In advance of the 30 year anniversary of the fire at Windsor Castle, some of our staff have been recalling their experiences of the day.
Tracy Hawkins, Health and Safety Manager, has shared her experience of working in Fire Control on Friday, 20 November 1992.
“In 1992, I was a member of Red Watch in Fire Control and was on duty on the day of the fire. It was a fairly quiet morning up to the point that we got ‘the’ call.
“Back then, certain sensitive addresses in the county had a direct telephone line into the control room, and every morning they would do a test call to the control room to check the line was working. Typically it was a short conversation ‘morning, Windsor Castle here, just testing’, and that was that until the next day.
“At the time we were notified of the fire, I was having my break. Prior to the move to a combined Thames Valley Fire Control Room, watches were much smaller as we only covered Berkshire, there were five on a watch with only four positions, so there were often only two in the control room during break times.
“When staff were having breaks and it got busy, a recall button was used to call people back in to control room (we were only next door). The recall button went and myself and my colleague returned to the control room. There was disbelief as we were told ‘it’s Windsor Castle, and it’s not a test’.
“It suddenly got very busy! I was on the radio position for a large part of the day.
“Every time there was a ‘make-up’ of pumps, it became clear that there was a serious fire developing. You could feel the atmosphere in the room change and I think we all sensed that we would be part of a significant historical event.
“As the day went on, it did become a bit of a blur. One particular challenge was trying to get to grips with call signs from over the border (OTB) appliances that weren’t our usual regular customers. That was fun! I also remember we started to receive calls from press around the world as the story started to break which was quite exciting.
“But it was a day where no-one wanted to go home.
“I’ve worked for RBFRS for 34 years now, nine of which were in Fire Control. Being part of the Windsor Castle response is a real career highlight for me, and I’m proud of the work that we did that day. Everyone involved received a thank you letter from the Queen’s office, it wasn’t a personal one to each member of staff but nevertheless something to treasure. I was sorting through my things a couple of weeks ago and found mine, and it is even more treasured now following the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“What was also great was that the role of Fire Control in supporting the response was recognised by the Royal Victorian Medal being awarded to the Officer in Charge of Fire Control that day, Senior Fire Control Officer, Chris Glenn.”
You can find more staff experiences of the Windsor Castle fire on our website.