Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Fires Were Started

From Jim Wallman

For our September 2023 session I monopolised everyone to take part in my operational 1940 game set in the London Blitz. 

We were also pleased to have the attendance of famous board game designer Brian Train who travelled all the way from Vancourer, Canada just to play this game!

The rules have been around for many years and like all my rules constantly being amended, adjusted, junked, rewritten and unrecongisably altered.

In this case the game was also enhanced by Andrew Hadley bringing some lovely tabletop props to represent the more severe fires.

This report outlines the game briefing, largely as we played it.  I think everyone had a good time, and I will be happy to run it again if I get pestered to enough!



A Blitz! Scenario


It is September 1940 and London is under constant night bombing attacks from the Luftwaffe.

STATION 73 (EUSTON) is one of the London stations under this bombing, and has been active most nights for the past week.

London District HQ has just phoned to say that the air raid state is PURPLE; which means enemy bombers are incoming and bombing is imminent.


Organisation & Equipment

The commander of Station 73 is an experienced pre-war firefighter.

The Station has six Sub-Stations 73-U, 73-V, 73-W, 73-X, 73-Y and 73-Z. Each of these sub-stations is based in a school or commandeered business premises in neighbouring streets and the firefighting vehicles are crewed by Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) volunteers with varying levels of experience and competence.

The units in the main Fire Station are mostly operated by experienced pre-war firefighters (known, affectionately as ‘Red Riders’ because the are still using the red-painted pre-war fire engines1, in contrast to the grey vehicles of the AFS).

The main station also has specialist units such as the Turntable Ladder Unit (TTL), water tanker, mobile dam unit and canteen truck.

Each sub-station is led by a sub-officer. These are usually pretty competent officers, even if not all of them had pre-war experience. A sub-station will normally have 2-4 units, some of them are modern fire engines, some are ad-hoc civilian vehicles pressed into wartime service and towing trailer pumps.

The sub-stations have been allocated their own ‘ground’ which is the area local to their base. The firefighters will know their own ground pretty well, as most of them will be volunteers who live in the local area.


The Station Commander makes decisions on deploying the units based at the main station, using information from the units at each fire. They are supported by the team in the Watch Room.

The Watch Room does the following things:

1. Maintains contact with the sub-stations and units deployed to fires. This might be by telephone, but if the lines are down this will have to be written message delivered by dispatch rider or cyclist.

2. Reports regularly to District HQ (game Control) on the current situation and number of pumps available. This might also be a time to ask District for reinforcements (though during a major raid this is unlikely).

3. Communicates with other organisations to ask for support, including:

  • Police

  • London Salvage Corps

  • LCC Ambulance Service

  • GPO Telephone Engineers

  • Army Bomb Disposal

4. Updates the Watch Room Communications Log to record activities, deployments and the situation as it develops.

Current Unit Availability

Main Station 73 (Euston Road)

One Turntable Ladder Unit (LFB) – Available

Two Heavy Escape Units (LFB) – Available

Two General Appliances(LFB) – Available

One Water Unit (AFS) – Available

One Mobile Dam Unit (AFS)- Available

Sub-Station 73-U (Gifford Street School)

Two Heavy Units (AFS) – Not available, deployed in support of 90 Station.

Two Trailer Pump Units (AFS) – Not available, deployed in support of 90 Station.

Sub-Station 73-V (Argyle Street School)

Two Heavy Units (AFS) – Not available, deployed in support of 72 Station.

Two Trailer Pump Units (AFS)– Not available, deployed in support of 72 Station.

Sub Station 73-W (Christchurch School)

Trailer Pump Unit (AFS) – Available

Heavy Unit (AFS) – Available

General Appliance (AFS) – Available

Sub-Station 73-X (Clipstone Street School)

Trailer Pump Unit (AFS) – Available

Heavy Unit (AFS) – Available

General Appliance (AFS) – Available

Sub-Station 73-Y (Goodyear Tyre Co, Dunlop Rubber Co)

Two Trailer Pump Units (AFS) – Available

General Appliance (AFS) – Available

Sub Station 73-Z (Starcross Street School)

Two Heavy Unit (AFS) – Available

Two Trailer Pump Units (AFS) – Available



What do I do?

Station Commander – In charge of everything and responsible for the success of your Station. Coordinate the Watch-room and make operational decisions. Can get involved in firefighting on the ground if necessary.

Chief Messenger & Messenger – vital for ensuring messages are carried between units. Controls motorcycle and bicycle units, if available. Often act as additional ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground.

Logistics Officer – responsible for ensuring the water supply is maintained, that fire engines are fuelled and that the crews get enough tea and biscuits.

Operations Officer – works in the Watch-room to collect and collate reports from the firefighting grounds to build a picture of the situation, and keep the Commander informed so that they can make good decisions.

Communications Officer – responsible to ensuring communications flow. Responsible for maintaining the Communications Log. Responsible for reporting the situation to District HQ in Lambeth.

Sub-Officer – responsible for coordinating the activities of their Sub-station and leading the sub-station team. If there is no sub-station Communications Officer, responsible for reporting to the main Station to keep them informed.

Sub-Station Communications officer – keeps track of the situation and reports regularly to the main Station Watch-room. Also makes sure messages are getting to the units on the ground.

Operational Fire Crew – control one or more firefighting units ‘on the ground’.

1 The Red Riders are also distinguished by their continued use of the distinctive pre-war brass helmets (incidentally, in defiance of instructions from the authorities to adopt the ubiquitous steel helmets worn by the AFS, police and other civil defence workers)

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One Comment
  1. Thanks Jim – it was a long way to go but it was worth it! Most fun I’ve had on a Sunday for a long time.

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