Killed in the Line of Duty……………
The following extremely detailed research into the life of AFS Fireman Edgar William Vick has been carried out by researcher Fiona Smith.
We always knew that whilst researching this project, that trying to trace 34 individuals and their families was not going to be easy and eventually we would find one firefighter where we would hit a complete brick wall with and sadly Edgar William Vick has been that man. His contribution is no less than that of any of the other 34 men and women that lost their lives on that fateful night in April 1941 and his sacrifice, like all the others is remembered here
We hope that as this website grows and more and more people find the site and make connections of their own, that maybe a descendant of Edgar’s will get in touch and hopefully we will be able to share with us a bit more about his life.
Edgar William Vick was born on 22nd February 1903 in Woolwich, London, the oldest of four children born to William John Vick and Edith Emily Fanny Lily Vick (nee Smith). William and Edith were married the year before Edgar was born, in 1902 in Woolwich in London. An entry in the marriage announcements column of the 5th September 1902 edition of the Salisbury Times reads ‘VICK – SMITH August 30th – at St Luke’s Church, Old Charlton, Kent by the Rev C Swanson, William John Vick, second son of George Vick of Fisherton, Salisbury to Edith Emily Fanny Lily, second daughter of W Smith of 52 Elliscombe Road, Old Charlton, Kent.’
(Salisbury Times dated th September 1902)
Edagr’s three siblings were sisters Doris Edith Vick, whose birth was registered in Lewisham in 2Q 1905 and Edna Violet Vick, her birth was registered in Lewisham in 4Q 1906. Sadly the death of an Edna Violet Vick aged 0 was registered in Lewisham in 1Q 1907. Edgar’s final and youngest sibling, was brother Donald Ralph Vick, his birth was registered in Lewisham in 1Q 1908.
The 1911 English Census shows Edgar William Vick aged 8 (born Charlton, Kent) living at 42, Effingham Road, Lee in London SE12, also listed at the family home were with his father William John Vick aged 38 (born Salisbury, Wiltshire), a soft goods agent employed in the cotton trade, mother Edith Vick aged 35 (born Loughborough, London), and siblings Doris Edith Vick aged 6 and Donald Ralph Vick aged 3 (both born Hither Green, Kent). Edgar’s unmarried paternal aunt Maud Grace Vick aged 26 (born Salisbury, Wiltshire) was recorded with the family. The census recorded that Edgar’s parents had been married for 9 years and had had 4 children of whom 3 survived. The family’s home had six rooms.
(1911 Census Return)
(42 Effingham Road, Lee)
The 1921 English Census shows Edgar William Vick aged 18 years 3 months, an unmarried soft goods traveller employed by his father, living at 51, Coleraine Road, Blackheath, London with his father William John Vick aged 48 years 9 months, a soft goods agent, mother Edith Vick aged 45 years 6 months, sister Doris Edith Vick aged 16 years 1 month, and brother Donald Ralph Vick aged 13 years and 3 months, both of whom were in full-time education. The whole family were recorded as having been born in London, except for Edgar’s father William John Vick whose birthplace was recorded as Salisbury, Wiltshire. The 1921 census records the address of Edgar and his father’s place of work as 42, Gutter Lane, Cheapside.
(51 Coleraine Road, Blackheath, London)
Edgar’s father William John Vick is listed in the 1920 Post Office, London Commercial Directory as a manufacturers’ agent at 42, Gutter Lane, London. In an effort to identify which ‘soft goods’ company for which William was an agent, and Edgar a traveller, we looked at the other companies/individuals listed at 42 Gutter Lane in the same edition of the directory. Unfortunately it didn’t really help! We found fifteen other companies/individuals including four manufacturers’ agents, three lace manufacturers/warehousemen, two woollen manufacturers, a silk agent, a trimming manufacturer, a muslin agent, a flannel printer, a stay and corset maker and a shipping agency. (Source London, England City Directories 1736-1943)
The 1932 Electoral Register shows Edgar William Vick living at 51, Coleraine Road with his parents William John Vick and Edith Emily Vick, and siblings Doris Edith Vick and Donald Ralph Vick. The 1933 and 1934 Electoral Registers show only Edgar and his parents at the address. (Source London England Electoral Registers 1832-1965)
The 1934 Post Office, London Commercial Directory lists Edgar’s father William John Vick as a manufacturer’s agent at 42, Gutter Lane. Four other manufacturers’ agents were listed at the address as well as a silk manufacturer, two silk agents, a muslin agent, a lace merchant, a curtain manufacturer. (Source London, England City Directories 1736-1943)
Edgar William Vick’s father William John Vick of 51, Coleraine Road, Westcombe Park, Blackheath, Kent died on 7th March 1935. Administration (with Will) 9th May to Edgar William Vick, commercial traveller. Effects £933 18s 6d. (Source England and Wales National Probate Calendar Index of Wills and Administrations 1858-1995)
The London Gazette of 28th May 1935 carried an item relating to Edgar’s father. It requested that all persons having claims against the estate of William John Vick, late of 51 Coleraine Road, Blackheath, SE3, textile agent, contact the solicitors administering his estate. We think it likely that this is in relation to Edgar’s father’s business.
(The London Gazette 28th May 1935)
The 1939 Register shows Edgar William Vick (born 22nd February 1903) an unmarried ‘traveller oil’, and AFS Beckenham, living at 234, Eden Way, Beckenham, Kent with his widowed mother Edith Emily F L Vick (born 4 November 1875) whose occupation was recorded as ‘unpaid dom’, and Donald Ralph Vick (born 9 February 1908) an insce [abbreviation for insurance?] agent. Edgar’s brother Donald was recorded as being married.
(234 Eden Way, Beckenham, Kent)
Prior to the start of WW2 the Government recognised the fact that the threat of War was imminent and that they were poorly prepared for a second World War. The Government acted swiftly with the Fire Brigade Act of July 1938 which demanded the recruitment of an auxiliary fire service as part of the country’s Civil Defence Force. As the nation’s capital, London was a natural prime target. Dockland warehouses packed with highly combustible oils, grain and timber were clearly a risk and the narrow maze of streets would provide an easy path for the fire. It was obvious that a large number of firefighters would be needed to prevent London becoming little more than a smoking ruin.
The answer was to expand the regular Fire Brigade by forming an Auxiliary Fire Service. By 1939 about 28, 000 men and women had joined the AFS and regular firefighters, who had been trained as instructors, put the new recruits through 60 hours intensive training. Originally recruits were unpaid volunteers, but eventually the men were paid £3 per week, women received £2 per week, with youths under 18 and messengers earning £1 per week. At first recruits endured poor accommodation, inadequate conditions and were dubbed “£3-a-week war dodgers” by the public who thought they were choosing an easy life. After many recruits left to join the war effort, the Government passed a statutory order preventing full time members resigning. Once the Blitz started, attitudes towards the volunteers quickly changed and they received the recognition they deserved.
The following images have kindly been provided by The London Fire Brigade Museum and as such copyright remains with ‘The London Fire Brigade’. these images give a little glimpse into what the brave men and women would have faced during the darkest hours of WW2 in the Blitz.
Edgar’s died at the Old Palace School, alongside his fellow Beckenham Firefighters and was recorded in the Civilian War Deaths Record as follows; ‘Vick, Edgar William, aged 38, leading fireman, Beckenham AFS, of 234 Eden Way, Beckenham, Kent. 20 April 1941, at Old Palace LCC School’ (Source UK World War II Civilian Deaths 1939-1945)
(Civilian War Deaths)
Edgar William Vick was buried with his fellow Beckenham Firefighters at Beckenham Cemetery on the 25th April 1941, Nineteen of the Twenty-One Beckenham Firemen were buried in a mass grave at the Beckenham Cemetery, after a memorial service at the parish church of St. George by Canon Boyd and a solemn procession through the town. The grave was dug entirely by their comrades and was softened by masses of daffodils. The 19 coffins were placed in St. George’s church on the Wednesday before the service and guarded by Firemen. The 19 coffins were borne from the church to the hearses by 114 bearers from the Beckenham AFS. As they left they passed between the lines of The Guard of Honour lining the path to the lychgate. The silence and peace was deeply affecting, all the traffic through the town had been stopped. The bearing of the coffins to the hearses seemed endless. As the Chopin Funeral March was played, the procession of hearses, firemen, service personnel, 19 cars with the families of the deceased and two fire appliances loaded with a mass of flowers, left on its journey to the Beckenham Cemetery. It took half an hour for the procession to pass any point on the route to the Cemetery. After the coffins had been placed in the grave, posies and bunches of flowers were dropped in and there were 350 wreaths. A plaque at the graveside read;
“We remember proudly the deeds of these bravemen, martyrs in the cause of liberty”.
‘Edgar William Vick of 234 Eden Way, Beckenham, Kent who is believed to have been killed through war operations on died on 20 April 1941 and whose dead body was found on 21 April 1941 at Old Palace School, Bow, London E. Probate Bristol 30 July 1941 to Donald Ralph Vick air-craftsman. Effects £519 19s 11d’ (Source England and Wales National Probate Calendar Index of Wills and Administrations 1858-1995)
(Probate Record for Edgar William Vick)
The death of Edgar’s mother Edith E F L Vick aged 71, was registered in Bromley less than six years later in 1Q 1947.
Sadly the records can only give us a glimpse of the life of Edgar William Vick, they do not give us any clues what he was like as a son or husband. We hope in time that we can add some more personal details that will give a true reflection of the man and the sacrifice that he gave in the name of King and Country.
My Family History website can be found here:
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