February 1940

01 February 2016

With Britain at war and bombs falling, we set up a project to investigate the effectiveness of extinguishers on incendiary bombs and the resulting fires. The Home Office was stating that buckets of water with stirrup pumps were better - an assertion which they first made in 1916, causing us to form our organisation to promote the effectiveness of chemical extinguishers. (At the recent AGM, a heretic among us had suggested that, without proper data to support our cause, it was even possible that the Home Office was right.) The following day the project sub-committee decided that it would need actual bombs for testing. It took four more months before the Ministry of Home Security, ARP (Air Raid Patrol) Dept decided that they could not provide incendiary bombs.

A member company, which comes across in our old records as something of a shady character, volunteered to provide some bombs for tests. The minutes of our committee meetings do not record how they managed to do this and whether these were live or exploded ammunition. In September we had a report on the tests, and a meeting with the Fire Officers Committee among others. FETA issued a new memo based on one recently sent to ARP training schools, stating that extinguishers could be used safely on fires resulting from bombs, and on bombs themselves where violent scattering of the metal would not itself cause a problem.  Further testing at Elstree showed that bombs could even be effectively extinguished if tackled on landing, but if the case had time to become molten, a chemical extinguisher would cause more spluttering metal than the stirrup pump. All adverts mentioning these bombs had to be submitted to the Ministry of Home Security Censor’s Dept, which had approved our memo on the subject.

A year after our investigation started, with all our facts proven and with the weight of the Ministry behind us, we were able to stand up for our members’ products by writing a letter to the Sunday Dispatch newspaper, objecting to an item it had run on bombs and fires, and to send a copy of our explanatory memo to 40 other major newspapers.