We exist as a Charity to support all fire and rescue service personnel past and present, as well as their spouses, partners and dependants, and many of them were invited to represent their colleagues and friends at our Golden Jubilee event in 1993.
Here, a few of them share their memories from the day…
Gary Markwell, now 58, represented non-uniform staff for Durham and Darlington FRS at the celebration.
He says: “I worked in transport and supplies at head office for Durham and Darlington, and I was nominated to represent non-uniform staff at the time.
“It was a very proud day… I remember queueing outside the Guildhall and then seeing the Queen come in, which was a memorable moment.
“I also remember meeting other people from around the country and I remember talking to one lady and she indicated that her son was a serving firefighter and unfortunately passed away.
“The Charity was supporting her family, and I remember thinking what a nice thing that was… I hadn’t realised exactly what the Charity did until then.”
Gary has since been supported by us himself, following a knee replacement, and was invited for a stay at Jubilee House, our centre in Cumbria.
Frank Mullen, 79, was a firefighter in Merseyside FRS at the time and attended with his late wife.
He says: “I have two sons, one of them is now a station manager in Merseyside FRS, and the other is a police officer. He was based in London at the time and he gave my late wife and I a lift in the car and dropped us off outside the Guildhall.
“It was amazing arriving there. I remember going in and being officially greeted, before meeting up with the rest of the contingent. We were given a plate – it was unusual, you’d put your thumb through and you’d have your glass attached to it!
“There was some lovely food and drinks, and then the Queen came in… one of the lads was called Martin Reece. His dad used to be a Chief Fire Officer, and I think Martin’s still doing a lot for the Charity now.
“Martin was 6’6 and you know how tall the Queen is, no disrespect! I saw her looking up at him and I could almost imagine her thinking, ‘what’s it like up there’! They did have a chat for a bit.
“It was really nice being there, it meant a lot. We got dressed up for it, it was excellent.
“I’ve been supported by the Charity myself over the years, at Marine Court and later Harcombe House… I’d already been when I attended the event in 1993 so I knew first-hand how important it is to support it, and the work it does.”
Indeed, Martin Reece did chat to the Queen and remembers the incredible moment well…
Martin, now 70, was a Watch Commander with Merseyside FRS. He retired in 2002 – the same year he received an MBE at Buckingham Palace from Prince Charles – for his charitable work with us.
He says: “I was one of the Charity Trustees at the time so I was lucky enough to be invited along to the event. Not everyone that was there was presented to the Queen, I think it was one person from each region, and I was offered that opportunity.
“You could see a lot of people she was presented to were quite dumbstruck! When she got me to she asked me about the support we offered, and it so happened we had a little girl whose parents had died. I was explaining to her what the Charity would do for her and she was so interested.
“I think sometimes they don’t hear the detail, so it was nice to share this girl’s story and she seemed really interested in it which meant a lot.
“It was a very memorable day and we’re lucky enough to have the video of it too.
“Once the Queen had left a certain room, they served the buffet in that room… The funniest memory I have was, for some reason they left the speakers on in the room where we were and they said, ‘the buffet is now served’. The Queen walked in and threw her arms up in the air and started laughing.
“It just seemed to break the ice with everyone, it was great!”
Martin knows first-hand about the support we offer. He adds: “My wife and I have both been to Jubilee House, and Harcombe House for a break after my wife had two hip replacements, so we know first-hand now how important the Charity’s support is. Especially having been involved as a Trustee, I was involved in a lot of the developments.
“We’re so lucky to have such a high standard of facilities there to look after us.”
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