London Fire Brigade

LFB 150: Anniversary of largest single loss of fire brigade personnel

19 April 2016

As we celebrate our 150th anniversary we're looking back at some of the most significant and some of the more unusual incidents that have taken place since we were formed in 1866.

Largest single loss of fire brigade personnel

The 19 April 1941 marks the largest single loss of fire brigade personnel in English history.

The Old Palace School on St Leonard's Street in Bromley by Bow was being used as a fire station during the war when it received a direct hit from a Luftwaffe bomber.

Thirty four firefighters – 13 from London and 21 from Beckenham, which at the time was not part of London – were killed.

Minute's silence for lives lost

Poplar firefighters visited the east London primary school to hold a minute's silence and lay a wreath for those who lost their lives.


London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "Today marks a sad day in the 150 years of the London Fire Brigade and we must never forget the sacrifices those working for the fire service made during the Second World War.

"Firefighters today follow in the footsteps and share the same dedication of those Churchill called the ‘heroes with grimy faces’."

Plaque dedicated to those who died

In 1997, Firemen Remembered, along with the Brigade, dedicated a plaque in memory of the 34 who died. The plaque is sited in the wall of the current school.

Stephanie Maltman, from Firemen Remembered, said: "During the Second World War, the men and women of Britain's Fire Services performed a vital role in her defence.

"Few would have seen themselves as heroic and yet, when an effort was needed, they came forward ready to face a terrifying unknown.

"Many of those who took part did not survive, including those who lost their lives at the Old Palace School on the night of the 19th/20th April 1941."

During the war, fire stations were set up in buildings such as schools, garages and factories. When peace was declared in 1945, London’s fire service had attended over 50,000 calls and 327 of London's firefighters had been killed.