Shropshire

Market Drayton firefighter retires after 'record' career

Roger and Margaret Smith Image copyright Shropshire Fire and Rescue
Image caption Roger Smith was joined by his wife Margaret at an award ceremony last year, marking his service to the community

A firefighter, believed to be the longest-serving officer in the UK, has retired after a 48-year career.

Roger Smith, 70, joined Shropshire Fire and Rescue in 1967 and has been a station commander for the past seven years.

He said he had wanted to continue working, but was forced to step down due to ill health.

Mr Smith completed his final drill in Market Drayton, at the same station he joined 48 years ago.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue said checks had shown him to be the longest-serving current firefighter, but was still some way short of the all-time record.

'Thousands of fires'

"I've enjoyed every minute of it," Mr Smith said.

"I've met an awful lot of people and been to thousands of fires and other incidents, too many to remember.

"Every time you go to an incident you don't know what to expect, but you know someone's probably in trouble and you can help."

He said over the years he had rescued several people from burning buildings and those were the memories that would last.

"There have been a tremendous number of changes over the years, particularly better appliances and equipment," he said.

"Health and safety was virtually non-existent in the 1960s."

Image caption Roger Smith (centre) said there had been many changes since he joined in 1967

What else was happening in March 1967

  • John F. Kennedy's body was moved to a permanent grave in Arlington National Cemetery the day Mr Smith joined the fire service
  • Engelbert Humperdinck was number one with Release Me the week he joined
  • Frank Sinatra wins a Grammy for Strangers in The Night
  • Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister
  • US and USSR both perform nuclear tests
  • The supertanker SS Torrey Canyon runs aground off the Cornish coast, causing an environmental disaster
  • The photograph was taken for the cover picture on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles

The 1989 IRA bombing of Tern Hill Barracks and fires at the defence base on Donnington are among the many incidents Mr Smith has attended over the years.

A former mayor of Market Drayton, he received an award from the county's high sheriff last year to mark his distinguished service to the community and a special celebration is being held on 29 May.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue said the all-time UK record was held by Alfred Thompson from Whitchurch, who joined up as a 16-year-old under the reign of Queen Victoria and served until his death aged 73.