Date: 17th October, 2017
A commemorative plaque has been unveiled at Christchurch fire station to mark the service of two firefighters who lost their lives while on duty 30 years ago.
On 16 October 1987, a crew of firefighters from Christchurch were on their way back to the fire station after responding to an incident in Highcliffe caused by the storm force winds and rains.
As the ‘Great Storm’ raged, a tree crashed down onto the fire engine, killing Sub Officer David Gregory and Firefighter Graham White. Four other firefighters, in the back of the fire engine, were trapped in the wreckage and had to be freed by colleagues from the then Dorset Fire Brigade.
On the 30th anniversary of the deaths, Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service unveiled the plaque, which reads: In grateful remembrance of Sub Officer Ernest David Gregory and Firefighter Graham White, who tragically lost their lives whilst on operational duty on 16 October 1987. They died as they lived, serving the Christchurch community. They will never be forgotten.
Before the unveiling, there was another ceremony at the local cemetery, where wreaths were laid on the men’s graves. Retired firefighters joined current crews, CFO Ansell, Fire Authority Members and the families in a minute’s silence.
CFO Ansell said: “We should never forget the lives and commitment of these two good men, who both had more than 20 years’ service as firefighters, supporting their local community. I actually started my fire service career as a trainee firefighter in Christchurch, so it was a real privilege for me to unveil this commemorative plaque at the fire station.”
He added: “It was also my honour to meet the families and former colleagues of Sub Officer Gregory and Firefighter White, and to pay my respects alongside them on the 30th anniversary of their deaths. While we mourn their loss, we also had the chance to celebrate their lives and remember their many achievements within the Service. The plaque now within the fire station ensures that future generations of firefighters will always be aware of what happened in 1987, which is how it should be.”