Francis lost his life in the line of duty alongside his colleagues Arthur Wenborne, Ernest Hyde, Walter Hart and Joan Ridd after a bomb hit their sub-station on the 1st of November 1940. His Red Plaque was presented on the 1st of September 2019.
Francis and his fellow firefighters had been using Ricardo Street School in Poplar, East London, as a fire sub-station during the Second World War. After the school received a direct hit from a high-explosive bomb on the 1st of November 1940, twelve firefighters were trapped under the debris. Five died as a result of their injuries, with Francis sadly passing away the next day in hospital.
The unsung heroes who died at Ricardo Street School were part of World War Two’s Auxiliary Fire Service – a nationwide brigade made up of tens of thousands of civilian volunteers. The group of twelve firefighters trapped under debris at Ricardo Street notably included two women, as World War Two saw a large intake of women firefighters into what we believe to have previously been an exclusively male role.
In London, men and women worked in cramped and rat-infested sub-stations described as ‘deplorable’, lacking adequate facilities for cooking and sleeping. The conditions firefighters lived in were thrown into even sharper relief when Francis and his colleagues lost their lives while bravely protecting London from fire. Today, their shared Red Plaque can be found at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, which was built on the former site of the bomb-struck Ricardo Street School.
Photo credits: Fire Brigade Union