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A couple who have dedicated more than 60 years of combined service to the Brigade have retired on the same day.
Control officer Ann Giles, 57, joined the Brigade in May 1988. She initially worked as an administrative assistant in the East Ham Fire Safety Team. In April 1992, she joined the Brigade’s control team which is currently based in Merton.
Her partner Mark Young, 55, based on Plaistow Fire Station’s red watch, joined the Brigade 10 months earlier in July 1987, working in the administrative team for Fire Safety, also based at East Ham.
Mark began his training to be a firefighter at Southwark Training Centre in November 1993 and during his time with the Brigade served on Kingsland white watch, Shoreditch red watch, Kingsland red watch and Plaistow red watch, where he has been based for the last 17 years.
The couple, who met at work in 1989 and have been together ever since, have almost 62 years of service between them. They both retired from the Brigade on Friday, November 9.
Ann said: “I’ve taken so many emergency calls over the years, some very bizarre ones, but the thing I’m going to miss the most is the people. It’s such a great team and when you’re working shifts through the night, you get to find out so much about people that they become just like family.
“Every day is different as you never know what it is going to be when you answer that next call but I have absolutely loved the job. It might just seem like answering the phone, but it is so much more as you are helping people. I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else.”
Mark said: “I’d always wanted to be a firefighter but when I initially joined the Brigade, there were no firefighter vacancies. I was eventually able to start as a firefighter in 1993 and I’ve never looked back.
“The highlights for me have been having people around you all the time and the challenges and problem solving the job brings. I’ve stayed as a firefighter throughout my career, but I’ve loved just getting out there and getting stuck in.”
Both Ann and Mark could have retired earlier, but decided to stay on longer because of their love for the job. It was by chance that they ended up working their last shifts, both overnight, on the same day.
The couple, who live in Benfleet, Essex and have two grown up children aged 21 and 23, said they are looking forward to spending the festive period with their family and having their Christmas dinner on December 25, rather than earlier or later because of their shift work.
Mark added: “To start our retirement, we’re going to spend a bit of time enjoying catching up with friends and family, doing some work on the house and we’ve said we’re going to join a sailing club as well. I think to begin with it is just going to feel like we’re on holiday.”