1864 Army Fire Service formed at Aldershot for the Pioneer Corps.



May 1912 saw the formation of the Royal Flying Corps and even in those early days it was necessary to provide some protection for the aircrews. At that time the only military fire service was the Army Fire Service, manned by Army Service Engineers and they were to provide fire cover for the RFC. The use of the Army personnel ceased in 1916 and the RFC took the fire fighting operations into their own hands. The necessary personnel were taken from many different trades, with fire fighting as their secondary task.

To combat the threat of fire, the landing stations of all the RFC’s Home Defence units were equipped with 30/40 gallon chemical foam fire extinguishers.  These were manhandled to the incidents when required.  Vehicles were established at the Store Depots of the RFC, unfortunately these were only fitted with hand held fire extinguishers.  So some advances were made albeit slight, with RFC taking some measures to offset the risks to life from fire.  Incidentally they still used the Army Fire Service Manual as the reference for firefighting



The RAF was officially formed on the 1st April 1918 and during its formative years the loss of aircraft and equipment due to fires caused a great deal of concern which eventually led to the provision of a fire vehicle at every permanent RAF Station. The training of personnel to operate them started in 1922 at RAF Cranwell where a small unit was established to train a trade known as Aircraft Handler / Fire fighter. The London Fire Brigade, who provided the instructors and devised the training methods and schedules, controlled the Unit.

The year 1918 was to prove very costly for the RAF with the loss of many aircraft in storage.  At this time an airframe and an engine was priced at around £1000.  Bearing that in mind, the monetary loss from fires at Shotwick and Ternhill totalling £57,000 can be considered expensive.  Other units also suffered equipment loss due to fire; Wyton £23,239, Upavon £9,109 and Drayton Manor £16,128.  In light of these losses the Air Ministry felt compelled to order a number of fire-fighting vehicles with pumping facilities and with these measures against fire, it was hoped that the financial loss would start to decline.



On 21 May 1919 a fire at Ligescourt resulted in the loss of a Handley Page aircraft in (0/400 D8314), and the hangar in which it was accommodated.  This fire again prompted the Air Ministry to take further action as the results of the Court of Inquiry emerged.  Several deficiencies had come to light, including the fact that personnel were poorly trained in fire-fighting, and lacked effective fire-fighting equipment with which to do the job.  It was therefore decreed that every permanent station had to be equipped with a fire vehicle complete with its own housing, so vehicles were adapted for that role. 



In 1921 the RAF MT Repair Depot at Shrewsbury began a modification programme which resulted in Crossley 6 X 6 tenders being fitted with crash/rescue equipment including a 30 gallon chemical foam extinguisher and hand-held "Fire Snow" extinguishers.  The programme was completed in 1922.


1930 In 1930 the RAF ordered more Crossley and Morris B1 chassis for conversion to fire tenders.  During this decade Crossley IGL 6 X 4 vehicles also went into service with the RAF along with many other vehicles including the Fordson Foam and CO2 tender.



"Regulars" had manned the RAF Fire Vehicles until 1939, this being a term for those who had volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces of their own choice. The threat of war in 1939 resulted in June of the Royal Assent of the Military Service (Conscription) Bill, which compelled every male of 20 years of age in the United Kingdom to register and serve in the Armed Services. With the uncertainty of which Service they would be sent to, many of that age volunteered to serve for "the duration of the war" in the RAF and some of them, together with those conscripted, were to be Fire-fighters.


1940 In July 1940, after 18 years at Cranwell, the Fire Training Unit moved to RAF Weeton in Lancashire for 3 years, where RAF Personnel provided tuition at the Unit under the tuition of WO Pascoe.



On the move to RAF Sutton-on-Hull in 1943, the Fire Training Unit became the RAF School of Fire Fighting commanded by Sqn Leader Brooker MBE. It was there that the Fire Service was to see immense changes in its structure and organisation some of that was necessary with the vast advancement of military aviation.

On 31st December 1943 it is thought that the RAF Fire Service came into being with the promulgation by Air Ministry Order of the Trade of Firefighter (later changed to Fireman), Trade Group 9. To command this new Trade, Fire and Anti-Gas Officers were appointed and the school was renamed for the remaining of the war to the RAF School of Firefighting and Anti-Gas.

At the same time the No. 2 RAF School of Firefighting was formed at RAF Ismalia in Egypt, this closed at the end of WW2. Little is known about the training that RAF Firemen underwent during WW2, but it was of considerable importance. Throughout those wartime years  - they continued to provide a service to save life and fight fire involving numerous crashed aircraft.

After the war conscription, then known as National Service, was maintained until 1967, and young men of 18 years had to serve for 2 years. (For a short time there was a reduction to 18 Months.)

The uncertainty of their "doom" continued and many pre-empted the feared day by volunteering for service in the RAF at the age of 17½.  Some 22.600 were attested into the "Cream" between February 1946 and March 1947 which also included ex-services men who had already served their Country in other arms, and fancied a spell in RAF Blue.

In 1953, a Unit Crest was approved by Queen Elizabeth 2, and presented to the School on Wednesday 22nd December that same year. The Crest depicted a gauntlet holding a flaming sword and Latin Motto – ‘E FLAMMIS ATQUE RUINIS SALUS’ (Salvation from Flame and Ruin’ with slight variations applied over the years).

In the post war years, some 5,000 Regulars and National Service Conscripts were trained as Firemen at the RAF School of Firefighting & Rescue based at RAF Sutton on Hull.



On 7 October 1959 Sutton-on-Hull was closed and Fire-fighter training was moved to the Fire & Rescue Training School (FRTS) located within the RAF Regiment Depot at RAF Catterick.  The trade was then classified as RAF Regiment Fireman, Trade Group 22.

At around the same the Air Force Department Fire Service (AFDFS) came into existence with a training school at RAF Manston.  Many fire sections, most notably at Training Command Stations were civilianised and AFDFS officers began to take over the direction of Fire Services within the RAF from offices within the higher formations of the service. 

1961 Army Fire Service Civilianised under RAOC.


1963 Last National Serviceman demobbed from armed forces.


1975 Mk 9 & TACR I vehicles introduced alongside new foams and new airfield categories, resulting in smaller crash crews.


1976 RAF Firemen moved to Trade Group 8 and no longer "RAF Regiment" Firemen.  Ceremonial burning of "mudguards" carried out.


1977 Operation BURBERRY:-  RAF Firemen deployed nationwide in response to National Fireman's strike.



Donnington Storage Depot suffers its second massive fire in 2 years, each costing in excess of £165 million, UK's most expensive peace-time fires since the Great Fire of London in 1666.


1990 AFDFS, Admiralty Fire Service, and Army Fire Service amalgamated to form Defence Fire Service (DFS)


1994 Program of Market testing started, several camps contractorized.


1996 RIV & MFV Fire tenders introduced onto military airfields. New airfield categories established.


1997 A radical proposal called Airfield Support Services (ASSP) put forward to include all airfield services on military airfields under one big long term contract.  Bids invited from interested parties. DFS Chief Fire Officer Graham Leighton commences in-house bid (Fire Study 2000) aimed at making Services and agency outside of the remit of ASSP and enabling the services to escape contractorisation.


2004 Following much ground work and negotiation ASSP formally abandoned in October 2004.



In April 2005 it was formally agreed that the new model Fire Service would be created within LAND (an Army Formation) and having been reviewed was now known as Fire Study 2005.



On 4 September 2006 the changes took effect and the Defence Fire Risk Management Organization (DFRMO) was created at Abingdon to direct all MOD Fire Services world wide including RAF Trade Group 8 Fire Fighters and Royal Navy Aircraft Handlers.   The chain of command is then divided geographically into Areas and Groups as follows:


Overseas Area.  HQ at Abingdon with Groups at:


·   Cyprus

·   Gibraltar

·   Germany

+ control over South Atlantic and Balkans


North Area. (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England). HQ at Edinburgh with Groups at:


·   Stirling

·   Lisburn

·   York

·   Preston


East Area. (Eastern England, South East England, South England and London).  HQ at Aldershot with Groups at:


·   Chilwell

·   London

·   Aldershot


West Area. (Wales, West Midlands and South West England).  HQ at Shrewsbury with groups at


·   Brecon

·   Shrewsbury

·   Bulford