Sue Batten,

London's first female firefighter

In the 1980s the Greater London Council (GLC) was committed to recruiting women as operational firefighters.

Sue Batten became the first female firefighter to join London Fire Brigade in 1982. Batten applied after seeing an advert in a local newspaper to train as a firefighter. She had a diploma in Business Studies and had worked at the British Institute of Management. However Sue was looking for something completely different.


While she didn't believe that being a woman was a barrier to joining up, she did admit she'd read the article a few times over. She wanted to check it didn’t say that only men could apply. When she initially expressed an interest, she applied using just an initial for her first name.

Batten was the subject of much media attention. When she completed her training in 1982, her passing out ceremony was photographed and filmed by representatives of the press.

‘I just wanted to settle in and get on with the job. They had accepted me as a firefighter and that’s how I wanted it to be’.


She was first posted to Lewisham Fire Station, in South London, after completing her training.

The Brigade began to make changes to fire stations to introduced facilities for both male and female firefighters. Older stations proved problematic due to their design. As a result Junior Officer’s facilities were often converted for the use of female firefighters. Any new stations built in the 1980s and 1990s were designed with separate facilities. The Fire Brigade Union and the Greater London Council equalities team made sure that the facilities were adequate.

Throughout the 1980s sixty other women joined London Fire Brigade. The majority would remain in the job for over 10 years. In 1993, Networking Women in the Fire Service was established. It was formed as a nationwide support group for women in the fire and rescue services.

In 1993 Sue Batten left LFB to serve in Avon Fire and Rescue Service to be closer to her family. She retired in 2007.

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