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New and Noteworthy Exhibit

We are excited to bring you one of our most recent exhibits New and Noteworthy. To showcase the vast collection we have at the Museum of Fire, this exhibit gives us a chance to showcase new donations or noteworthy objects in our collection.

The objects chosen for its first display span over 100 years, from a T. J. Bown & Co coupling from 1889, to the fifth Chief Officer Thomas Nance’s uniform (c. 1929-1934), and a Fire and Rescue NSW drone from 2015-2020.

New and Noteworthy Exhibition

T. J. Bown & Co Couplings and Hose, c. 1889

This hose with attached couplings can be attributed to the work of the family business, T. J. Bown & Co. While the female coupling on the hose is clearly identified, there is no provenance for the male coupling or the hose itself. It is most likely that these have been renewed for maintenance purposes over the life of the object. The female coupling provides important information for dating this piece of equipment, stamped with the maker and year of manufacture. From this, we can determine that the female coupling was made in 1889, reinforcing its significance as an early piece of firefighting equipment in Sydney.

To read more about the hose click here.

T. J. Bown & Co Coupling and Hose [Museum of Fire Collection]

Thomas Nance collection, c. 1929-1934

Chief Officer Thomas Nance c. 1929-1934 [Museum of Fire Collection]

Donated by the Mansfield family, this collection is highly significant as it showcases the uniform the fifth Chief Officer of the fire brigade wore during his time in said position. On display in the exhibit are Nance’s tunic, silver nickel helmet, and boots, all worn during his time as Chief Officer.

Thomas Nance joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB; now Fire and Rescue NSW, FRNSW) at the age of 26 on 6 December 1895, spending his early years in the carpentry shop at Headquarters (now City of Sydney Fire Station). He became the fifth Chief Officer of the New South Wales Fire Brigade (NSWFB; the new name of the MFB and what we know today as FRNSW) in 1929 and led the fire brigade through the Depression.

Nance was the first Australian-born to reach the position of Chief Officer and dedicated his life to helping others through his charity work, including creating toys for children which saw him turn the southern basement of Headquarters into a workshop. It is estimated he made 33,000 toys over 22 years, with the fire engine being his favourite toy to make. Nance also built homes for returning soldiers during World War I which earned him the award of a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1920.

The sixth interstate Chief Officers Fire Brigades conference, Sydney. Chief Officers from around Australia are standing in front of the newly installed Ahrens Fox fire engine, 1929. Thomas Nance is standing front and centre [Museum of Fire Collection]

Thomas Nance achieved much whilst in the position of Chief Officer including, just in his first year, overseeing the installation of the 1929 Ahrens Fox to Headquarters Fire Station (which can be found on display), purchasing a new Chief Officer car which was a Hudson Super Six Roadster known as the ‘Red Terror’ and ‘Red Bird’ for its vibrant fire-engine-red colour. The Chief Officer’s car was given the No. 10 license plate which can also be seen on display further on in the Museum.

Other notable achievements throughout his career include, instituting the Conspicuous Bravery medal (some of which can be seen on display), reinstating the Volunteer Fire Brigade Demonstrations (now known as Championships), and had a strong focus on providing further education to firefighters.

Chief Officer Thomas Nance retired on 31 March 1934 after 38 years of dedicated service to the NSWFB. When he first started in 1895 there were just six permanent stations and 60 permanent employees. By the time he retired, Nance oversaw 76 permanent stations in the metropolitan area and 136 stations in the country, along with 674 permanent officers and firefighters and 1,571 volunteer firefighters.

While visiting Rev L Richards on 29 May 1941 both him and Thomas Nance visited the Merrylands Fire Station where Nance had a sudden heart attack and died at age 72. A large funeral was held on 31st May 1941 at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Summer Hill.

RPAS01 BEAR Drone, 2015-2020

This remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), commonly known as a drone, was commissioned into service in July 2015 and named after the first Chief Officer of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) William Douglas Bear.

RPAS provided integral information which assisted in the prevention, preparation, and recovery phases of field operations. They may also be used following major incidents such as bushfires or floods to provide real-time data for pre-incident planning and to assess damages.

During its five years of service, ‘RPAS01 BEAR’ saw a total of 78.35 hours in the air, piloted by members of the Fire and Rescue New South Wales Technical Operations Aviation Team.

To read more about the drone click here.


New and Noteworthy is a rotating exhibit where we will bring you even more highlights from our collection, so make sure you visit to see this great collection of objects and keep a look out for when we swap them out for more.

The Museum is open 7-days a week 9:30am - 4:30pm to plan you visit head to

- Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team


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