Firefighter retires after 47 years at Amersham Fire Station

Fri 1 May, 2015

One of the longest-serving firefighters in the UK has retired after a 47-year career at Amersham Fire Station spanning six decades. 

Watch Commander Paul Lillycrop became a firefighter on 23 April 1968, a week after his 18th birthday. He said today: “I don’t think I did too badly considering I was told at the interview that I looked a bit thin for the job!”

Paul, now 65 (see "then" and "now" pictures above), left Raans County Secondary School in Amersham when he was 16 and went to work at Flack’s Garage in White Lion Road. His boss, Malcolm Flack, was already an On-Call firefighter at Amersham, and Paul decided to follow in his footsteps.

Chief Fire Officer Jason Thelwell, who watched Paul take his final parade at Amersham Fire Station this week, said: “Paul has gone about his business in the most professional manner imaginable. He is a credit to Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and to the communities it serves.”

Paul’s first “shout”, or call to an incident, came just two hours after he had been issued with his fire kit. It was to a major fire at a furniture factory in Winchmore Hill – an unusually large incident to experience so early in a career. Paul worked at the scene for four hours and remembers thinking afterwards: “What have I let myself in for?” His first week’s pay was about £2.50.

Major incidents he attended that stand out in his mind are the Total Oil fire at Langley in 1973, the Seer Green train crash in 1981 and being part of the Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service contingent helping out during the aftermath of the Buncefield explosion in Hemel Hempstead in 2005. He also has vivid memories of the hot summer of 1976, when he remembers being out every day from 10am to 8pm. “That year was horrendous!” he said.

On the career front, Paul became a Leading Firefighter in the early 1970s and a Sub Officer in 1996. After being made redundant from the motor trade, he became Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s hydrant technician – a position he has held for a mere 24 years. He will be retiring from that role in August.

Paul has special memories of many of his colleagues from his past – particularly the firefighters and officers he served with in Amersham nearly half a century ago. “They were the people who taught me what I know about the job,” he said.

He is full of admiration for his present-day colleagues at Amersham, with whom he will be celebrating quietly later next month. He said: “They’re all good lads and lasses, and they have always given me good support.”

Paul also paid a special tribute to his parents. “They were my back-up in the early days, and I could never have done it without them."

He added: “It doesn’t seem like 47 years. I have enjoyed my time in the service - it was something I always liked doing, and that I never lost interest in.”

For those of you who weren't around in April 1968:

  • We used pounds, shillings and pence for money.
  • Harold Wilson was Prime Minister.
  • The Beatles were still together.
  • The first moon-landing was more than a year away.
  • The No 1 single the day Paul became a firefighter was What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong.