Local family find heritage haul highlighting career of fire and police legend

Scott and Wilf Andrews holding nostalgic items of Wilfred Andrews Snr that they have recently rediscovered.

A local Northumberland and North Tyneside family were delighted to stumble across a ‘box of delights’ that contained priceless memories of a beloved father, grandad and great-grandad.

Scott Andrews and his dad Wilf, of North Shields and Holywell, recently rediscovered a selection of nostalgic treasures featuring Wilfred Andrews Snr – who is remembered, still to this day in this neck of the woods – as being a local law enforcement and fire service legend.

In 1957 at the age of 48, Wilfred Andrews Snr was so well regarded in the region that he went down to London to receive an MBE for his services to the local community from Her Majesty the Queen.

The respected pillar of the community was born and bred in Blyth, Northumberland and right the way through his life and career he was proud of his North East roots.

His first wife was called Margaret and they had three children together Wilfred, Una and Michael – they lived in Sandringham Gardens in North Shields.  After Margaret passed away, Wilfred later remarried.  He set up home in Whitley Bay with his second wife, Kathleen.

Wilfred was a beloved grandad to eight grandchildren Michael, Jason, Una, Maria, Dina, Darren, Scott and Michelle.

Wilfred Andrews started off his blue light career back in 1932 as a Police Constable walking the beat in Tynemouth.  He then enjoyed a busy and aspiring 13-years of activity in the Fire Service working his way up the vocational ladder.

The career rollcall for Wilfred Andrews MBE was impeccable it included:

  • He became a firefighter at Tynemouth Fire Station (1933).
  • Chief Fire and Ambulance Officer of the County Borough of Tynemouth (1938).
  • During WWII he was Column Officer and then Acting Divisional Officer (1941) and Divisional Officer (1942).
  • Company Officer in Charge of Tynemouth Fire Station (1945)
  • He organised, controlled and trained the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), Police and Fire Brigade in Tynemouth
  • He took charge of the Division of Tynemouth, Wallsend, Blyth, Whitley Bay, Seaton Valley, Longbenton and Forest Hall (during the war years)
  • He was also commended by Regional Commissioner, Sir Arthur Lambert after an enemy action raid on Tyneside.

When Wilfred Andrews Snr retired from life in the emergency services he pursued a couple of other avenues including working with his family in the local amusements trade, also as a chief security officer – before taking over as the landlord of The Three Wheat Heads in Thropton near Rothbury.

“As a little lad growing up in North Tyneside I had to always keep my nose clean and be careful what I did as everyone knew my dad,” said Wilfred Andrews Jnr also known as Wilf.

Wilf Andrews, aged 83, lives in Holywell with his wife of 56-years – Norma. He has three children Scott, Darren and Michelle.

During the early years of Wilf’s life he quite literally lived and breathed the fire service as he lived at North Shields Fire Station with his parents until he was three-years old.  The building is still standing and people know it now as the Bell and Bucket public house.

Wilf recalls there being a fire service headquarters at Beverley Gardens in Cullercoats, where he used to go with his dad.  He said it was during the Second World War but ‘he was too young to really understand what was going on’.

Wilf said: “It was quite good growing up in a fire service family. I used to go down to a number of the fire stations with my dad.  I loved all of the different yarns he used to spin about the fire brigade including dramatic stories about some of the fires he’d attended.

“I remember him talking about when he collected a brand new fire engine and drove it all the way up to the North East. Excellent memories!”

Wilf went on to say: “I knew all of the firefighters that used to work with my dad. They were lovely fellas. I used to have a good craic with them. Everyone seemed to admire my dad. They all talked about him in a good way.”

Wilf didn’t follow his dad into the emergency services, instead he chose the world of leisure and entertainment as for many years he played a major role in Spanish City, Whitley Bay – where he worked for Miller’s Amusements – alongside his sister Una.

He later went on to own The Plaza in Tynemouth, a popular coastal attraction that for residents and tourists alike was the place to be for fun and excitement.  Staying with the link to the fire service, the Victorian building overlooking Long Sands was destroyed in a devastating blaze back in 1996.

Wilf added: “I’ve always been very proud of me dad, and for what he achieved.  People used to come up and tell me what he was like during the war.  He seemed to be a courageous type of guy, and when he died, a Police Inspector said some nice words about him – saying that he was always the first person in when there was a fire and he would rally the crews by telling them ‘…come on lads let’s get it sorted’”.

Wilf concludes: “I once bumped in to someone in the street who told me when my father was in the police force he was frightened of nobody.  That was the impression I got of him throughout his life.  He was never ever intimidated by anybody. It didn’t matter who it was, and I think that’s why he got where he did in his accomplished career and made Chief Fire Officer.”

Wilfred’s MBE hangs with pride of place in Wilf’s home office.  It accompanies the other heritage items of the Defence medal, the Certificate from Her Majesty the Queen (that came with the MBE), and a selection of wonderful archive photographs from yesteryear – that they recently rediscovered.

A photograph of Wilfred Andrews MBE

Scott Andrews, aged 50, grew up in Whitley Bay and currently lives in North Shields. He works in the legal services industry specialising in licensing. He has four children Christopher, Scott, Thomas and Harvey.

“When the bairns were little, for Show and Tell, they would proudly take family memorabilia to school about their Great Grandad Wilfred. Their class mates always liked to hear the fascinating stories passed down through the generations about the police and fire service,” said Scott.

He added: “It’s all about the importance of family.  We are always talking about our Grandad as he’s an integral part of our history. We’re extremely lucky to have someone who lived life to the full and had an amazing lifetime of stories to share with us.”

Wilf and Scott have been doing some online research about their family and especially Wilfred Snr. They have been exploring the exciting British Newspaper Archive to find little nuggets of history.

Martin Farrow, Service Delivery Manager for Tynemouth Community Fire Station at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It was a great privilege for Wilf, Scott and his family to share their special nostalgic memories with us.

“We are very proud of our fire service heritage and especially of people who’ve made such a difference in yesteryear that has helped us become what we are today.  Mr Andrews was obviously deeply regarded by the local people for his achievements to be recognised by Her Majesty the Queen with the MBE.  It was made extra special as Mr Andrews’ accolade uniquely bridged both the Fire Service and the Police – representing two areas of the blue light family and showing the dedication he had towards the communities that he served.”

Wilfred Andrews Senior was truly a firefighter until the very end, as a vintage fire engine from Tynemouth Community Fire Station led his funeral cortege in January 1990 when he was lay to rest. An appliance that in 1951 Wilfred actually brought to the region himself when he drove it from the Dennis Factory in Guildford all the way up to Tynemouth – when he was Chief Fire Officer of Tynemouth County Borough Fire Brigade.

A photograph of the vintage Dennis fire appliance that led Wilfred's funeral cortege.