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1942 Austin K4 Escape Carrying Unit.
Fire Engine Photos
No: 10491   Contributor: Pete Matten   Year: 2008   Manufacturer: Austin   Country: United Kingdom
1942 Austin K4 Escape Carrying Unit.

1942 Austin K4 Escape Carrying Unit.

This is a 1942 Austin K4 Escape Carrying Unit(ECU)built to Home Office specifications for the war period and would origanally
have been delivered in the battleship colour of grey.I didn't even realise it was an Austin K4 until the registration was brought
to my attension,that being of GMX 142.
I was led to beleave that there was posible only 2 Austin K4 ECU's now in presevation and both these appliances I've sent in
photo's of.But when this registation was brought to my attension,it was only then I realised that this photograph also shows one
of the few remaining Austin K4 Escape Carrying Units from the Second World War period.
I have very little information on this vehicle,and actually taking the picture back in 1991 at the Bressingham Steam Museum
at a fire engine rally put on by the Norfolk Fire Service I didn't get any information.Its a brilliant conversion sometime after 1948,
but by what brigade is unknown.Any information on this 1942 Austin K4 ECU would be appreciated please.
Picture added on 29 August 2008
add commentComments:
This is almost, if not identical to GJJ 833 as a post war rebuild I believe they were done by home office workshops so were probably to a standard set of plans, I'll try and find a picture of GJJ 833 whilst at EDEN Camp.

Added by Rick Loudon on 29 August 2008.
Rick, I've now sent in 3 photo's of Austin K4 Escape Carrying Units that are in preservation, you also mention that there's one at the Fire Service Museum, and another-reg GXA 745 still in preservation.Are you now saying there could even
be another one still around-reg GJJ 833 ?.Hope you find that picture.Pete.

Added by Pete Matten on 30 August 2008.
Yes Pete,

GJJ 833 is very similar/identical to GXM 142 so I would guess they were built to home office design, it used to be owned by a friend of mine Dave Smith the oic of Driffield - Humberside he sold it some years ago to Eden Camp Museum in Malton North Yorkshire, they never did anything with it other than stand it outside - it obviously suffered as a result!

I run the rally at Eden Camp every July and was told in July its been sold, however I've just spoken to the museum and they will email some pictures to me of it as it is now, I'll list as and when I get them.

regards Rick.

Added by Rick Loudon on 31 August 2008.
Dear Pete and Rick, I am a little confused! We seem to have two registrations being used here, GXM 142 which is a wartime issue and GMX 142 which I assume is a Middlesex number and is on the appliance pictured. I could take a guess that a mistake has been made with the plate on this vehicle but is that the answer? Any thoughts gentlemen?

Added by Chris Wood on 31 August 2008.
A war-time utility machine, yet, still a good-looking rig.

A couple of questions...

What is the red-painted device, next to the Frount-Mount Pump, and under the left head-light?

And, aft of the Officer's Door, is a Valve Wheel and a [Discharge/Suction?] Hose connection - is for a separate, second pump, or is it piped to the Front Mount Pump?

Looking forward to more photos of this classic rig.

Regards, from Canada,

Added by Pat Rivers-Bowerman on 01 September 2008.
Sorry Chris, but what part of my description didn't you understand? The appliance was manufactured in 1942 for the Home Office, and used by the NFS. It would not have looked like this (see photo's 10455) during that period in time. After the war, it would have had the alterations made, and then used by one of the newly formed County Fire Brigades re-organised by Government in 1948.This appliance you think may be ex-Middlesex Fire Brigade, interesting-but I dont know. More information if available please. Pete.

Added by Pete Matten on 01 September 2008.
The "Muddle":

Looking at the Postings here:

The picture here is "GMX 142" - it being both war-time issue, rebuilt 1948, and out to the County.

The Reg. "GXM 142" appeared in Rick Loudon's 31 Aug/08 Posting. I think the "X"
and "M" got swapped; it was perhaps a typo?

Like the post-war Netherlands Engines on this Site, the Brigade work-shops did a great job in rebuilding these utility trucks into these classics. It was pretty bleak economic times for everybody, then.

Looking forward to the shots of GJJ 833 (hopefully now in a good home) and maybe
GXA 745. Keep up the good work, especially appreciated by those of us from afar.


Added by Pat Rivers-Bowerman on 01 September 2008.
Thanks for that Pat, well spotted and yes thats where the confusion is.It was a typing mistake on my part. (The old eyes are not what they used to be anymore). The brain and fingers are also doing there own thing these days as well. I think
nows the time to admit I must be getting old.Pete.

Added by Added by Pete Matten on 01 September 2008.
I'm with Chris Wood on this question I think its quite simply a mix up on the number plate pressing its very unlikely the vehicle was reregistered and even more unlikely it recieved an almost identical number!

Added by Rick Loudon on 01 September 2008.
It's interesting to see so much interest in these WW2 fire appliances, plus questions being raised concerning them. It would be to the advantage of all if those concerned would form a loosely knit group whose purpose would be to collect and collate information concerning them --- they are already 66 years old.
The best possible published book concerning them is found in "THE MANUAL OF FIREMANSHIP" Part 2, Appliances, April 1944 (His Majesty's Stationery Office) Issued under the authority of The Home Office Fire Service Department. There are probably libraries that may have access to it, plus large fire stations or brigade headquarters might have libraries. Later versions concern fire equipm ent currently in use, so it has to be this 1944 version. Another book to look for is 'THE FIRE SERVICE TODAY' Oxford University Press (no date) by F.Eyre & E. C.Hadfield. A third, more general book, but invaluable for much information concerning all emergency services along with dramatic photos of damage during the Blitz (The Madmillan Co. 1943 British Information Services) Maybe con cerned contributors like Ian Moore can suggest possble places to look for these invaluable source booka, or how about the Fire Brigade Society?

Added by Bob Graham on 02 September 2008.
Whoops! I apologize for the info concerning the third book helpful for learning more of WW2 emergency services; my computer was acting up, so I had to re-write it three times. The third book is "Front Line-The Official Story of The Civil Defense Of Britain" published by The Macmillan Company, 1943 and issued by The British Infomation Service. This does not contain technical information such as the Firemanship Manual, but is most helpful to an understanding of this terrible period of British history.

Added by Bob Graham on 02 September 2008.
Re the registration, yes, definitely a pressing error - in all probbabability when the machine enterered preservation. It should bt GXM, not GMX.

Added by Ian Moore on 02 September 2008.
Well done Ian, I'm glad your keeping up with us. I'll take the bad spelling ie(probability-2 b's....entered-1 e and 1 r) as deliberate mistakes.Ha Ha.
Ian, if you think the reg should be, GXM 142, can we trace what brigade it served after 1948? The appliance when photographed in 1991 was owned by a
K Waller from Diss in Norfolk. Could that maybe the brigade it served and are there any records available from that period?.Thanks Pete.

Added by Pete Matten on 02 September 2008.
just to try and help answer pats questions the red part on the front under the headlight is part of the barton pump if i remember its a type of valve unit, the wheel unit behind the door is a modification when the body work was redone post war, the home office spec bodys as per (gxa 788) did have a 500 gallon water tank fitted but this was mainly to feed the two hose reels fitted to the roof to provide a first responce till a hydrant or dam could be set into the pump for greater firefighting efficiencey. As a foot note the escapes on these appliances were all wood on weighed in the region of half a ton(500kg) in weight and take a crew of 3-4 men to move around.

Added by Kevin Brown on 02 September 2008.
Post 1948 (and rebodied as seen as a limousine) it was with Birmingham as fleet number 48, and disposed of in 1955.

Added by Ian Moore on 03 September 2008.
Hi all,

I've spoken to the owner of this vehicle today and he confirms that it was indeed an ordering error on the number plate by a previous owner it is GXM 142 !and he also confirms he also had GXM 157 to use for spares.

Added by Rick Loudon on 03 September 2008.
I own the appliance pictured, it is currently undergoing an extensive restoration. I purchased the appliance in 2005 from kevin waller of diss norfolk. The appliance was stationed in birmingham during the war, until the disbandment of the NFS in 1948, when it was retained by the Birmingham Fire and Ambulance Service. In late 1948 or early 1949 it was involved in an accident which resolted in it being rebodied in the style of a pre war leyland cub. In 1955 it was sold to the London Brick Company in bedfordshire who converted to a hose real tender (HRT), removing the escape and the front mounted barton pump. The actual regestration is GXM 142, the previous owner in haste when ordering the numberplates, recited the X and M in the wrong order.

Added by Simon Tullett on 03 September 2008.
Thanks, Kevin, for answering my curiosity questions.
And, I always did wonder what the Wheeled Escape weight would be; and getting it around on its carriage wheels.
Over here, the nearest equivalent must be the Bangor Ladder, or Pole Ladder.
Simply a 50-foot plus extension ladder, with bracing poles on each side, called Tormentor Poles. Required up to 6 men - and must have been a real b***h to handle - particularly in the snow and ice of a winter fire-scene.

picture #4609 shows one, stowed overhead on Prince Rupert, British Columbia American LaFrance pumper.
If you had the terrain, definitely the wheels would be the way to go !

Regards, from Canada,

Added by Pat Rivers-Bowerman on 04 September 2008.
I'd like to thank all of you for the interest shown on my picture and information thats come forward on this Austin K4 ECU, a picture I took nearly 20yrs ago and which I new very little about until now. Thanks.

Added by Pete Matten on 04 September 2008.
Pete, and not to mention our man in Canada, Pat_R-B has solved the mystery surrounding picture #4609,!!

Added by Pavel on 05 September 2008.
I can't wait for the next old photo that we can get our teeth into! For Pat's benefit, I can tell you that I once weighed a Bayley wooden escape and it was 740kg.

Added by Chris Wood on 05 September 2008.
Hi Pete. Why were these appliances called Escape Carrying Units and not just Pump Escapes. Any ideas ? Thanks Paul.

Added by Paul Warnock on 05 September 2008.
Paul, a pump escape is an appliance that has a pump that can supply from an original supply (on board water tank) and that carries a wheeled escape. Many of the early original 1941/42 ECU's did not have the front mounted Barton Pump fitted or a water tank, they towed a trailor pump, this was all that the Home Office recomended. Later ECU' were fitted with hose reels and first aid tanks and really only after the war-when used by county brigades were they then referred to as Pump Escapes. Many of the early appliances were modified during the war period and of course meant they didn't have to tow a trailor pump.
This picture really shows what we would call a pump escape having had so many modifications during, and after the war.But during the war-an ECU.Pete.

Added by Pete Matten on 05 September 2008.
Most of these machines were not fitted with a pump...hence the title Escape Carrying Units. The valve fitted behind the cab door is known as a 'Five Way Valve' this controlled the water entering and laeving the inbuilt water tank and had five positions....if I can remember correctly were 1 Tank-Pump-Reel 2 Hydrant-Pump-Reel 3 Hydrant-Tank 4 Hydrant-Reel and 5 Closed.
I will check this on Sunday when I take our F7 Dennis to Rochdale for their Fire Museum Open Day. It has a similar valve fitted.

Added by Barrie Green on 05 September 2008.
Originally many of these appliances had no pump or water tank and were indeed just 'escape carrying units' they had a special extending tow bar to tow a trailer pump to give the pumping capacity, the pumps when retrospectivly fitted came from America - Barton pumps because of metals shortage. hope that answers your questions .
regards Rick Loudon.

Added by Rick Loudon on 05 September 2008.
Pete, Barrie and Rick, thank you for clearing that point. I dont know much about appliances for this period but now its explained its obvious. Thats one of the things I like about this site, you never stop learning. Cheers.

Added by Paul Warnock on 05 September 2008.
The major equipment success story from the second world war must of course be the making of what we know today as the Water Tender.
Another interesting fact is that the Mobile Dam Unit (photo 7392) from the same period in time, this being basically a lorry that carried a dam and portable pump was in later years upgraded to carry more equipment and become increasingly self-contained with the designation being changed to water tender.
At last here was an appliance that now carried enough water and equipment to tackle small fires where no mains were available or in rural country area's.
The appliance we now know as being called a water tender had now been born.

Added by Pete Matten on 07 September 2008.
Seeing several fellows are interested in the various WW2 Home Office vehicles I'm wondering if any of them know if the very special London Water Units, built on the small Dennis chassis with a second Dennis engine and heavy pump mounted at the rear survived and may be in a museum somewhere. These were the experimental Heavy Units that later used the Austin, Bedford, and Ford chassis in great numbers. The first of two black and white pictures I have is of one that has to be among the first built by Dennis Brothers and marked "NFS--34A WU2" and being simply tha finished Dennis cab, a couple of small lockers and the pump mounted with second engine plus a small folding bench for crew. The second looks like the standard Heavy Unit with extended cab, which we call a canopy cab in the U.S., plus it has several side lockers and overhead rack for ladder; it is marked "NFS 34A 4W", so it was already allocated to a specific station, undoubtedly somewhere near the docks or warehouses; it even has skirts over the rear wheels. Any information would be useful. It's good to see some interest expressed the Mobile Dam Units, for they did excellent work in rural areas, and were especially useful in sites where an aircraft had crashed.

Added by Bob Graham on 08 September 2008.
Dear Bob, London had 5 Fire Force area's, 34/35/36/37 and 38.From 1944 for some reason 35 was disbanded.Fire Force 34 was certainly a London one, also from the details I have there appears from 1944 to be no Fire Force 33 which may have also been a London one making a total of 6 Fire Forces.
Are the pictures you have copyright, or can we see them before trying to answer your questions please.Someone might be able to help.Thanks Pete.

Added by Pete Matten on 08 September 2008.
You say you have a picture of one of these experimental London Water Units, it sounds very interesting! any chance of scanning it and posting on this site please?

regards Rick Loudon.

Added by Rick Loudon on 08 September 2008.
The two black and white photos I have are both noted as having "all rights reserved LCC London Fire Brigade" although when I purchased copies several years ago I was told that as I would use them for a not for profit book and gave full credit to their source that I could use them for that purpose. I would not wish to put this site's provider in an awkward position by asking they be published. They bear the photo numbers #2036A and #2036E. I'm interested to hear that there was a cut back in number of fire forces in the greater London area, but it would make sense. In late 1942 a good number of regular NFS men were transferred from these fire forces to those in the south and east. For instance in the 16th FF(Hampshire), Wichester's main station 16B1Z, had about 12 Londoners including two Irish men, and it was a real hardship for them having to travel to their homes every third day if they could afford it--we had three watches with 48 hours on and 24 off. I don't know if any other cities had them, because Southampton and Portsmouth already had an interesting contingent of Canadian firefighters whose chief was from Windsor, Ontario.

Added by Bob Graham on 09 September 2008.
Bob Graham, I am contacting you direct by E.Mail reference London pics. See where we go from there, OK.

Added by Pete Matten on 09 September 2008.
For what it's worth, the Red, Kidney-shaped item next to the pump is a Barton Primer, made by the same American company which made the front-mount pump. It's a two-chambered vacuum primer, each Chamber containing a float-valve mechanism. The primer was connected to the intake manifold vacuum, so that, when opened, engine vacuum would draw water through the suction hose into the pump (Being a centrifugal pump, it is not self-priming). The primary and secondary float chambers are to prevent the water from ever actually entering the engine!(When the floats rise, the water is "vented" to the ground.) Very simple, efficient means of pump-priming.

The Barton pumps were popular for the ease they could be "adapted" to any vehicle. They simply connected to the front crank-shaft via a jointed shaft. Whenever the engine was turning, so was this shaft. The pump contained its own transmission.

Added by Michael Stemmler on 21 February 2009.
I was following this debate and then stumbled on the Somerset GXM 633 at picture #26094. These early post war bodied appliances are a particular interest of mine. Are there more from Somerset like this?

Added by Peter Williams on 31 December 2012.
THE London Brick Location was at Phorpress Old Fletton Peterborough. have a side cab with crew B&W shot

Added by Pete Ashpool on 25 June 2013.
Pete Matten, my friend Eddie Baker is ccurrently putting to bed his book about Industrial Appliances in East Anglia he would dearly love to use this picture has its clear and sharp the only ones he has of this were taken in the 50's and very poor quality, he would credit you has the photographer

Added by Pete Ashpool on 08 July 2013.
Hi Pete Ashpool, I'm unable to contact you via this site, please feel free to contact me.
This picture was scanned from the original print and so I'll find the negative and scan this for Eddie and hope for an even better picture-OK.

Added by Pete Matten on 10 July 2013.
I own this vehicle and have several pictures of it. I'll see if I can find them if your interested.

Added by Simon Tullett on 10 July 2013.
Hi, I would like to get in contact with simon tullett, I am kevin waller and would like to know how the old girl is fairing any photos would be great.

Added by Kevin Waller on 17 May 2016.
Its currently by the main road to Cranleigh Sussex and possibly coming up for sale, its under a tarp but not sure on condition, id is interested but looks like front pump missing an escape ladder.

Added by Simon maynard on 29 December 2018.
I've not seen this vehicle for many years so very pleased it still survives, but I wonder for how much longer.

Added by Pete Matten on 08 January 2019.
I can assure you all that it is definitely not for sale and I do not know where you got that information from Simon Maynard. The missing bits are in storage and where removed to enable access to the parts that need repair. It is only in its current position due to the barn it was stored in being redeveloped.

Added by Simon Tullett on 08 January 2019.
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