Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service's longest-serving firefighter is set to retire this week after more than 43 years serving his local community.

Dave Beardsall, who is known as Barney, will hang up his uniform for the final time as Watch Manager with Retford's retained section today. He will continue to represent NFRS as a member of the Service's Ceremonial Squad, and as one of two Retained Support Officers offering advice and support to other retained firefighters in Nottinghamshire. 

After leaving school Barney did three years of an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer before leaving to work as a fitter's mate at Cottam Power Station. One night he was standing opposite Retford Fire Station watching the firefighters going through their drills when he was approached by a local policeman, who promptly marched him across the road to sign up. He filled in the application form there and then and within a few weeks was offered a job.

In 1974 Barney left Cottam to go to High Marnham Power Station, where he stayed until 2003 when the power station closed and Barney, along with several others, was made redundant. He decided at this time to retire from his day job, but continued in his role with the Fire and Rescue Service.

Naturally there are many incidents that remain in Barney's memory from the past 43 years, and an explosion at the Nypro (UK) site in Flixborough in June 1974, where 28 workers were killed and a further 36 were injured, is one of them.

"Retford's retained crew went to standby at Gainsborough until we were called on as relief," Barney recalls. "We were there 'til lunchtime on Sunday and I'll never forget the scale of it and the number of people who died. The whole site was devastated.

"The worst event was in February 1992 when a firefighter from Saxilby was killed during a fire in Lincolnshire. We were involved in trying to revive him and after the incident we built up quite a relationship with the crew from Saxilby and raised money for his family." 

As well as the low spots there have also been some amazing highs; among them meeting Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and representing Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service at the Queen's Garden Party in 2003 and at the Remembrance Day Parade at the Cenotaph in 2009.

As well as providing operational firefighting cover for Retford, Barney has also played a major role in the launch and delivery of Retford's annual MACS (Making All Children Safe) Week, which has educated more than 5,000 children over the last 10 years in how to keep themselves safe. He has also represented Nottinghamshire's retained firefighters in various regional and national forums and has had valuable input into recruitment and selection processes.     

Barney said: "I have very mixed feelings about my career as a retained firefighter coming to an end. Time travels fast and the last 43 years have been wonderful − I've enjoyed every minute. But you can't go on for ever and at some point I always knew I'd have to make the difficult decision to call it a day.

"I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped, guided and supported me, in particular the crew, past and present, at Retford who have been like my adopted family.

"But the biggest thank you of all must go to my family who, as every retained firefighter knows, put up with so much to enable you to do the job you love. They have been a tremendous support and one of the reasons I have kept going for so long. I really couldn't have done it without them."

Chief Fire Officer Frank Swann said: "Barney has shown amazing dedication to the Retained Duty System and to the people of Retford throughout his 43 years, and for this I send my heartfelt thanks - he is a credit to the Service.

"Spending that length of time in any role is an achievement, but the level of commitment required of our retained firefighters, especially when they have alternative full-time employment, makes this achievement particularly commendable. I wish Barney the very best in his retirement."


Posted July 20th, 2012 at 0920 by Andrew. Comment by emailing