Horace Shepherd FOLKER Service with the Fire Brigade
Service with the Fire Brigade
Horace had a close association with The Fire Brigade, being for many years Deputy Superintendent, and from about 1887, Honorary General Secretary of the Guildford Volunteer Brigade. Watford Hooke's Almanac of Guildford for 1888 lists him in that capacity. He commemorated his service, (which was erroneously reported as being Chief Officer), with the Guildford Brigade by means of the gift to to the brigade of the silver model of the fire engine plus two table games and 50 books with which to start a library.
In March 1892, he was elected to the post of Honorary Secretary of the National Fire Brigade's Union which then had it's office in Trinity Chambers in Guildford. (Horace had his auctioneers business in the same building a few years later). He held the post for sixteen years, and his badge, which is seen, here remains in the possession of his descendants. During his term of service, the National Fire Brigades Union made rapid progress, and he did much to improve the standards of all brigades.
Horace was instrumental in the creation of many voluntary brigades also he was made an honorary member of of a number of Fire Brigade organisations overseas. In 1893 on his resignation from the post of Honorary General Secretary of the Guildford Brigade, he was presented with a Fireman's Axe.
He was a principal party in organising International Tournaments at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington in 1893 and 1896. At the 1895 exhibition, Horace was presented with a silver model of an old fire engine. He also contributed to arrangements for Fire Brigade camps at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Birmingham, Basingstoke and, more close to home, at Shalford Park in Guildford, the latter being held in 1906. Guildford Council minutes of 1903 record that Horace was given permission to loan a picture, helmets, etc on behalf of the NFBU for an exhibition at Earls Court. The picture, which was noted as being very valuable, was of the Dutch school and depicted a Dutch town of an early date on fire.
At the start of the Boer War in 1899, Horace wrote to the Duke of Marlborough who was president of the National Fire Brigades Union, offering to form an Ambulance Corps from members of the Union to assist the fighting forces. At the Woking Fire Brigade annual dinner, Horace announced that the offer had been accepted by the Duke to form an Ambulance detachment for the Imperial Yeomanry, and that there was already a good response from Union members. The volunteers were trained in london before being despatched to South Africa to serve alongside men from the St.John Ambulance Brigade and Royal Army Medical Corps.
A Drill Book dated 1902 published by the National Fire Brigades Union bears the Name of Horace as General Honoury Secretary with headquarters in Guildford. In 1907 Horace was one of three people awarded the Italian Government Silver Medal of Merit in connection with the Fire Congress that year. Furthermore, in 1912, King George V bestowed Horace and four others with the King's Police and Fire Brigade Medal, his for his voluntary work in connection with the Fire Brigade. He was reported as being the first volunteer to receive that coveted decoration, but that was somewhat exaggerated as all members of the Fire Brigade were volunteers. He had ceased to be General Secretary to the Union by that time.
Horace was a member of the British Fire Prevention Committee and until 1914 was a member of the International Fire Service Council. The latter, in his own words, took him before every crowned head in Europe and his achievments in this respect are listed in Contemporary Biographics and also in Who Was Who. He also served on the Fire Survey Force for Prevention of Fires in Red Cross Hospitals. This picture of him in Fire Brigade uniform comes from the book Contemporary Biographics published in 1910, and he is listed under the heading of Accountants, Auctioneers, etc. He was a membre d'honneur des Federations des Sapeurs-Pompiers in France, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Russia, America, New Zealand, Etc; was presented with the Gold Medal with ribbon of St Stanislas by His Majesty the Emperor of Russia; the Red Cross 3rd class of Prussia by His Majesty the Emperor of Germany; the Silver Medal 1st class by the President of the French Republic. He also received four Belles Actions, gold and silver medals, in France and the Civic Cross 1st class in Belgium.
In his later years, Horace continued to take an interest in Fire Brigade matters and did much in the reorganisation the Surrey District of the British Fire Services Association and also worked with the Surrey Fire Board. A new Fire Station was being constructed in Guildford in 1937 and Horace contributed historical information to an article which appeared in The Surrey Advertiser around 1938. It seems that Horace had taken his paper records pertaining to the fire service with him when he left Guildford, and they were subsequently lost for public reference.
In his Will, he included a bequest of £100 to the Fire Brigade Widows and Orphans Benevolent Fund.
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