Today, as part of the Fire Brigades Union’s (FBU) centenary celebrations, all surviving issues of Firefighter magazine dating back to 1932 are being made available to browse online in what is believed to be a first for a UK trade union.

The union’s journal gives a priceless insight into the development of the fire service and its trade union through the 20th century. Major events including the Second World War, the Blitz and the first ever national firefighters strike are covered in detail as are fatal incidents such as the Cheapside fire in Glasgow. The blaze, which happened 58 years ago this month, resulted in the deaths of 19 firefighters and salvage corps members.

The archives run up to 2001 by which time the FBU had begun posting the magazine online. The last issue in the archive – the September/October 2001 edition – includes the FBU’s commentary on the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York, in which 343 of the 414 emergency workers who died were firefighters.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “The FBU has a rich and engrossing history. We hope readers will find it an illuminating journey about how their fire and rescue service has developed over the past 100 years and the essential role the FBU has played in that.

“It is quite frankly amazing that a small industrial union like ours has been able to regularly publish a high quality journal for the best part of a century. Firefighter is one of the oldest, continually running fire service publications in the world and gives an essential insight to a profession that has responded to some of the most devastating events in UK history.”

It took the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University over a year to digitise the large collection which is being released to the public as part of celebrations to mark 100 years since the union, then known as the Firemen’s Trade Union, was founded on 1 October 1918.

Rebecca Jones, of the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University, said: “This was a great project to work on; my father is a retired firefighter from Leicestershire so it was of great personal interest to myself. By digitalising all the past issues of Firefighter, readers will be able to easily search for topics that interest them. I found it poignant that the collection ends with 9/11, and the articles on the effect of television on the 1955 general election were fascinating.”

The online archive can be accessed at: https://wdc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/fbu

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