AN ICONIC fire engine that first served Witney 80 years ago has returned to the town – with a charity set up to bring it back to top condition.
The 1936 Leyland Cub FK6 fire engine, purchased by Witney Fire Brigade in 1937, saw action in the blitz, and during the 1970s appeared as a popular attraction at fetes and carnivals.
After falling into disrepair and suffering a seized engine, a group of current and former firefighters had the historic vehicle brought back home. They are now urging the community to get behind as they work to restore it.
The engine holds a special place in the heart of Rod Hyatt, who served at Witney Fire Station in the 1970s and is a trustee of the new charity, the Witney Fire Brigade Heritage Trust.
He said: “My father, Ron, worked here for 26 years and attended hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fire calls on this very fire engine and was among the last to crew her when she was retired in 1967.
“It was his pride and joy. I’m sure all those who have passed through Witney Fire Station over the years will feel a very strong bond to her.
“We can only imagine what it must have been like to have to attend fire calls in the dead of night in wind, rain, or even snow, sitting on the side and holding on for dear life.
“We lost my dad last year and since then we have had many conversations about bringing her back to the town and restoring her.”
The Leyland served Witney for more than 30 years before finally being retired in 1967 when the town’s station moved to Welch Way.
During the 1970s, the vehicle was restored and became a popular attraction at events, and would go on to be displayed at Oxfordshire Bus Museum in Long Harborough.
The engine was eventually used by an untrained driver and its engine seized on the A34. It was recovered to Didcot Fire Station, then moved around the county.
It was eventually held at Banbury Plant and Skip Hire before the trust formed to have it returned to Witney Fire Station. The Leyland finally came home to Witney last month.
My Hyatt continued: “When she’s at her best she is breath-taking and we really want to bring her back to show condition so that she is available for generations to come.
“Two of my sons followed the family tradition in joining the fire service and my grandson George is now a fire cadet.
“It is a shame that she is in a bit of a state but it’s important to remember that this is an 81-year-old vehicle which was last overhauled 40 years ago so it’s time to show her some TLC.”
The engine has been stripped and inspected and the trust has received offers of help from a number companies and individuals.
Donations can be sent to Witney Fire Station.
For more information or to follow the trust's work visit bit.ly/2nIG21u