single fire service created in Great Britain in 1941 during the Second World War; a separate National Fire Service was created in 1942....


Members of the AFS were unpaid part-time volunteers, but could be called up for whole-time paid service if necessary. This was very similar to the wartime establishment of the police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 Special Constabulary
Special Constabulary
The Special Constabulary is the part-time volunteer section of a statutory police force in the United Kingdom or some Crown dependencies. Its officers are known as Special Constables or informally as Specials.Every United Kingdom territorial police force has a special constabulary except the...

. Men and women could join, the latter mainly in an administrative role.


An AFS was formed in every county borough
County borough
County borough is a term introduced in 1889 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland , to refer to a borough or a city independent of county council control. They were abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in England and Wales, but continue in use for lieutenancy and shrievalty in...

, borough
A borough is an administrative division in various countries. In principle, the term borough designates a self-governing township although, in practice, official use of the term varies widely....

 and urban district
Urban district
In the England, Wales and Ireland, an urban district was a type of local government district that covered an urbanised area. Urban districts had an elected Urban District Council , which shared local government responsibilities with a county council....

, and there was also one in the London County Council
London County Council
London County Council was the principal local government body for the County of London, throughout its 1889–1965 existence, and the first London-wide general municipal authority to be directly elected. It covered the area today known as Inner London and was replaced by the Greater London Council...

 area. Each AFS was commanded by a Commandant
Commandant is a senior title often given to the officer in charge of a large training establishment or academy. This usage is common in anglophone nations...

, with Deputy and/or Assistant Commandants in the larger services. The services operated their own fire station
Fire station
A fire station is a structure or other area set aside for storage of firefighting apparatus , personal protective equipment, fire hose, fire extinguishers, and other fire extinguishing equipment...

s, each commanded by a Section Officer, and station areas were divided into Fire Beats, each under the command of a Patrol Officer. Services with five or more stations divided them into Divisions, each under the command of a Divisional Officer. These ranks were not laid down by the government, and some services used different systems.


The Auxiliary Fire Service was reformed in 1948 alongside the Civil Defence Corps
Civil Defence Corps
The Civil Defence Corps was a civilian volunteer organisation established in Great Britain in 1949 to take control in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. It was stood down in Great Britain in 1968...

. It was equipped with 1,000 Green Goddess
Green Goddess
The Green Goddess is the colloquial name for the Bedford RLHZ Self Propelled Pump, a fire engine used originally by the Auxiliary Fire Service , and latterly by the British Armed Forces. These green-painted vehicles were built between 1953 and 1956 for the Auxiliary Fire Service...

 (Bedford RLHZ Self Propelled Pump) fire engines. It was disbanded in 1968.

During peacetime, AFS crews frequently attended fires and accidents alongside their regular colleagues. They provided significant assistance at some of the worst fires, such as that at Billingsgate Market and at Barking
Barking is a suburban town in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, in East London, England. A retail and commercial centre situated in the west of the borough, it lies east of Charing Cross. Barking was in the historic county of Essex until it was absorbed by Greater London. The area is...

 wood yard. AFS personnel were trained in firefighting by their own officers and with assistance from full-time fire officers. Many were trained to the St John Ambulance Higher First Aider Certificate standard - often proving invaluable at major incidents involving injury.

The Green Goddesses were used in two forms, a 4x4 version fitted with a 900 gpm Sigmund centrifugal pump and a 2x4 version (the most common type issued) fitted with the 1000 gpm pump. These latter could combine to provide a pipe relay over great distances when connected using 6-inch hose, supplying 1000 gpm from one location to another, often the seat of a major fire. An inflatable dam was often used as the source for the relay, usually fed by using several Light Portable Pumps powered by Coventry Climax FWP engines. These were sometimes floated on a 'bikini' raft so they could draw directly from a water supply such as a river.

The AFS has never had any connection whatever with any of the British Armed Forces. It is a pure coincidence that the Government used Army personnel to man and operate fire appliances during the Firemen's strikes. The appliances used were former AFS equipment brought out of mothball for the purpose. Many have since been sold at public auction
Public auction
A public auction is an auction held on behalf of a government in which the property to be auctioned is either property owned by the government, or property which is sold under the authority of a court of law or a government agency with similar authority....


The Auxiliary Fire Service is still active as part of Civil Defence in the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...


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