Fireman Bob

The dreadful fire at the Central Garage at Rye in 1960 led to Rye Fire Brigade getting a new recruit.

Bob Rogers was only a lad at the time but heroically entered the blazing cottage at the rear of the garage, where he lived with his Mum and brothers, and attempted to save their budgie. He was burned on the hands by the wire on the cage which was so hot.

Central Garage Fire
Central Garage Fire

As a direct result of this fire young Bob Rogers joined Rye’s Volunteer Fire Service as soon as he was old enough and became a retained fireman. He has served with the Rye Brigade continuously until his retirement just before Christmas, completing thirty-seven years service. He would have loved to have gone on and put in more service but fifty-five is the compulsory retirement age. It seems a pity to lose such good men, especially as there are a shortage of new recruits coming available now.

Bob Rogers has served under four different officers. The legendary Frank Bourn was his first chief, followed by Frank Davey then Michael Fagan. Next came Michael Bourn (a chip off the old block) the Bourn’s have had family members serving as Rye firemen continuously every year since way back in the 1800’s. Bob finally served under Sub Officer Andy Polly. Bob is himself a distant relation of the Bourns, he proudly owns the 50 year long service medal that belonged to his Great Great Grandfather Bourn “They were allowed to serve past fifty-five in those days

During his time Bob has dashed to the Rye Fire Station on many hundreds of occasions, first at the Crown Fields site and later at the new station by the Mill. In the old days he answered to the sound of the siren, then there were bells fitted into every fireman’s home and latterly a beeper system was introduced.

Rye Firemen with Dumbrell Cup. Bob Rogers third from Left
Rye Firemen with Dumbrell Cup. Bob Rogers third from Left

The young Bob Rogers was a key member in the Rye Brigades’ Four Man team which carried off the inter services Dumbrell Cup on many occasions. He was also a member of the team that won the Five Man Cup on the only occasion that the Rye boys won it.

Fire shouts became a part of Bob’s life, his regular jobs all had to fit in with his Fire Brigade service. When the call came he was up and running, day or night, it made no difference. Shouts to Chimney Fires, House Fires, Commercial Premises Fires, Farm Fires, Flooded Houses, Road Traffic Accidents, River Rescues, the variety was endless and some not without danger. He helped save people from blazing houses and cut them from twisted cars. He pulled a man out of the mud at the Fishmarket, as the tide was coming in, he went into blazing buildings wearing oxygen apparatus, the variety was endless.

After the Fire

Once in his early days as a fireman Bob was playing football for Udimore against Iden. As the final whistle blew the sound of the siren was heard in the distance. Bob and another fireman, Malcolm Turk, made a dash for it. They did not make the shout but Bob was surprised to find the fire was in Pottingfield Road, IN THE FLAT BELOW THE ONE HE LIVED IN HIMSELF!

Retained firemen are famous for their voluntary community service. They arrange all kinds of Children’s parties, organise Fetes, raise money for charity and participate in many local functions. At Rye there is a Firemen’s Father Christmas Delivery on Christmas Morning. Bob has been part of this on many occasions and has even slept at the station overnight to ensure that the parcels are safe. He has been part of Rye efforts raising money for the Fire Service Benevolent Society taking part in marathons like pushing the old Rye Hand Fire Engine from Folkestone to Rye and running a hose from Hastings Fire Station to the Rye Base.

Bob Rogers has enjoyed every minute of his service at Rye. He has enjoyed the camaraderie and the challenge of getting to the shout in rapid time. His colleagues have shown their appreciation by presenting him with a fine bronze statue depicting firemen, a prize he values as highly as his Long Service Medal.

Rye has had a fantastic history of fire-fighting, and it has needed the ability of the like of Bob Rogers through the years to protect the fragile fabric and the inhabitants of the old town.

Rye Firemen with Dumbrell Cuo

Well done Bob, you have set a fine example for others to follow. It must be nice for you to know that son Shaun is following in your footsteps, being a full time fire-fighter at the Hastings Fire Station and a part timer at Rye when he is off duty.

Bob Rogers was presented with Long Service Certificates by the Senior Divisional Officer at a recent ceremony at Rye Fire Station. He also received vouchers and the very best wishes for his retirement from Sub Officer Andy Polley and the rest of his colleagues.

“Rye’s Own” Jan 2002

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