Decorations for Firemen

Decorations for Firemen

The Order of the British Empire is being conferred upon a number of firemen in England who did their duty in the face of great danger when German airplanes raided various towns in England during the war.

All members of the local fire brigade of Ramsgate have been awarded this honor for gallantry in 119 air raids which that town suffered.

The Order has also been conferred upon forty-three London firemen for gallantry in extinguishing fires started by raids.

DECORATIONS FOR FIREMEN

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DECORATIONS FOR FIREMEN

ELSEWHERE in this issue will be seen the names of three members of the fire department of this city who have been recommended for the Bennett medal and the medals which Mayor Strong will present to the two men of the department who come next to the recipient of the Bennett medal for acts of personal braver in saving life at fires. Besides these will also be seen the names of six others who during 1896 distinguished themselves in a similar way at their own proper peril, and of others who have shown bravery in time of need, though such bravery was unattended by personal risk. In FIRE AND WATER for last week also mention was made of other brave acts at two separate fires in this city where several lives were endangered—the coolness and pluck of the firemen alone preventing the terrified tenants of the burning houses—in one case all negroes and, therefore, highly excitable and liable to do all sortsof foolish things in the extremity of their terror—from either running back into the flames or leaping to their death into the street below. Yet, with the exception of a transient notice in the newspapers, and possibly a more full account of their achievements in the case of the recipients of the medals, such acts of heroism go by comparatively unheeded by the public; and the only reward the brave fireman has—apart from the consciousness of having done his duty—is the inscribing of his name on the roll of honor. People seem to have a sort of idea that firemen are fairly well paid to do just that sort of thing; that otherwise theirs is a life of ease—even of loafing, and that they have not to work as hard for their living, say, as the policeman or the railroad engineer. Those who thus think, however, forget that,wherever there is a paid fire department, its members are simply slaves of the fire alarm, that they are confined within the narrow limits of a fire house, forbidden to leave that house except for the very short time allowed them for their meals,forbidden all home pleasures and home comforts -almost strangers to their wives and families, whose society they can enjoy on their very few off days, and liable to be called out in all weathers and at any hour of the night or day to go forth to fight a foe who may after all prove too strong for them and from whose assault they may return cruelly and permanently maimed, or be Drought back no longer living men, only disfigured and mangled corpses. This week Worcester, Mass., has contributed its tale of battered, bruised, wellnigh cremated firemen, caught under a falling wall; not long ago, it was Detroit’s turn, and that of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph in the same State. New York,Chicago, Philadelphia—nota large city on the continent that cannot rehearse the same story—and yet there are those picayune souls who claim that a fireman does only what he is paid to do—that which he ought to do, and protest against any “fuss” being made over his performance of such acts of heroism as would call for the thanks of a nation were they the acts of a soldier or sailor in the presence of his country’s enemies! But a fireman fights in time of peace for the preservation of the life and property of his fellow men, while a soldier or a sailor (who after all is paid only to do his duty) takes life and destroys property in time of war — always cruel, not unfrequently unrighteous and unjust. The real trouble is that the fireman’s reward for bravery is not adequate, and we do not see why the heroes of the fire department should not be allowed at least some distinguishing ribbon, stripe, or badge to wear on their uniform at all time so as to mark them out as men who have done their fellow citizens good service in time of direct need. If soldiers and sailors are thus decorated, if the best shots in a regiment are entitled to marksmen’s badges, if the citizens who save those who are drowning are made all the prouder and the readier to go again and do likewise by becoming the recipients of medals, why should not every fireman life-saver, every rescuer of endangered humanity be likewise decorated at least with a ribbon and clasp varying according to the service rendered, and the number of times that the wearer of the decoration has exposed himself to peril in order to snatch others “out of the jaws of death?”