AFS Fireman Alan Charles Barber

Killed in the Line of Duty……….

The following extremely detailed research into the life of AFS Fireman Alan Charles Barber has been carried out by researcher Simon Last

Alan Charles Barber was born 15th May 1914 in Lambeth in London, the youngest son of William Charles Edward Barber and Ethel Barber née Langton. His father was a Carpenter and Joiner who had served in both the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force during World War One. The family lived at 120, Gipsy Road, West Norwood, Surrey.


Image of Gipsy Road, kindly provided by Lambeth Archives

The 1921 Census shows the Barber family still living at 120, Gipsy Road, West Norwood and Alan is at home with both his parents. His father William is recorded as a Builder and Decorator of 50, Chapel Road, West Norwood and his mother Ethel was at home carrying out domestic duties.

Alan Charles Barber 1921 Census

(1921 Census for Alan Charles Barber)

Alan Charles Barber 1921 Census Address

(1921 Census Address for Alan Charles Barber)

Prior to the start of the Second World War, In early 1937, Alan married Winifred Rose Grant in Lambeth and the electoral registers show that they lived at 46, Thornlaw Road, West Norwood.

Before the War, Alan was working in the family business, a haulage and motor vehicle repairs company which was based in Mitcham in Surrey. The company was C. Barber and Sons Ltd and they were based in Goat Road in Mitcham.


Alan Charles Barber

The Picture above was taken on a Barber and Sons works outing, Alan is standing far left and his father is sitting with arms folded.

The 1939 England and Wales Register show him as member of the Auxiliary Fire Service at the Elmers End Road London Passenger Transport Board Garage, Section No.3 AFS, Beckenham and his normal occupation was shown as a Builder and Decorator. He is listed here with his fellow AFS Volunteer Firefighters. His wife Winifred is listed on the 1939 Register as living at home with her parents at 131, Gipsy Road, West Norwood, Surrey.

Barber 1939

The devastating events of that night in April 1941 changed the lives of those involved forever. That one moment altered the lives of so many and so many futures were taken away that night. The ‘what if’ moments suddenly become the ‘what might have been’ moments. The course of History altered forever. The sudden dramatic loss of a loved one can affect families in so many different ways and the loss and grieving process is totally different for each person and each family, it’s something totally unique to those going through the grief. The awful events of that fateful April night in 1941 will have stayed with those who were immediately affected, for the rest of their lives. Alan’s wife Winifred didn’t talk about Alan too much, for some the grief was just too much to bear.

Winifred went on to marry a Canadian Soldier and they had one child together and for a period of time, they lived in Canada. That marriage ended in divorce and Winifred returned to England and she married William Albert James Lorimer in 1947. Winifred and William went on to have one child together.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, how true that saying is sometimes.

The following collection of wonderful photographs and memories have kindly been provided by Winifred’s daughter Rita Davies.

Alan worked as a Joiner and the family used to go camping quite a lot. Alan and Winifred also had a tandem bike and they enjoyed holidays together in Cornwall.

Rita davies 6

Alan on holiday on the tandem bike

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Winifred on holiday with the same Tandem bike

Rita Davies 1

On the left are Alan’s parents, the couple on the right are Winifred and Alan on holiday possibly at Margate or Eastbourne

rita davies 15

Alan tinkering on his car

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Alan’s wife, Winifredrita davies 9

Alan and Winifred in the garden of 131 Gipsy Road,  Norwood, SE27 probably taken just after their wedding

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Alan and Winifred in the garden of 131 Gipsy Road,  Norwood, SE27 again, probably taken just after their wedding

rita davies 10

Alan is standing 2nd from the right

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Alan is 3rd from the left on the back row

rita davies 13

A Group of Beckenham Fireman, possibly taken in the Mess Room

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Alan captured proudly in his uniform

Rita Davies 2

Alan captured proudly in his uniform

Rita Davies 3

Alan captured proudly in his uniform

Rita Davies 5

Alan Charles Barber was buried at Beckenham Cemetery and Crematorium, Elmers End Road, Beckenham, alongside all the other Beckenham firefighters who sadly died that night. There is also a poignant photo of the memorial service for the firefighters (shown above) and Alan’s wife Winifred is standing immediately to the right of the tree, her hat at a slant, her mum is in front of her with glasses. The original photo has been signed ‘with kind remembrances from the officers and men of the Beckenham A.F.S.’

This last picture is both the most endearing and also the saddest picture of them all. A young boy smiling at the camera with faithful dog close by. Full of innocence and full of dreams and aspirations and a future that was taken away like so many others, so cruelly.

rita davies 8

With special thanks to Rita Davies for allowing me to use the precious family photographs seen here.

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5 thoughts on “AFS Fireman Alan Charles Barber

  1. Thank you for yet another wonderful tribute to a good man. No matter what the year, no matter what technology is available, people are people. Their hopes and dreams will live on through family history and writers like you who take the time to record these memories. Excellent work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Lynne for taking the time to read his story. Each and everyone of those that died that night had families and loved ones. They were husbands, wives, sons, daughters and mothers and fathers and the immense loss would have been felt forever. So many lives changed in a single moment


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