London Fire Brigade

Plaque unveiled to fallen firefighter Michael Lee

03 October 2016

A plaque to fallen London Firefighter Michael Lee who died while attending a fire in 1969 has been unveiled at Shoreditch Fire Station as part of the Brigade's 150th anniversary.

Michael Lee was posted to blue watch at Shoreditch and was soon made Leading Fireman - a Crew Manager in today's terms - and on the first rung of a promising career

'Come on lads, there are kids inside'

On the evening of 29 September 1969, Michael and another firefighter, Colin Wain, were sent to Barbican Fire Station for the night shift.

At around 6.45pm a call was received to a fire at the National Car Park site in Goswell Road. Within a couple of minutes, the crews arrived to see a fire in progress in a derelict WWII air raid shelter at the back of the car park.

Hoses were run out and by-standers reported seeing children playing with fireworks inside the shelter. Michael led his crew into the shelter with a call of "Come on lads, there are kids inside".

As water coursed through the hose, it became kinked, stopping the water from getting through. Colin Wain went back outside to straighten the kink.

As he did, he heard a crack and a rumble, and before his eyes, unbelievingly, the roof of the shelter had collapsed with his colleagues and his mate 'Mick' inside.



Remembered: Firefighters presented a ceremonial axe, donated by London Fire Brigade Welfare Fund, to Michael's family.


Two firefighters in the crew were quickly found and dug out, injured. However, there was no sign of Michael who was deeper inside the shelter.

Soon enough Michael was uncovered as his mate Colin stood there with a hose cooling the debris.

A doctor was summoned forward to examine Michael and, after taking a look, he turned sadly announced to the crews that Michael had been killed instantly. He was just 21 years old.

Fast forward 47 years to 2016, and by chance Watch Manager John Carpenter from Leytonstone Blue Watch bumped into Michael's sister Maureen, who was looking around the old Shoreditch Fire Station building in Paul Street.

They got talking and it quickly became apparent she was looking for a plaque commemorating Michael, believing he had served at the old Shoreditch Fire Station that closed in 1964.



The plaque unveiled at Shoreditch Fire Station.


Following this chance meeting the Brigade approved a new plaque to be placed at Shoreditch Fire Station and a ceremony was held on the day of Shoreditch's open day just two days after the 47th anniversary of Michael's death.

Michael's sister and brother Maurice attended alongside family members and Colin Wain. His family were also presented with a ceremonial axe donated by London Fire Brigade Welfare Fund.



Colin Wain pictured (middle) with members of Michael's family.


Honoured

Borough Commander of Hackney Steve Dudeney said: "It was an absolute honour for me as Borough Commander to be chosen to unveil the plaque and meet with Michael's family.

"They were blown away with the reception, being able to see where Mick worked and meet up with old colleagues.

"Michael's brother Maurice told me afterwards that his whole family felt as if they were part of the LFB family and felt enormously proud of their family's association with the Brigade.

"At his funeral, the Brigade Chaplain Mr W.T Kent said of Michael: 'For courage and service like his... all London is grateful.' Those words are as true today as they were in 1969."