As I’m writing this, I am wearing a special T-shirt. It’s black, with red writing. And the writing says “Lothian & Borders Fire & Rescue Service”.
Well, from today, that organisation no longer exists. And as a former member of the Brigade, that is a sad thing indeed.
Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service will today be amalgamated, along with seven other fire and rescue services, into a new, single service.
It’s a major change, yet one of which few are aware. To the public, it means little. To the members of the brigade, it means a great deal.
Lothian and Borders is the oldest municipal fire brigade in the country. It was founded back in 1824 by James Braidwood. An amazing man, he later went on to found the London Fire Brigade, and was killed in 1861 when, while helping fight a fire, a wall collapsed on him.
Unfortunately, bureaucrats do not understand pride – neither in the Brigade nor in a regiment. Neither do they understand teamwork. Nor morale. Nor the buddy-buddy system. They have no grasp of what makes the uniformed services so effective and efficient.
How can these faceless just-give-me-my-salary robots possibly understand that these brave men and women fight – whether that be a fire, the seas, or an armed enemy – spurred on by the weight of tradition and history; of others who did so before them.
And all that fighting, and loss, and honour, and tradition is encapsulated in a badge. A badge that the faceless ones have decided should be scrapped.
To the public, the badge being unceremoniously removed from the side of the fire engines will mean little. Yet this is the very badge that was worn by hundreds of courageous individuals who faced fire, went toe-to-toe with danger, saved lives and lost their life to smoke and fire. It is a poignant reminder of all that has gone before.
That’s why these men and women wear their cap badges with pride. They are people of honour. It is more than a badge; it’s a symbol.
Bean-counters, and the let’s-reorganise-for-the-sake-of-it bunch understand none of that. Yet they are the ones that make the decisions. How insulting.
They have failed our brave men and women who face the danger and perils with no thought of their own safety. Those who do their duty for the brigade, the regiment, the history, the tradition and those who went before.
As one of my friends, and a long-serving firefighter, said about the pen-pushers: “They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”