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Leading Fireman Archibald McQueen

National Fire Service 'D' Division Durham

from:Hebburn, County Durham

My father, Archie McQueen, was unable to sign up for WW2 as he was in a reserved occupation, he was a Precision Engineer. He tried, (at least 3 times to my knowledge), to sign up any way. He was eventually told by the recruiting NCO that if he saw him again he would, (1940's expletive), make sure he didn't try again. Fed up with just making aircraft parts at Reyrolles, on Tyneside, and spending their nights huddled in an Anderson Shelter, my Dad decided along with his brother, David, to join the fire brigade. They operated out of Hedgeley Road station in Hebburn, in what is now South Tyneside.

Archie attended major bombing fires at Manors railway depot in Newcastle, where a warehouse containing thousands of bag of sugar was hit. His main memories were of the liquid sugar running everywhere, which started fires wherever it came into contact with flammable items. He also remembered his boots being on fire because of the molten sugar.

His main and forever abiding memory was attending the fire caused by the bombing of South Shields market place. The air raid shelter was underneath. Right up to his death he felt unable to explain to me his feelings about this job. He did what he was asked to do, and as an acting LF, made a decision not to enter a building with his team, despite being told to do so by his LF. Within minutes the building subsequently collapsed and would have taken his complete team.

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