Wilfred McLaughlan died in the line of duty on the 25th April 1972. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the 19th November 2021.
Wilfred was fatally injured when a roof collapsed at the former Oldham Batteries building in Denton, Greater Manchester during a fire, injuring three other firefighters too. He later died from his injuries which were sustained when he was buried for a second time after previously pulling himself free after being trapped up to his waist.
Wilfred had been Officer-in-Charge of Phillips Park fire station since it opened in 1967. He was three days away from retirement when he died six weeks after the fire on 25th April at age 55. The fire was Wilfred’s last night on duty.
At the inquest into his death in July 1972, Manchester Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer Harry Lomas said:
“He was a man who has always had my greatest support and my greatest respect. It seems a terrible tragedy to all his friends in the brigade.”
Coroner Donald Summerfield said:
“This is a tragic story and I am told this brave man was only a few days off retirement. At every fire, firemen take their lives into their hands but it does not deter them.”
While Wilfred has no traceable family members, he is fondly remembered by his friends, brothers and sisters in the FBU. His Red Plaque was unveiled nearest to the site of his death at the Tameside Wellness Centre – Denton.
Retired firefighter Graham Bowker was told about the incident when he was posted at Wilfred’s former fire station five years after his passing and he applied for a Red Plaque. At the unveiling he said:
“As firefighters, we are always mindful of the debt we owe to our fellow firefighters who came before us. I first heard this story as a young firefighter, and it has always stayed with me even though it’s been around 45 years since. When I saw the site was being built on I thought it was the right time to start trying to ensure that McLaughlan and his sacrifice were never forgotten. We owe it to him to ensure that that doesn’t happen.”
Below are memories added by those who knew Wilfred McLaughlan or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Wilfred McLaughlan that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Jason Lock