As a schoolboy living at Yew Tree Cottage, I can remember my father serving in the Auxiliary Fire Service as a part-time fireman. The fire station was at the top of Shepherds Lane at a house then called Croft, now called Pinecroft.
This had a long wooden garage at 90 degrees to the road. At the back of the garage was a space for the crew on night watch, where they would spend their time until called out to a fire. The space at the front of the garage was where the pump was kept and the fire tender was parked on the driveway.
All the firemen had alarm bells fitted to their houses and one bell was fitted to the wheelwright’s shop so it could be heard during the day by firemen working in that area.
As there was no main’s water in the village, they had to rely on water from Smithbrook pond, which was fed by a ditch in the field at the back of the pond, running from Bexley Hill. This had to be cleaned out quite often and I can remember it being done on Sunday mornings as part of fire drill. There would also be hose pipes running from the pond right through The Street as part of the drill. The auxiliary firemen had to go to Bognor and Chichester for training.
Some of the firemen’s names I can remember: E Boxall, C Boxall, L Tooth, J Osborn, W Stratton, C Wakeford and E Haines. These men had not been called up for the armed forces, as they were carrying out essential work in the village and on the farms.
At some point in the war our Auxiliary Fire Service was disbanded and the regular fire service took over. They were moved to an outbuilding at Lodsworth House to carry on with their good work.
I visited the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester to look at the parish council minutes from 1939 to 1945 and found two things that were relevant. One was about water running down Leggatt Hill – that was in 1943 on page 63. The other one was more interesting: it was about the insurance on the Croft not being adequate in 1945 (page70). I think this is when they moved to Lodsworth House.
John L Wakeford
Fisher Street, Northchapel