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Veteran firefighter Bill marks 90th birthday with special visit to Bury Fire Station

A VETERAN firefighter and former army officer celebrated his 90th birthday with a visit to Bury Fire Station this week where he reminisced about his time with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

More than 50 years after retiring from Bury County Fire Brigade as it was called then, Bill Waywell donned a fire tunic and helmet and swapped stories with firefighters at the station on Wednesday, July 16.

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His granddaughter Claire arranged the visit as a birthday present for Bill who turned 90 in June.

Bill was a firefighter on Blue Watch at Bury's The Rock fire station for 10 years from the early 1950s to early 1960s after returning from serving in the war as a tank driver.

He has many fond memories of his time at GMFRS - notably the years that his brother Fred worked alongside him before emigrating to Rhodesia.

On Wednesday, Bill and his wife Nellie were given a tour of the station and shown all the memorabilia on display.

Station Manager Mark Threader told them about how the Service has changed, what firefighters do today, the fantastic achievements the modern Service has made including the huge reduction in incidents, and how prevention activities now dominate the work of staff in the Service.

Green Watch crews were then joined by firefighters from Ramsbottom to perform practical demonstrations of ladder and main pump techniques, involving getting jets to work from the training tower.

Bill enjoyed getting involved with the practical demo - jumping at the chance to use the hose reels and jets, which are very different than the ones he knew.

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Claire, who also visited the station on Wednesday with her twin one-year-old girls Zara and Lucy, said: "I wanted to do something special for granddad's birthday so I just got in touch and arranged to come down to the station.

"I think he was a bit apprehensive about coming at first but he really enjoyed it - we all did."

Bill, of Walmersley Road, Bury, said: "I felt lost when we were on our way to the station because it had moved - I'd always known it being at The Rock.

"We really enjoyed ourselves on the watch in those days - it was hard, we worked hard and they really put me through my paces during my training in Manchester.

"We had fun - the children would come to the station and we had parties at Christmas."

Bill joined the fire service around 1953 after working as a landscape gardener since returning from the war.

He left around 1963 and went to Rhodesia with Nellie to join his brother before moving back to Bury in 1977 where he got a job as head of security for Tetrosyl.

During Wednesday's visit, the family and firefighters watched a video filmed in 1959 which followed Blue Watch firefighters as they carried out a day's work.

Bill recognised many of the faces in the film, including himself and his brother Fred who died around five years ago.

Bill added: "I really enjoyed the visit to Bury - I was chatting to the lads and it all came back to me. Even though I don't know them I feel like I'm part of the family.

"I wish I could come back to do a few shifts and if I could I would come back to work with these lads."

Last update: 23/03/2016 08:19:28
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