Hector G Keeley lost his life in the line of duty on the 29th July 1950. His Red Plaque was presented on the 29th July 2021, on the 71st anniversary of his death.
Hector was part of the crew that responded to an extensive fire in a barley field on the Fordham Estates in Boreham. He was working with a hose near the tender when witnesses say the Officer in Charge pulled away and dragged Hector under the wheels. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Chelmsford Hospital. At the Inquest, the coroner announced that Hector had fallen, recording a verdict of accidental death.
At the time of his death, Hector had been a firefighter for 20 years, having been made wholetime in 1937. He attended many incidents including fighting the fires during the Blitz in London during the Second World War.
Today, Hector is fondly remembered by his family, colleagues, and brothers and sisters in the FBU. The Red Plaque was unveiled by Hector’s eldest daughter 89 year old Daphne Leeder at The Grange pub and restaurant in Boreham, Chelmsford.
Adam Barrett, a former Chelmsford firefighter , arranged for the plaque to be installed. It was widely believed that no Essex firefighter had lost their life in the line of duty until Hector’s headstone was spotted in a cemetery
“When I read about the Red Plaque Scheme I thought we should have one in Essex to honour Firefighter Keeley. He not only died in tragic circumstances, he had a distinguished career. He was fighting a field fire in Boreham when he was run over. Witnesses say the fire was spreading towards a building and the Officer in Charge jumped into a fire engine and drove off without giving the order. Hector was untangling a hose reel and got dragged under the appliance. The biggest tragedy was that his wife only got a £1 a week pension. Firefighters weren’t insured at the time so his colleagues used to take her care packages. During his career, he was part of the war effort, fighting fires in Coventry and London during the Blitz, and he later helped to set up fire stations in Essex.”
“It might have happened 71-years-ago, but I just wanted to make sure Daphne got to see that her dad has been properly remembered and honoured. He will never be forgotten – the plaque is a foot in the door of history.”
Daphne, who unveiled the plaque, said:
“I would like to thank my friends and family who are here today and everyone involved, especially Adam who I can’t thank enough. It is just wonderful.”
Below are memories added by those who knew Hector Keeley or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Hector Keeley that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Tam McFarlane, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service