Bolton Remembers the War Logo
Edith Thorpe - National Fire Service
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Edith Thorpe
Edith Thorpe



Edith Thorpe

11 August 2005

Edith was born in 1919 at 5 Mowbray Street, Bolton. She attended Church Road School and passed a scholarship to County Grammar. She went to work on the switchboard at Whitehead's and when War broke out she volunteered to work on the switchboard at the Fire Station. She was the very first firewoman in Bolton and worked in the offices, which were at Burnthwaite near Old Kiln Lane, serving in the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and the National Fire Service (NFS). Edith married during the War at St Peter's Church. She had her wedding reception at the Empress in Bolton town centre and her honeymoon in Keswick in the Lake District. Her husband Harry was a regular fireman and an officer and for part of the war he was based at Plymouth, while it was being heavily bombed.

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Edith the firewoman...

Well, I went to work in a newsagents to begin with and then I went into office work and finished up at Whitehead's, the big shop on Deansgate and from there that's when the War broke out and I was capable on the switchboard at Whitehead's so they asked for volunteers at the Fire Station. So I went part-time to begin with, that was in 1939, as War broke out. And then they wanted full time workers, so I volunteered again and I was one of the first - well I was the first - firewoman in the Bolton fire brigade, the of course the Auxiliary Fire Service took over, so I was kept on as telephonist. We did shifts, it was seven ‘till two, two ‘till ten and ten ‘till seven the next day, and it was very exciting work because we had to call the fire engines out every time we got a fire call, but we also did ambulances at that time, so that was most exciting when they went out on ambulances. Then, of course, we got rid of those and we went on different shifts again and we had the blitz in Manchester. We were there all day and night, we couldn't leave the switchboards. Then there was the blitz on Liverpool and one of our men got killed there... and it was an exciting job really.

A very close call...

During that time, on our off duty, we used to go to the pictures and things like that, and I was in the Odeon when that bomb came down. Oh it was terribly frightening. First of all the manager came on the platform of the Odeon and said ‘we've got a Yellow Warning' and then it became a Red Warning and he said ‘Just stand where you are' and we all stood up, and stood there and you could hear the bomb coming down. I've never been as frightened in my life, just went schoooooo! And it hit next door. And that was where all spirits of liquor were stored in a big warehouse, so it was a big fire. So, I was with a friend, we were going on duty at ten o'clock at the Fire Station, so we went out and went there immediately. That was most exciting.