Frederick Willoughby lost his life in the line of duty on the 22nd February 1956. His Red Plaque was presented on Thursday 15th September 2022.
Leading Firefighter Frederick Charles Willoughby, of Twickenham, was overcome by fumes whilst fighting a four-hour fire in the basement of the Royal Palace Hotel in Kensington, London, on February 22nd 1956. He died in an ambulance on the way to hospital. A fellow firefighter, Reginald Harris, was reported to also have been overcome by fumes, but recovered.
Commenting, Liz Acris, Mr Willoughby’s niece, said:
“I never got the chance to meet my uncle Frederick Willoughby. His death in the line of duty, protecting his community, meant I only know him through stories told to me by my Auntie Edna. But through her I understand how brave he was, and how he had a tremendous sense of duty. This plaque will help keep his memory alive for future generations to come. It is important that history is present in the spaces where it was lived, and this will help with that.”
Newspapers from the time report that Mr Willoughby is believed to have become lost and was then suffocated, even though he was wearing breathing apparatus.
At the inquest the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) raised questions around the breathing apparatus used, and the union asked the Home Office to seek ways of improving breathing apparatus following the death.
Frederick served in the Marines during World War II and was decorated for gallantry and devotion to duty in operations in Norway. This included volunteering to remove ammunition from a dangerous area during the last moments of an evacuation.
His Red Plaque was unveiled at Kensington Fire Station, around 100 metres away from where the Royal Palace Hotel stood. Members of Frederick’s family flew in from Gibraltar to attend the unveiling. It was also attended by FBU officials.
Today, Frederick is remembered by his family, his current and retired firefighters of Islington Fire Station, and his brothers and sisters throughout the fire service and the FBU.
Below are memories added by those who knew Frederick Willoughby or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Frederick Willoughby that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
Please help support our Firefighters with the Firefighters 100 Lottery, a weekly online lottery created to support firefighters, their bereaved families and to honour the bravery and sacrifice of firefighters killed in the line of duty. With your help we can have schemes such as the Red Plaque Project for memorials to those lives lost.
Photo credits: Mark Thomas