Michael W Lee lost his life in the line of duty on the 29th of September 1969. His Red Plaque was presented on the anniversary of his death, the 29th of September 2018.
A firefighter at Shoreditch Fire Station, Michael was killed by a roof collapse while searching for children believed to be trapped in a fire. Michael was from Rainham, Essex, and had turned twenty-one less than a month before his death. He was engaged to marry in the Spring, two weeks after his death.
Having served as a firefighter for four years, Michael was leading one of two crews called to a fire in a derelict World War Two air raid shelter at the back of a car park on Goswell Road. As the firefighters approached a blaze, children ran away, and it was feared that others may be trapped. Michael’s last words were: ‘Kids started this. Come on, they might still be in there.’
As the team were carrying out a search of the building for the reported missing children, a hose became kinked stopping the flow of water, Firefighter Colin Wain ran back outside to locate the kink and straighten it. As he did so, he heard a loud crack and a rumble and saw the roof of the shelter collapse, with his colleagues still inside. Colleagues of the trapped men immediately began a rescue attempt, working with their bare hands to try and remove huge concrete slabs and metal girders. The trapped firefighters were eventually located within the basement area of the building, all three were rescued, with two being transported to hospital suffering from serious injuries. Tragically it was too late to help Michael, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. On completing the search of the building it was found that no children had been trapped.
On the day of his funeral in October 1969, three hundred firefighters lined the streets. He was accorded a full Brigade funeral, with his coffin being bourn aboard a turntable ladder.
Today, Michael is fondly remembered by many former colleagues, firefighters serving at Shoreditch, and his family, who attended the ceremony to unveil his memorial Plaque on the wall of his former station.
Below are memories added by those who knew Michael Lee or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Michael Lee that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Fire Brigades Union and London Fire Brigade