Plaques unveiled to honour Reading firefighters killed in 1977 blaze

  • ITV News Meridian's Mark McQuillan spoke to family members at the ceremony

Two firefighters, who were killed in a blaze at a builders' merchants store in 1977, have been honoured with plaques.

David Barnes, 44, and Neil Goldsmith, 31, were responding to the fire along Elgar Road in Reading on September 15, 1977 when the building partially collapsed, trapping them both.

David's plaque has been placed at Caversham Road fire station and Neil's plaque has been placed at Wokingham Road fire station.

David's daughter, Linda, laid a wreath as part of the ceremony on Friday, May 20.

She said: "It just made my heart swell really. The most important thing was that, although it was a tragic loss, he died doing something he believed in and I suppose that makes you proud as a child.

"So I feel like he's still there. I often think what he would have said about things.

"I'm very proud to be his daughter and I think today did him proud, it was a very wonderful occasion."

David Barnes (left) and Neil Goldsmith (right) were killed when the building partially collapsed, trapping them both. Credit: Family handouts

The flames and the continued collapse of the building hampered rescue efforts.

They had both died by the time they were found, leaving behind wives and two children.

James Hunt, Fire Brigades Union Berkshire brigade organiser, said: "These plaques will help us all remember an incident which made a huge impact on firefighters locally and the sacrifices made by David and Neil to keep their community safe.

"David and Neil were both well respected firefighters and these will be fitting tributes to them. They are missed by family, friends and colleagues every day."

Both David and Neil's families attended the ceremony, where wreaths were laid. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Members of both David’s and Neil’s families have been involved with the plaque process and were present for the unveilings.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "Firefighters put their lives on the line for us all and we must remember those who make the ultimate sacrifice.

"It is particularly difficult for the local firefighting community when two firefighters are taken in the same incident.

"We are glad we can help their memories live on by unveiling these plaques.

"However, our thoughts, words and actions must not be limited to remembering those we have sadly lost in the line of duty.

"Every firefighter lost must serve as a reminder to us to fight for the living and for the safety advancements that will protect firefighters today."

A funeral took place at Caversham Road Fire Station following their deaths. Credit: Fire Brigades Union

What is the Red Plaque scheme?

The Red Plaque scheme was set up during the Fire Brigade Union’s centenary with the aim of establishing memorials to firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

The scheme involves engaging local FBU members, family members or members of the community to work with the union to place a unique plaque, usually near the scene of the incident.

Each plaque bears a similar inscription which honours the bravery and sacrifice of the firefighter whose name appears on the plaque.

Since its inception, the scheme has gone from strength to strength with 39 plaques either laid or in the process of being developed across the UK.

The plaques represent the names of some 125 firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The Red Plaques play an important role for the loved ones of the firefighters they remember as well as sharing their stories with the community.

The Red Plaque scheme is funded by the Firefighter 100 Lottery, which is also administered by the Fire Brigades Union, and aims to raise money for good causes related to the fire and rescues service.