Day 247: William the Fire-Fighter

The facts

Ginger went to peep at the Auxiliary Fire Service. “They’re doin’ drill,” he said when he returned.
“All right,” said William. “We’ll drill too.”
For the rest of the morning William’s band of AFS followed the procedure of the mother branch next door.
Ginger was sent round at frequent intervals to report any change in the programme. “They’re cleanin’ the trailers now.”
And at once the Outlaws set to work upon the wheelbarrow, turning it upside down and dusting it with handkerchiefs already so grubby from various other activities that a little dirt more or less made no difference.
“They’re squirtin’ their hose now.”
And at once the Outlaws took down the bucket of water and set to work with the garden syringe.
Passers-by looked with amusement at the four boys busily intent on imitating their neighbours, but the Outlaws were too much occupied to have any time to spare for passers-by… If Section Officer Perkins knew of this caricature of his dignified proceedings taking place on the other side of the garage wall, he gave no signs of it. His face still wore its expression of portentous self-importance.

  • Number: 23.4
  • Published: 1941 (1940 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws join the Auxiliary Fire Service – without its knowledge.


When William’s request to join the local Auxiliary Fire Service is turned down, he organises the Outlaws into their own detachment and closely mimics the activities of the real branch.

But he knows that they will only achieve true glory when they find and successfully extinguish a fire before the grown-up branch of the AFS.

The village appears stubbornly free of fires however (to the equal chagrin of the Outlaws and of the ‘grown-ups’) – until the Outlaws find, and successfully extinguish, a fire in the home of the Real AFS’s most smug and objectionable member, Section Officer Perkins.

“Gosh!” said William at last, irritably. “You’d think with all these people there’d be a fire somewhere. Wouldn’t do ’em any harm to let us have a little one,” he muttered pathetically. “Mean, I call it.”
“Well, they don’t want fires,” Ginger reminded him mildly.
“No, but… well, you wouldn’t think a little one’d do ’em any harm. I mean, when you read of all the fires there are in the newspapers it seems sort of mean of ’em to start bein’ careful just when we’re lookin’ for one.”
“S’pose we couldn’t start one ourselves,” suggested Douglas.

He is of course hugely embarrassed by the whole thing, especially when his Dad’s Army-style rivals in the professional fire brigade turn up and establish that the cause of the conflagration was his own failure properly to put out a cigarette.