Michael “Sonny” Liston

Michael “Sonny” Liston

Michael ‘Sonny’ Liston lost his life in the line of duty on the 3rd of September 1994, two days after attending a fire at a farm building. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the 1st of September 2019 to mark the 25th anniversary of his death.

Michael, a thirty-two-year-old Bodmin firefighter known to many as ‘Sonny’, was Leading Firefighter in the crew which attended a fire in a farm outbuilding where he suffered fatal inhalation of phosphene gas.

When Michael and his watchmates arrived at the fire on a farm in Cornwall, the flames were mild. They extinguished the fire without any apparent ill effects, but Michael had unknowingly inhaled phosgene gas at the scene. This poisonous substance, which caused over eighty per cent of chemical weapon fatalities in World War One, was released by smouldering chemicals stored in the building. Michael recovered sufficiently from the incident to play rugby for Liskeard-Looe two days later, but moments after scoring a try, delayed lung damage from his inhalation of the toxic fumes caused him to unexpectedly collapse on pitch.

Michael is remembered with pride by his family, community, rugby teammates, and former colleagues. His Red Plaque now holds pride of place at his rugby club, and his colleagues at Bodmin Community Fire Station remember with affection ‘a great firefighter, sportsman and the nicest person you could ever wish to meet’.

Photo credits: Glen Rogers


  • Posted April 29, 2021 Reply moderated

    Tam McFarlane

    I attended the unveiling of the Red Plaque to Firefighter ‘Sonny’ Liston and found it to be a moving and powerful experience. All the people involved in organising the event deserve to be thanked, especially Mark Goldsmith and Guy Herrington - the FBU members who were central to the organising of the Red Plaque and the members and staff of Liskeard-Looe RFC, where Sonny played Rugby and where his plaque is placed. I never knew Sonny, but I was on duty in a different Brigade when the terrible news of his death came through in September 1994. It was a terrible shock and a tragic loss, which affected all firefighters. Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and the Fire Brigades Union have made sure that he will be permanently remembered by this striking Red Plaque, they have done his memory proud and deserve our thanks for doing so.

[ jpeg,jpg,png Max 5Mb ]
Your email has been verified successfully