This year marks 30 years since the fire at Windsor Castle that broke out on the morning of Friday, 20 November 1992.
Firefighters from six counties, including Berkshire, London, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire were sent to the scene to tackle the fire.
They worked for around nine hours to bring the fire under control using firefighting jets, aerial appliances and cutting fire breaks in the thick lead-covered roofs. Thanks to their skill, courage and tenacity they succeeded in bringing the main fire under control, although the teams continued for another three hours before the fire was finally extinguished.
Ultimately, 36 pumping appliances, seven specialist units, 25 officers and more than 200 firefighters were deployed before the fire was deemed to be fully under control.
This 30-year anniversary is particularly poignant as it falls so close to the sad death of Her Late Majesty and her platinum jubilee celebrations. Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was in residence at the time of the fire in 1992, and some Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue (RBFRS) staff had the honour of meeting her.
To remember this historic incident, some RBFRS staff have been recollecting their memories of being at the incident early in their career and paid tribute to Her Late Majesty.
Paul Thomas, Group Manager West Hub, has just been awarded his 30-year Long Service Good Conduct medal, but was just six weeks into his firefighting career when he was called to the Windsor Castle Fire from Dee Road Fire Station, Reading, he said: ‘I always remember getting taken up on the Hydraulic Platform, over the top of the building. It was just completely glowing red inside and the Brunswick Tower was just like a huge candle. It was highlighted over the night sky and I’ll never forget that.
‘It’s fantastic to see it all rebuilt because, at the time, you’d imagine “how is anyone going to get this back to its original state from the amount of damage that was caused.” It’s incredible how they’ve put it back together – it looks exactly the same as it did.’
Phil Knight, Station Manager at Newbury Fire Station, recalls attending the fire early in his career: ‘It’s one of those jobs, I’ve had many, but it’s one that stands out.
‘I remember at Windsor Fire Station we all went up the tower to have a look at the Castle and you could see the plume of smoke coming from the Castle. The streets of Windsor were lined with people, and I was quite amazed at the way they were clapping. That was quite nice I felt, the public cheering us on.’
Lee Arslett was a Communications Technician called to support the incident late that afternoon to relieve his manager, monitoring and replenishing the communications radios being used by firefighting crews. He said: ‘One of the biggest challenges was maintaining effective communications. My focus was on what my role would be and how I would find my way around such a large site.’
Chief Fire Officer Wayne Bowcock said: ‘It is difficult to believe that 30 years have passed since this monumental incident, which is undoubtedly one of the most significant that Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service has dealt with.
‘I was a trainee firefighter on my initial training course at the time and I remember it well. We watched the news together in awe as trainees and instructors, talking about how sad it was for Windsor Castle and the royal family – and how we would go about tackling such a large incident in an iconic heritage building.
‘It is testimony to the skill of the firefighters in attendance that the incident was managed safely and there were no serious injuries to staff at the Castle or within the Fire and Rescue services.’