Solomon Belinsky lost his life in the line of duty after being fatally injured in the Leeds Blitz on the 15th of March 1941. His Red Plaque was presented on the 15th of September 2018.
A firefighter serving in Leeds’s Auxiliary Fire Service – the volunteer brigade organised during World War Two – Solomon was killed in an air raid while attempting to save the city’s museum after it sustained a direct hit. Solomon was an emigrant from today’s Belarus who worked as an upholsterer in Leeds, where he served in the AFS at Gipton Fire Station. He left behind a widow named Rachel and four children. Following his death, his daughter Anita joined the Auxiliary Fire Service at the age of seventeen and served in Hull.
Just after midnight on the 15th of March 1941 – during what came to be known as the Leeds Blitz – Solomon arrived with his AFS crew at Park Row in the city centre, where bombs were falling directly on the historic museum. As he fought to save the museum, Solomon was hit by a bomb, sustaining fatal injuries. He died seventeen days later at Leeds General Infirmary, becoming one of 818 firefighters killed at home in World War Two.
The following month the government nationalised the fire service to provide an improved nationwide system of fire protection. In total, 818 firefighters (including 25 women) lost their lives during the war. Their names have been recorded on the National Firefighters Memorial outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and are remembered every May as part of Firefighters Memorial Day.
Solomon’s courageous service is remembered by war historians, Leeds’s communities, generations of his family, and his brothers and sisters across today’s fire service. His memorial Plaque can be found at his former post, The Old Fire Station in Gipton, which now serves as a community centre.
Neil Carbutt, Union Regional Secretary, said:
“As firefighters we know our history and we never forget the bravery and sacrifice of our colleagues past or present. Solomon Belinsky gave his live serving his community, as so many firefighters have done, and this Red Plaque will help to ensure that his courage and service is recognised and never forgotten.”
The city centre suffered nine air-raids over the duration of the war. Leeds Beckett University historian Shane Ewen said:
“It’s great that the sacrifice that Solomon made for the city is receiving this recognition. Volunteers made up an increasing number and proportion of firefighters during the war, swelling the membership of the Fire Brigades Union to 66,500; many stayed on to help transform the service into a modern profession after the war. Men and women like Solomon Belinsky risked their lives to help make the fire service an indispensable arm in the country’s civil defence; they heroically fought fires while bombs rained down upon them. Many who survived suffered burns and broken bones as well as post-traumatic stress disorder having witnessed multiple fatalities.”
Below are memories added by those who knew Solomon Belinsky or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Solomon Belinsky that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Fire Brigades Union, Gerard Binks, Yorkshire Evening Post