John lost his life in the line of duty alongside his colleagues Michael Gamble, Terrance Breen, Trevor Carvosso and Alfred Smee on the 17th of July 1969. A Red Plaque was unveiled on the 17th of July 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of their deaths.
A firefighter at Brunswick Road Station, John was just twenty-three when he died in an oil storage explosion in Dudgeon’s Wharf on the Isle of Dogs. He was one of five London firefighters killed in the disaster, along with a construction worker, Richard Adams. The tragic incident was the largest loss of life within the UK’s fire service since World War Two. John left behind his wife Linda and their three children.
The Dudgeon’s Wharf disaster led to a new code of practice for UK firefighters when removing tanks with flammable substances. It also helped to bring about the Hazchem Code, the now well-known visual signage of dangerous and volatile substances contained in all buildings, vehicles and storage areas lorries. Introduced in the 1970s, the Code makes it simpler for firefighters to identify and tackle dangerous chemicals during incidents, protecting themselves and the public.
John is remembered by his family, and his brothers and sisters throughout the fire service and FBU. Speaking at the unveiling of his shared Red Plaque in Dudgeon’s Wharf, the London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner, Andy Roe, noted how ‘the changes implemented following this incident have been used worldwide, undoubtedly helping to protect firefighters all over the globe, meaning that the loss of life on that terrible day has not been in vain.’
Photo credits: Firefighter