Notts oldest retired firefighter shares memories of his time in the service

As Central Station in Nottingham closes its doors, the oldest retired member of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue has shared his memories of his time in the service.

Ray Johnson, 83,joined the fire service in 1955 at 22-years-old and he served for 30 years until he retired in 1985.

Ray Johnson is one of the oldest retired members of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue. Ray is pictured at his home in Nuthall.

Ray Johnson is one of the oldest retired members of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue. Ray is pictured at his home in Nuthall.

Central Station was the first station Ray served at and he is sad about its closure.

Ray said: “I have very happy memories.

“We were a happy family.

“We worked long hours and we did everything at the station.

“We were all tradesmen so we did all the jobs around the station.

“We had hose fixing, and we made ladders.

“I helped make wooden toys for children when they had parties.

“We were allowed to have our girlfriends or wives in on a Saturday and my wife Barbara, who was my girlfriend at the time, used to cycle over as we did a lot of cycling.

“We had a bar downstairs. And on Christmas Day the Chief Officer would bring everyone a drink.”

During his time in the service Ray saw his fair share of big factory fires.

He said: I saw some quite big factory fires. These are very rare these days.

There was one where they made sweets and they used the floor for boiling and that was difficult to point out. We had to flood it.”

Ray’s career did not get off to the best start after he was injured during a football match just before he was due to start his training in Birmingham.

He said: “I was determined to come back to training. I wanted to carry on.”

Ray has seen many changes during his time in the service and during his retirement.

He said: “Everything was made of brass so everything was heavy. We had to polish it. Everything is plastic now.

“The whole uniform has changed. It is a different colour and much lighter.

“And the helmets are better.”

“I’m very lucky.

“At the time you work as a team. You do things and then you think afterwards, did I really do that, It was a wonderful team. We all looked after each other.

“We used to go into the factories on a long line then if someone got lost they could follow the line back as there wasn’t good lighting in those days.”

Ray was one of the first firefighters to use breathing apparatus.

But it was while he was wearing this Ray went to one of his most harrowing fires.

Ray said: “There were two children in the room and the fire was below them where someone had left the iron on.

“The mother wanted to get her baby from the flat above.

“Her husband was away with the forces.

“And sadly the mother and her baby died.”

Ray was involved in a lot of sports and was on the football team, which he is still involved in and the running team which took him all over the country.

Even 10 years after he had retired Ray was still involved with the football team and he carried on running with the team.