AFS Fireman Patrick Joseph Campbell

Killed in the Line of Duty…………

The following extremely detailed research into the life of AFS Patrick Joseph Campbell has been carried out by researcher Fiona Smith.

My lasting thoughts would be that Patrick Joseph Campbell was a man trying to better himself, a man that was trying to make an honest living and somebody that was always willing to go the extra mile to safeguard his and his families future. A man taken far too early, aged just 23 when he died, with a whole future ahead of him that was so cruelly taken from him on that fateful night of 20th April 1941.

Patrick Joseph Campbell was born on 18 April 1918 at 68, Wellington Street in Dublin, his parents are recorded as James Campbell, Cooper and Mary Campbell nee McClure. The informant was K Campbell, of the same address, who was present at the birth.

Patrick Joseph campbell Birth

(Birth Record for Patrick Joseph Campbell)

Patrick’s parents were James Campbell, a cooper of 11 ½ Upper Dominick St, Dublin, the son of bricklayer Henry Campbell and Mary Jane McClure, a worker of 37 Sherrard Ave, Dublin, the daughter of labourer James McClure and they were married at the Roman Catholic Chapel of St Agatha, Dublin on 1 May 1898 in Dublin North. James and Mary Campbell had ten children, two boys and eight girls and Patrick Joseph Campbell was the couple’s tenth and last child.  The children were all born in Dublin, and their father James’s occupation throughout was recorded as cooper. 

Campbell McClure Marriage

(Marriage record for Patrick’s Parents)

The other nine children were Kathleen Mary, born 28 September 1899, Hannah Elizabeth born 15 June 1901, Mary Margaret born 30 March 1903, who died aged 17 of synapse from cerebral compression, meningitis on 24 December 1920. At the time of her death Mary’s occupation was brush maker. Alice born 22 February 1905, who died of ‘probably diarrhoea’ on 22 March 1905 aged 5 weeks, on her death record, her father’s occupation was recorded as labourer rather than Cooper. Elizabeth Josephine born 5 March 1907, who died unmarried aged 30 of encephalitis lethargica, cardiac failure on 31 March 1937. At the time of her death Elizabeth’s occupation was shop assistant. James Henry born 29 April 1909, Bridget Mary born 22 June 1911, who died of bronchitis on 8 September 1911 aged 10 weeks, Agnes born 17 July 1912, and Annie Teresa born 13 November 1914. We have taken the time to record the birth and death details of all Patrick’s siblings, as they give a good indication about the living conditions at the time in Dublin. Around the time that the Campbell children were born, Europe itself was in turmoil, with the advent of The Great War just a few years away. Dublin itself, given it’s History of turmoil and conflict was a City that was simmering below the surface, The Easter Rising took place in Dublin over the Easter Weekend in April 1916, just two years before Patrick was born.

Around this time, Dublin was a city of extremes, extreme poverty for many inhabitants, with around 36% of the Cities residents living in one room tenements. Whereas on the other end of the scale, 22% of the population were living in grand homes of ten rooms or more. The rate of illiteracy in Ireland was 8.3% in 1911 and varied widely across the country, with the lowest rate in Dublin. The infant mortality rate was 81.3 in Ireland in 1916, i.e., for every 1,000 babies born during 1916, 81 died before they reached twelve months of age, a clear indicator of living conditions at the time. As a comparison, by 2014 the infant mortality rate in Ireland was very low at 3.7 per 1,000 births. About one in eight adult deaths in 1916 was due to bronchitis and pneumonia which killed 6,708 people, with another one in eight deaths caused by tuberculosis (TB) which killed 6,471 people. we are sure that some of these factors would have influenced young Patrick’s decision to move to London.

The 1911 Irish Census, taken on the night of 2 April 1911, shows Patrick Joseph Campbell’s father, James Campbell, a cooper aged 39 living in Hardwicke St, Dublin with his wife Mary Campbell aged 36 and their children Catherine aged 12, Mary aged 8 both of whom were schoolgirls, Elizabeth aged 4 and James aged 2. The census records that the family were Roman Catholic, and that James, Mary and their eldest two children could read and write, which in itself is significant and an indication that the family were trying to better themselves. The census also recorded that the couple had been married for 13 years and had had 5 children, all of whom survived. The couple had in fact had 6 children by the time of the 1911 census, one of whom, Alice, had died in infancy. In the 1911 census the couple’s daughter Hannah Elizabeth, aged 10, was recorded living with what we believe to be her maternal grandparents. James and Mary’s daughter Hannah, a schoolgirl aged 10, was recorded as ‘niece’ living at 69 Innisfallen Parade, Inn’s Quay, Dublin with James McClure a carter aged 69, his wife Mary McClure aged 68 (recorded as imbecile), and their daughters Kate aged 32, Ann aged 29 (both shopgirls) and Rose aged 26.

1911 Census Campbell Family Dublin

(1911 Dublin Census for Campbell family)

Hardwicke Street

(Hardwicke Street, Dublin)

Although Patrick Joseph Campbell moved to London, the rest of the family appear to have remained in Dublin. We can only speculate the reason why Patrick left the comfort of his hometown of Dublin for the bright lights of London. We can only assume that Patrick thought that he could seek his fame and fortune far better in London, maybe he knew somebody already there? Maybe a friend or family member had already moved to London? Had he been promised a job? We will never know the answers to these questions.

We have been unable to find any record for Patrick Joseph Campbell between the 1911 census in Dublin and his marriage in 1938 to Hilda Hewitt which took place in Hackney in London. There is no record for Patrick in the recently launched 1921 census, being aged just 3 at the time, we can assume that the family remained in Dublin at the time and we will have to wait for the 1926 census for Ireland to trace the family, but that won’t be available to the public until 1927. 

Patrick and Hilda had two children, Patrick J Campbell born 1938 in Hackney and Maureen Mary Patricia Campbell also born in Hackney in 1941.

The 1939 Register shows Patrick J Campbell, a married barman, living at 45 Southgate Road, Hoxton, Hackney. The head of the household was married licensed victualler Clifford B Brooke, with the other members of the household being married licensed victualler (manageress) Flora L Brooke, one barmaid, one housemaid, two more barmen, and two individuals whose details were redacted. The 1939 Register does not show the name of the pub where Patrick J Campbell worked, however, further research revealed that from 1851-2003, 45 Southgate Road, Hackney was the home of The Trafalgar Tavern Pub, sadly the pub has been demolished and is now the site of the Trafalgar Point residential block and we have been unable to find any old pictures of the pub online.

Patrick Joseph Campbell 1939

(1939 Register for Patrick Joseph Campbell)

The 1939 Register shows Patrick J Campbell’s wife Hilda Campbell aged 22, a married gents’ tailoress, living at 39 Bannister House the home of her father, an unemployed cabinet maker named George Hewitt aged 62. The Register lists George Hewitt’s name first, followed by an individual whose details have been redacted. Hilda Campbell appears next, followed by another individual whose details have also been redacted. This fourth individual is likely to be Hilda and Patrick J Campbell’s son Patrick J Campbell junior, who had been born a few months before the 1939 Register was taken. 

Hilda Campbell 1939

(1939 Register for Hilda Campbell)

At some point between the taking of the 1939 Register and the tragic events that unfolded in April 1941, our young Patrick volunteered to join the newly formed Auxiliary Fire Service. Around this time, with the threat of a Second World War imminent Patrick signed up as a volunteer with the newly formed Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS). 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.




The following entry for Patrick Joseph Campbell was recorded in the Civilian War Deaths records:

Patrick Joseph Campbell aged 24 Fireman AFS of 39 Bannister House, Homerton. Son of James and Mary Campbell of 29 Mountjoy Square, Dublin, Irish Republic. Husband of Hilda Campbell 20 April 1941 at Old Palace LCC School. (UK World War II Civilian Deaths, 1939-1945)

Patrick Joseph Capmbell War Dead

(Civilian War Deaths Record for Patrick Joseph Campbell)

Patrick Joseph Campbell’s widow Hilda remarried on 28 March 1950. The marriage of Hilda Campbell and Henry John Head was registered in Hackney in 1950, but it would appear that the couple did not have any children.

Hilda remained living in the Hackney area and she died in 1986 in Hackney, aged 68.

Sadly we have been unable to trace any living decedents of brave Patrick Joseph Campbell. A brave young volunteer, married with two young children, someone who was hard working and trying to make his way in the world, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of his Country. We hope, over time, that some of his descendants might find this website and tribute to his bravery and we can add some more details to his story.

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