Fitness has always been a crucial part of the Brigade. In 1866, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade introduced strength tests and potential recruits were required to prove their strength and ability by raising a fire escape single- handed. This was the equivalent of lifting 150 kg.
From the beginning of the twentieth century, a Brigade sports day became an annual event with the chief officer regularly attending. During the 1930s and 40s, Assistant Chief Officer, A.S. Shawyer was a prominent figure in boxing becoming the British Amateur Champion and winning the Golden Gloves of America.
When the Greater London Council was established in 1965 a welfare section was introduced to encourage sports, such as athletics, skiing and football and in 1968 a firefighter competed in the Olympics games in Mexico. As competitive sport increased in popularity, Chief Officer Darby (1976-1980), commissioned a study into the physical fitness of firefighters. This resulted in a new health programme, a sports ground provided at Ewell and London became one of the first Brigade’s in the country to install special physical training equipment in all its fire stations.
After 150 years trainee fitness is still paramount and firefighters continue to compete in sporting events including the London Marathon, Three Peaks Challenge and the forthcoming World Rescue Challenge.