Honour guard for funeral of London's first black firefighter

Frank Arthur Bailey joined West Ham Fire Brigade in 1955 Credit: London Fire Brigade

London firefighters will form a guard of honour at the funeral of London's first post-war black firefighter Frank Arthur Bailey later today.

Frank Arthur Bailey came to London from Guyana in 1953. He later attended a Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference and heard from a Fire Brigades Union (FBU) delegate that black people 'were not employed by the fire service'.

He applied and joined West Ham Fire Brigade in 1955 and served at Silvertown Fire Station. Although there are anecdotal reports of black firefighters during WWII, it's thought Frank was the first full-time black firefighter In London and quite possibly the first in the country.

Frank left the Brigade in 1965 to become a social worker and the first black legal advisor to black youths at Marylebone Magistrates Court.

Frank Arthur Bailey Credit: London Fire Brigade

Frank was asked for his take on his career for a 2007 Brigade publication called 'In their own words' – a history of black and Asian staff in the London Fire Brigade.'

He said: "I was told that the authorities were not hiring black men because they were not strong enough physically or well enough educated to do the job.

"I immediately recognised racism and said I’m going to apply to be a firefighter and see if they find me unfit. I saved a fellow firefighter's life when he fainted while we were on the fifth floor of a ladder drill session.

"I brought him down to the ground in a fireman's lift. The guy's weight was 16 stone and he was 6'2."

Frank Bailey passed away on the 2nd December 2015, six days after his 90th birthday. He is survived by his three daughters. His funeral will take place later today.