UK: HMS Ocean Officer Remembers Grandfather’s Fire Heroism

HMS Ocean Officer Remembers Grandfather's Fire Heroism

Naval Airmen Fire Fighters from HMS Ocean swapped Olympic duties for remembrance as they stood with Lieutenant Harry Harwood and his family at a plaque unveiling for his grandfather Edward and two other victims.

The London Fire Brigade fire fighters were killed at a major fire in Eldon Street in the city centre on 27 December 1948 – the last year the city hosted the Olympic Games.

Edward was 32 and had served in the Royal Navy for seven years (1939-45) as a stoker. He saw service in the First World War C-Type cruiser HMS Caledon and served ashore in HMS Pembroke in Chatham and HMS Braganze in India.

Having joined the fire brigade after the war he was called into action on the winter night at an office block in the city centre. Edward’s fire crew worked with five others from local stations but couldn’t control the fire.

While moving from the scene to a safe area one side of the office block collapsed. It killed Edward, two other colleagues and seriously injured 20 more firemen.

A small but moving ceremony was carried out, attended by senior fire officers and crews from local stations. The service was conducted by the Chaplain for the London Fire Brigade, Reverend Mia Hilborn; The Fireman’s Prayer was read by Chief Petty Officer (Aircraft Handler) Chris Lemon.

Harry said: “Being on the exact site of the disaster and hearing the detailed account of the events almost brought it to life for me.

“Each and every one of those firemen was so courageous that night.  My thoughts are not only for my grandfather but are also with those families who also lost loved ones.

“It really was a tremendous honour to be at the side of my mother and father on this very special and emotional occasion for our family.”

Harry’s father, David Harwood, 62, was a former Leading Electrical Mechanic between 1965-73 who served in HMS Rhyl and HMS Llandaff. He joined a family member of one of the other victims to unveil the red commemorative plaque.

He said: “I am so very proud to have been here to carry out the unveiling ceremony of this memorial plaque that honours these brave men.

“It is particularly satisfying for me and my wife to have our son Harry here to share this moment.”
Naval Today Staff, August 9, 2012; Image: Royal Navy