Silvertown firefighter’s 95th birthday marked with Google doodle
- Credit: Archant
A man believed to be the first black firefighter in the capital has been remembered with a Google doodle.
Frank Arthur Bailey joined West Ham Fire Brigade in 1955 and served at Silvertown Fire Station.
Mr Bailey decided to join after hearing that black people were not employed by the service.
He was remembered online with the Google Doodle on the date which would have seen him mark his 95th birthday, Thursday, November 26.
Mr Bailey was born in 1925 in British Guiana, now Guyana. He became an engineering apprentice and worked as a coal trimmer on a German trade ship before later finding work at a New York hospital as a porter. He went on to become a medical assistant in the physiotherapy department.
At the hospital, he led a walkout in opposition to racially segregated dining facilities.
Mr Bailey moved to London in 1953. The London Fire Brigade believes he was the first full time black firefighter in London and possibly the first in the country.
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He was active in the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and became branch secretary at his station. He also counted then FBU general secretary, John Horner, as a close friend.
In 1965, he left the brigade and became a social worker. He was also the first black legal advisor for black youths at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court.
In 2007, Mr Bailey was asked for his thoughts on his career for a brigade booklet entitled “In their own words”, which shared the history of black and Asian staff in the London Fire Brigade.
Mr Bailey 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 December 2, 2015, six days after his 90th birthday.