11 Dec NFS flags and other artefacts donated to Massey Shaw
On the 11th of November, volunteers travelled up the A1 to Peterborough in search of treasure.
The visit had been organised by a firefighter from the Stanground Fire Station who had contacted me via our website, regarding some Massey related memorabilia.
The story had started several months before when Mr Gordon Dance arrived at the Fire Station with several boxes of memorabilia that belonged to his father, Charles Henry Dance, a former LFB officer in WWII. On investigation, the firefighter discovered that the boxes held the personal collection of Charles Henry Dance which included brass fire helmets, books, paintings, badges, document and a blues ensign showing the NFS logo and assigned to fireboat Massey Shaw.
Mr Dance explained to him that his father Charles, had been a member of the River Service and had been sent down to a boat yard near Tilbury to recover Massey Shaw after she had returned from Dunkirk. The vessel had sustained some damaged whilst rescuing the troops off the beaches and whilst collecting the vessel Charles had been given two new NFS flags to replace the original item that had been used as a bandage for the wounded soldiers. It appeared that Charles acquired one of the flags and kept it safely amongst his possessions before it was passed on to his son. Fortunately for us, the firefighter recognised the significance of the flag and other items and contacted the Trust.
The flag was in great condition and had been carefully looked after along with the other artefacts by Gordan Dance and his family. Originally, Gordon had offered to donate the items to the station, but the personnel were unable to ensure its safe keeping. After a discussion, Gordon decided he was happy that his “Treasures” be donated to the Trust and placed in its care. We signed the appropriate paperwork, and we presented him with a signed copy of David Pike’s book “Firefloats & Fire Boats” plus a poster of the fireboat underway on the Thames.
Our visit concluded with the on-duty watch providing a guided tour of the station and its appliances in between attending several shouts. We thanked the firefighters for their hospitality and invited the watch to visit Massey Shaw during the coming year.
Since our visit, I have been in communication with Gordon and found out more information about his family and their involvement with the Fire Service during WWII. It appears his mother was in the AFS based at Pageant’s Wharf as a control officer and had met Gordon’s father whilst both were stationed there. Additionally, Mr Dance senior was an amateur painter, who often painted incidents in oils and water colours during his down time in the Blitz. Several of his pictures are included in the memorabilia we collected, and we hope to include them in a future exhibition.