Frank Bailey – British Hero You Probably Will Not Know!
Category : Fire Safety Blog
Last month, Monday 11th January 2016, marked the funeral of a man named Frank Bailey near Ladbroke Grove. Though this name will not resonate with familiarity to many people, over 80 firefighters gave a guard of honour at the funeral.
Frank Arthur Bailey came to London from Guyana in 1953 and as a political activist joined the West Indian Standing Conference. He asked about joining the fire brigade during a conference, but was told he was unable to because black men are “not strong enough physically or well enough educated to do the job”. Nevertheless, he joined West Ham fire brigade in 1955 and worked there 10 years and it is believed Frank was the first full time black firefighter in Britain. London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “Frank was a pioneer and rightly challenged the outdated practices prevalent at the time.”
Throughout his 10 year in the fire brigade, he showed he was as tenacious and devoted to preserving life of his peers and of the public. Being interviewed recently he remembers an instance where he saved a fellow firefighter’s life whom had fainted whilst on a fifth floor ladder drill session. Frank carried down the 16 stone 6 foot 2 man down 5 stories of ladders and brought him to safety. Mr Bailey was a remarkable man whom achieved outstanding feats throughout his life.
However, his kind heart and fight did not stop with his profession, he was proactive in the struggle to end racism. Frank’s first step in this fight was to help youths. He became the first black legal adviser for black youths at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court in 1965. FBU National Secretary for Black and Ethnic Minority Members Michael Nicholas said: “His knowledge and passion for black self-organisation and progression in our society remains an inspiration to us today and he is rightly thought of as the father of black firefighting in this country and should not be forgotten.”
Sadly, Frank passed away on the 2nd of December 2015, six days after his 90th birthday. He is remembered by a family including three daughters. With his passing it is important that the legacy of Frank Bailey continues to inspire and motivate people to alleviate inequality in all aspects of society. As the Brigade celebrated its 150th year they fittingly marked Frank’s passing and his contribution to history.