By Len A.Hynds

I was walking in to the station at about 3.am, after dealing with an incident on my beat, where a careless burglar had tried crossing the glass roof at the rear, had fallen through, down into the preparation room being impaled on a large hook through his stomach which had killed him. He had set the alarm ringing, which I and the key holder who lived nearby had heard, but by the time we got in and found him, he was dead. I had dealt with it, having the body removed to the mortuary, and was walking in for my late refreshment when I met up with a PC from an adjacent beat so we were walking in together.

I smelt smoke, and looking along a side road, I saw the roof of a garage on his beat was well alight. We had no radios in those days, and I said to my colleague, "Run to the nearest phone box, get the fire brigade. There's a night watchman in that place, I'll make sure he's OK."

We both ran in different directions, and I climbed a brick wall adjacent to the garage, and was able to look down into a rear room which luckily was lit, and I could see the elderly watchman laying asleep with his arms sprawled across the table. The room was filling with smoke. I leant across the gap and pulled away the upper building corrugated tin panelling, enough for me to lean across and climb in, and then climb down to floor level just outside that rear room. I got to the old chap but couldn't rouse him, as he was already affected by the smoke. I gave him the firemanís lift across my shoulders, but couldn't get back up to the opening again with him on my shoulder. I carried him into the main garage, which was full of parked cars with burning timber falling from the roof onto them in showers of sparks.

The vehicle at the front was an ex-army Fordson, used as a breakdown, and exactly a type of vehicle I had driven in Egypt, and I knew that it didnít have a key to start but a simple turning device. I kicked burning timber from the passenger door, and quickly laid the old chap inside. She started straight away, and I roared the engine, and letting the clutch out we shot forward and I hit those great wooden doors with an almighty crash. Not only the doors, but the wooden surround posts went crashing out into the road, and my worried colleague looking for me outside said we came out in a cloud of sparks, flame and smoke.

The fire brigade arrived together with an ambulance. The fire was put out, and the old chap recovered with some oxygen. As he was getting into the ambulance for a further check-up at hospital he looked at the front of the Fordson, which was badly damaged, and glowering at me he said, "I didn't do that. If I get the sack, I've got you to blame."

He had been unconscious and was very close to dying in the fire. Not one word of thanks.

On getting back to the station, both my hands had been burnt, so I got taken to hospital myself, and got both hands bandaged. On being taken home, I had to wake my wife Tilly to undress me.

"What have you been up to now," she said.

Bandaged Hand