A Fireman Retires

Frank Bourn Retires

“Today I am a fireman, tomorrow I shall be a sexagenarian.” With these words, Station Officer Bourn, fireman by instinct and tradition, addressed his men at his farewell party held at the Crown Hotel on Saturday, November 12th.

Frank Bourn was born in Rye, at Judge’s Place, 60 years ago. Even at that time the Bourn’s had a tradition as firemen, both his father and grandfather were in the Rye Brigade.

The Bourns moved to Ferry road and then to Mint Court. Frank attended the Lion Street School, when he left he tried his hand at bakery, but soon joined his father in the family building business.

In 1930 he joined the Rye Fire Brigade, this was when the station was at the Town Hall. His first parade was the Armistice Parade. In these early days he soon demonstrated his quality as a fireman by winning no less than ten trophies in the local ‘Pump Drill’ competitions.

Car Fire Market Road

April 11th, 1931 was a very important date in Frank Bourn’s life. On that day he was married to Ethel May Wood, a Rye girl, at the Congregational Church. The newly married couple made their home first with Frank’s parents at Mint Court, then in South Undercliff and finally, in 1933, they moved to 17 Rope Walk where they have lived up to the present day.

Frank Bourn was a keen soccer player, first playing for Rye Ramblers and then Rye United as goal-keeper. Since the war Mr. Bourn has kept his interest in football, acting as referee on many occasions and latterly running the Rye Charity Cup.

Fighting a Fire at a Railway Hut near Rye Station
Fighting a Fire at a Railway Hut near Rye Station

He was an Engineer in the Fire Brigade when the modern Rye Fire Station was opened in 1937. Through the war years he was a permanent fireman stationed at Rye arid Battle. He attended many aircraft and bombing incidents in these war-torn times.

In 1948 Mr. Bourn became the Station Officer at Rye and has held down this responsible post until his recent retirement. In the last 18 years he has directed operations at all the important local fires. His competent handling of the Garage fire in Cinque Ports Street was admired by all who witnessed the blaze.


The Bourns have three children, Margaret Audrey and Michael. All are now married. Margaret followed the family tradition in 1950 and became a Firewoman at the Rye Station. She left the force after her marriage to Arthur Tiltman, another fireman. They had a “Fireman’s Wedding” being towed from the Church to the reception on a fire pump.

Michael joined the force in 1957 and carries on the family tradition of uninterrupted service to the brigade.

Frank Bourn 4

Speaking of Station Officer Bourn’s leadership, Mr. W. Holland, East Sussex Chief Fire Officer, said, “I have never worried about the Rye division when the bells go down at Lewes, I knew who the man on the spot would be.”

Frank Bourn 2


”Station Officer Frank Bourn led his men at the march past at the 1966 Remembrance Day Parade for the last time, proudly wearing the uniform that he has served so well, for the salute at this years Remembrance Parade.

E F Benson with Rye's New Fire Engine 1937
E F Benson with Rye’s New Fire Engine 1937


This photograph was taken when Rye’s new Fire Station came into service in 1937. It was officially opened by Mayor of Rye E.F.Benson who wrote the Mapp & Lucia books.

From the January 1967 issue of “Rye’s Own”

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