John Humphries

John Humphries

John lost his life in the line of duty on the 22nd of March 1989. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the 30th anniversary of his death, the 22nd of March 2019.

A firefighter on the Blue Watch at Stanground Fire Station, John was killed by a major explosion while bravely responding to an industrial fire in the Fengate area of Peterborough. He was forty-one at the time of his death.

John’s watch responded to an emergency call alerting them to a blaze in an industrial estate, where a lorry carrying explosives and detonators had caught fire. As he responded, John was killed by the subsequent explosion which injured a further 107 people. His death deeply affected firefighters across the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

John is permanently remembered with gratitude across Cambridgeshire and the Fire and Rescue Service. His Plaque can be found in a quiet park in Peterborough, where it commemorates his ultimate sacrifice and acts as a testament to the dangers firefighters face every day. Local FBU members have also commissioned a memorial bell to be installed at John’s station, Stanground, which will be rung every year on the anniversary of his death.

Photo credits: Peter Everard Smith


  • Posted May 21, 2021 Reply Report

    Nicola Barlow

    An honour and a privilege.

    I was at a Brigade Committee Meeting where Keith Handscomb completed a presentation on the Red Plaque Scheme. He spoke with such infectious passion about the project and pointed out that John was the only Firefighter to have died at an operational incident in our brigade, but had no permanent, publicly accessible memorial. I wanted to get involved.
    I did not know John - the Fengate explosion occurred two years prior to my joining CFRS - but as a Firefighter stationed in Peterborough, I was aware of the location of the incident. As a Watch, we visited the site and viewed a brass plaque located in the foyer of a coffee roasting company, formerly the site of Vibroplant. Driving away afterwards, I couldn't comprehend losing a member of my own watch and wanted to help create a lasting memorial not only for John's family, colleagues, members past and present, but also for the public to quietly reflect on the sacrifice John made.
    Thanks to the Red Plaque scheme, we were able to do this. It was an honour and a privilege to be part of a small group of volunteers that have ensured John Humphries will not be forgotten.

  • Posted May 18, 2021 Reply Report


    Feature in FBU journal 'Firefighter'

    After the event, key organiser Nicola Barlow wrote a feature in the June July edition of the twenty nineteen FBU journal Firefighter. In the article, Nic talks about her experience of organising a Red Plaque event and offers advice to others who may want to do the same for a fallen comrade. I've attached photos of the article here but you can find the feature on the online edition of the magazine which is available on the FBU website.

  • Posted May 18, 2021 Reply Report


    Order of Service for the unveiling event

    The FBU organisers wrote and published a short order of service for the unveiling event on 22 March 2019. This set out the sequence of events for the day and also gave some background of the terrible event where John lost his life. It's attached here as a series of photos for people to view.

  • Posted May 7, 2021 Reply moderated


    A moving & very well organised event

    This was a very moving unveiling which was attended by some of John's family and his former colleagues, some of whom who were with him at the incident where he lost his life. Firefighter Nicola Barlow deserves huge credit for her key role in organising the plaque and the unveiling event. The crews marched from Peterborough Guildhall with FBU banners before arriving at the plaque site, where a minute's silence was held in memory of John - sounded by a Fire Service bell. The standards of Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service and the Fire Brigades Union were present and a piper played the Firefighters lament. An exceptionally well organised and dignifed event which exemplifies the spirit and purpose of the Red Plaque project.

  • Posted April 29, 2021 Reply Report

    Cameron Matthews

    After decades of neglect by my fire & rescue service, it was one of the proudest moments of my career being part of the FBU team that organised a Red Plaque for Firefighter John Humphries in 2019. A particular special mention should go to firefighters Nicola Barlow and Rob Allport in the organising. I personally hadn’t known John. He died on 22nd March 1989 in horrific blast in Fengate, Peterborough. But from the moment I joined the fire and rescue service I knew he was the only firefighter in my small brigade to die in the line of duty since WWII. So it always felt so wrong that there was no memorial to remember his bravery and sacrifice. The Red Plaque scheme gave us firefighters the opportunity to finally correct this. There is now a Red Plaque memorial and place of remembrance in the heart of the city that John dedicated his working life protecting. Thanks to the Red Plaque scheme we were able to bring together John’s family, friends, local firefighters and the community for a respectful unveiling event on the 30th anniversary of his death, ensuring he will never be forgotten.

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