Rayleigh Firemen Bailed out Canvey

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By Sue Horncastle

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The fire crew photo shows Dick Wilkins on far right, back row. Alfie Allen is far right on bottom row. Other names would be gratefully received.

Back row from left: Eric Phillips, Ray Sach, Horry Ilines, Dan Smith, Harold Bull, Dick Wilkins. Front Row from left: Chris Healey, Jeff Hart, Fred Keeble, Ned Hale, Jim Stock, Alfie Allen. Has anybody got a better photo ?

Dick Wilkins and his mate Alfie Allen were two of Rayleigh's volunteer firemen. The crew was called out in the early hours of the morning of 1 February 1953 to assist in the rescue of Canvey Island's inundated inhabitants.

The fire tender was a four wheel drive ex-army vehicle, ideal as it could manage to keep going through water to a depth of three or four feet. When they arrived on the island the crew were issued with small canvas boats, commandeered from a nearby boating pool.

Dick and Alfie set off to the rescue, battling in the dark against strong winds. In one property they found an elderly couple stuck halfway up their staircase with a large suitcase each. There was only room in the little boat for one passenger, so Dick set off with the woman and her case while Alfie proposed carrying the old man on his back.

The garden path was unpaved and slippery; the old man and his suitcase were an unstable burden for Alfie and despite warnings to the man to keep still, the worst happened and Alfie, his passenger and the suitcase all ended up in three feet of water. Luckily they were unharmed, if soaked.

The rescuers' work was far from over. Although 59 people died that night, the Rayleigh fire crew, including the two friends, continued throughout the day to save more of the stricken islanders and ferry them to safety.

(If any readers have further information about this event please do get in touch, we would be very pleased to hear from you.)

See also Rayleigh Firestation on this site.

This page was added by Sue Horncastle on 01/01/2012.
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Please can you or Sue correct my error as highlight by Tony Sach, back row, second in from the left should read Ray Sach and not Bert Pickup.

Sorry for the mistake.


By Andrew Hart
On 11/02/2017

Tony, I'm so sorry for the error, I can only think I was looking at a different photo when transposing the names. As you know the "22" crew were very successful in this era winning the efficiency competition many times and your dad Ray was instrumental in that success. 

The wartime log book is currently at the new Rayleigh museum for cataloging due to the volume of Rayleigh people involved, I hope to increase the donations to achieve a level for an eventual exhibit to the Rayleigh fire crews over the years.


By Andrew Hart
On 11/02/2017

Andrew Hart, I thought you of all people would know that the fireman standing behind your late father is Ray Sach, his long time mate and work colleague and my late father. Your Dad was Sub Officer Hart and my Dad was Leading Fireman Sach.

By Tony Sach
On 19/01/2017

To fill in the names to the faces, Back row from the left: Eric Phillips, Bert Pickup, Horry Ilines, Dan Smith, Harold Bull, Dick Wilkins. front row from the left: Chris Healey, Jeff Hart, Fred Keeble (holding the Booth Cup), Ned Hale, Jim Stock, Alfie Allen.

By Andrew Hart
On 21/06/2013
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