The Academy's Brave Garford
The first thing visitors to the Fire and Rescue NSW Emergency Services Academy at Orchard Hills see upon arrival is a Garford Hale Type 15 Pumper. This isn't just any ordinary fire engine though and to answer your questions about the history behind the vehicle we've put together this blog.
The appliance has a significant past as it was assigned to Station No. 205 Armidale in 1926 and used by the Brigade at the devastating F. Braund Store fire of 1933. In response to the valiant efforts exhibited by firefighters at this fatal fire, the Medal for Conspicuous Bravery was created, and it remains to be the highest award which can be granted to a firefighter from Fire and Rescue NSW.
The Garford Motor Truck Company
The Garford Motor Truck Company was based in Ohio, USA and was a major manufacturer of buses and trucks for the local market between the period of 1910-1930. Prior to the onset of World War I, the NSW Fire Brigades sourced their appliances from English suppliers, but following shortages of suitable chassis in England they turned their attention to American manufacturers. The Garford Company vehicles were particularly sought after during the war as they produced a range of armoured trucks and other wartime vehicles.
As early as 1916, Garford appliances were trialled in NSW, though the Type 15 (otherwise known as their “Express” model) was not introduced until 1922. The new Type 15 chassis was first purchased by the NSW Fire Brigades in August 1922. On arrival to the Brigade Workshop in Sydney, it was fitted with the Hale Rotary Gear Pump which was mounted under the driver’s seat and powered by the integral transfer box. Subsequent deliveries of this model had the pump installed in the factory before shipping. In reference to the equipment used on these models, the name “Garford Hale” was adopted. In total, 49 Garford Hale Pumpers were used within the NSW Fire Brigades from 1922-1969.
The Garford Hale was used extensively in country towns of NSW owing to its simplicity and reliability. The pumping capacity of around 250 gallons (1,100 litres) per minute was also considered appropriate. Prior to this time most appliances were designed for use in metropolitan areas. Other Garford types were employed by the NSWFB for this purpose, including twenty Type 64 (1915-1918), twenty-six Type 75 (1918-1922) and six other miscellaneous models (1916-1925).
ME 68 Garford Hale - A Tale of Bravery
The ME 68 Garford Hale was commissioned into service in 1926 and assigned to Armidale Fire Brigade. This particular vehicle was in use the night of the F. Braund Hardware fire, 18 May 1932, where two members of the Armidale Fire Brigade lost their lives, and another was severely injured. As the Brigade attempted to effect entry into the produce store, 9,000 detonators which were stowed away in the area exploded. Despite the danger they found themselves in, the surviving members of the Brigade attacked the fire, thereby preventing a further explosion which would have seen the destruction of the business centre of Armidale. Owing to the heroism of these men, eight were awarded the inaugural NSWFB Medal for Conspicuous Bravery (two posthumously).
The Type 15 Garford Hale later operated out of No. 373 East Mainland from 1934, No. 346 Kiama from 1939 and No. 300 Gilgandra from 1947 before being withdrawn from service in 1959. It subsequently found its way to Coonabarabran where it was preserved by Captain Phil Mangan and crew, before partial restoration was undertaken in 2013 and then completed by staff and volunteers at the Museum of Fire.
Pictured right: This photograph was taken at one of the last pre-World War Two NSW Firefighter Demonstrations in 1934 at Newcastle. Pictured is the Armidale team which featured are four of the eight Conspicuous Bravery recipients (T. Snell Snr, J. Munsie, T. Snell Jnr and R. Wicks). The fifth man is A. Watson.
Since 2018, ME 68 Garford Hale has been on display at Fire and Rescue NSW Emergency Services Academy. It honours the brave firefighters who attended the F. Braund fire at Armidale and continues on as an enduring symbol of their courage.
Pictured Above: (1) Former Museum of Fire CEO Mark White with Chief Superintendent Ken Murphy in front of the Musuem's Garford display at the official opening of the Academy (May 2018) and (2) The Garford is prepared for transportation at the Museum (April 2018).