Queen Elizabeth II became Patron of The Fire Fighters Charity – then known as the Fire Service National Benevolent Fund (FSNBF) – in 1953, the same year as her coronation. Over the following seven decades she retained great affection for our “outstanding charity,” as she wrote in a letter to us in our Diamond Jubilee year.
Loyally supporting us throughout her reign, the Queen regularly wrote to the Chair of our Board of Trustees ahead of our Annual General Meetings, attended our Golden Jubilee Celebration in 1993 and would often ask after us when awarding honours to deserving members of the fire services community.
Today, as we mourn her loss, we also reflect on the happy memories many of our beneficiaries, supporters and employees share of time with our much loved Patron.
In the Queen’s words…
A golden celebration
The Queen attended our Golden Jubilee reception at London’s Guildhall on 10 June 1993, where she met members of the UK’s fire services, beneficiaries, supporters volunteers and employees of the Charity..
She had marked her own Ruby Jubilee a year earlier and was halfway through her 40th year as our Patron.
We filmed the moment she arrived at the Guildhall, as well as the speeches on the day and her conversations with countless beneficiaries inside, which you can watch here:
Ian Adam, who was Chairman of our Charity at the time and former Fire Master (CFO) for Central Scotland, accompanied the Queen for over an hour as she met several beneficiaries, as well as fire and rescue service personnel from across the UK. You can read some of his special memories from the day here.
And joining Ian there was Richard Aldridge, who was in Year Six of school at the time. Read his own fond memories here.
You can also see our memories of the day as a whole here.
Platinum Jubilee Celebrations
Earlier this summer we marked The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with the planting of trees at each of our centres as part of her Green Canopy initiative to celebrate her 70 year reign. We also unveiled new Echo Benches alongside the trees, to support beneficiaries’ mental wellbeing.
Coming together with representatives from local fire and rescue services, as well as beneficiaries, employees and supporters, the occasions were joyful, with cake, bunting and Union Jacks aplenty.
Following in Her Majesty’s footsteps
The Queen’s grandson, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, later followed in her footsteps in 2019, when he visited Harcombe House on Monday 9 September, 2019.
The culmination of months of planning and the result of our long-standing working relationship with The Royal Foundation, the visit recognised the work of our Charity and marked Emergency Services Day.
Mick Haggard shared a photo of when his team met the Queen at the opening of Headquarters at Eastleigh on Friday 22 March, 1985: “We had to practice marching for 10 weeks before and I think that all of us from Gosport did a great job.”
Retired firefighter Peter Thompson, meanwhile, shared his own unique experience of meeting the Queen.
Peter was asked by his former Sub Officer to make a model of a village pump as Her Majesty was coming to officially open the new Hampshire Fire Brigade Headquarters, and they wanted the Chief Fire Officer to present a special gift to her.
He spent weeks researching and making the incredible model, before being told he’d also be there to answer any questions Her Majesty may have. He was ordered to get a new suit and a haircut for the day too!
He said: “I had tried to imagine the encounter many times. I expected dialogue between the CFO and the Queen, and hoped that I might get a smile or a nod from the monarch. I was quite wrong.
“Her Majesty was beaming. Carrying her gloves, she shook my hand and immediately commented that there had been a similar appliance in the cavalcade. Impressed by her powers of observation, I confirmed that there was. She asked several questions, enquiring what materials it was made from. I answered her questions but thought it best not to mention that most of the materials were indeed categorised as… scrap.
“She was so relaxed and friendly, putting me completely at ease and making me feel very important. Her sheer presence was extraordinary. I am eternally grateful that the fire service afforded me the opportunity to be the recipient of such an honour and a privilege. An unexpected opportunity, and a day I shall never forget.
“I have since seen the model again on display at Sandringham.”
Koray Murad met Her Majesty when she visited Millwall Fire Station around 2007. He had the chance to speak to her briefly, as seen in the photo below, and he says: “It was an amazing experience that I will treasure for ever. May she rest in peace.”
Elsewhere, Bunty Macdonald shared her husband’s experience of meeting our late Queen. She says: “My husband Douglas Macdonald, Watch Manager of Carr-Bridge CRU, was fortunate enough to meet the Queen at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh to receive a QFSM.”
And Ann Tamplin also shared her own husband’s experience, adding: “My husband Michael was honoured to meet the Queen on two occasions. He first met Her Majesty at a reception in Birmingham town hall after the awful pub bombings.
“In 1983 he had the honour of meeting Her Majesty again when he was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal at Buckingham Palace. He was most impressed with the fact that Her Majesty knew the details of the job that led him to receive his award. The funny thing was that initially you receive a letter from Downing Street informing you that you have been selected to receive an award. I actually picked the letter up when it arrived, and said to my husband, ‘there’s a letter here from Downing Street!’ He replied, ‘it’s probably just about the local elections’. We still laugh about that today.”
Meanwhile, Martin Reece met the Queen at our Golden Jubilee celebration at London’s Guildhall in 1993 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!”
Jacquetta Gomes also had the honour of meeting Her Majesty.
She said: “I saw her in 1977 in Durham and saw the car bringing her and The Princess Royal to Kendal in 2013. My husband saw her in Sri Lanka in 1954 and in London in 1977. He received a letter from The Queen for his participation in the National Portrait Gallery’s Hold Still Project, spearheaded by The Duchess of Cambridge, during the pandemic.”
John Weatherill shared: “Being stationed at A26 Knightsbridge, I met the dear lady on a few occasions, after completing fire drills in Buckingham Palace. She was very very interested in all us taking part. A very sad loss, for us all, may she RIP.”
Elsewhere, Melanie Gibb shared a photo of when she too met the Queen (see below), and recalled: “I had the great honour to present a mock fire call and mobilisation of Johnstone Fire Station appliance when HRH officially opened what is now Johnstone Control in 2001. It was a wonderful day and she made me feel at ease due to her interest in what I was showing her. The Duke of Edinburgh even took time to ask me about the shifts we worked afterwards.”
Mick Beard was presented to Her Majesty as a member of a Royal Engineers Field Squadron in the early 90s and said: “My abiding memory of her was her diminutive stature compared with her commanding presence (I was 6’4” tall back in the day) and when she spoke I was reminded of my grandma, not just because of her height, or the overwhelming feeling that she was genuinely interested in our achievements like a member of the family, but because when she was talking and smiling the pink lipstick she wore was visible on her teeth, which humanised her even more.
“Her Majesty was not just a figurehead, she was a beacon of light in an ever darkening world and her humility when conversing with dirty soldiers or small school children will be sorely missed by an awful lot of people.”
Lynn Bow had the honour of meeting the Queen several times, alongside her husband Graham, who received an MBE in 2007. She recalled of Graham’s first meeting on that occasion: “He was always Sir Graham to his family and friends… He asked me afterwards, how she remembered everyone’s reason for being there. An equerry whispered to her before placing the medal on the recipient. Such stamina. She stood the whole time and Graham was nearing the 100th mark.”
Lynn then met Her Majesty again in 2008 at the Motobility 30th Anniversary Presentation at Royal Hospital, Chelsea, to honour the Armed Forces and Emergency Service personnel who had been disabled from their career and who had a vehicle supplied on the car rental scheme.
“What an honour it was to see the late Queen Elizabeth 2 again and I actually got to shake her hand this time,” she said. “She commented on my granddaughter Olivia’s dress and then the equerry guided her on to the next car. Prince Philip took one look at our group (10 people) and said ‘you didn’t all come down in that did you’. Margaret Thatcher shook hands with all of us. Another memorable event for all of us.”
Graham sadly passed away in 2013 and Lynn proudly accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award at our Spirit of Fire Awards in 2014 on his behalf.
And Lynn finally had the chance of seeing the Queen at a Garden Party and recalled: “So wonderful to meet her. She will be sadly missed. Thank you Ma’am.”
We’d love to add your own memories of our Patron to this page. Did you meet her in the course of your professional life? Have you been awarded an honour? Whatever your experience, share it with us and we’ll add it to this tribute page. You can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org