We looked at a stirrup pump back in February, here, that example was incomplete and missing its hose. Since writing that post I have come across another, more complete example, for the princely sum of £5:The most obvious difference between this and the earlier example, is this pump still has the hose with it. This hose is made of rubber, wrapped in reinforcing tape and painted black:It measures thirty feet long and when not in use is coiled up and fastened to the pump. The nozzle on the end does not match the pictures in the Firewatcher’s handbook and may be a later replacement, it is secured in place with a jubilee clip:The hose, when coiled up, is secured with a webbing tab, secured with a metal pin and with a plastic quick release tab. This is nicely marked with a crown and the letters GR:The Royal cypher is repeated on the brass collar part of the pump, albeit faintly:A massive move was made to produce enough pumps before the war, but 1940 there were only 86,000 distributed which was viewed by the authorities as woefully inadequate. Here women welder’s work to make the handles for stirrup pumps:Stirrup pumps appear regularly in press photos showing the work of the Civil Defence services:Despite its simplicity, the stirrup pump could be invaluable and St Paul’s Cathedral was saved from destruction using the simple stirrup pump:
When a fire broke out in the cathedral’s library aisle, there was no mains water to fight it — the blaze was eventually suppressed with stirrup pumps, buckets and sand.
Then, soon after 6.30pm, an incendiary bomb — one of 29 to fall on and around St Paul’s that night — pierced the lead roof of the dome and lodged in its timbers.
Molten lead began to drip into the nave below. The aged wood of the choir stalls and organ screen, carved by the great sculptor Grinling Gibbons, was at mortal risk, while smoke from the blazing buildings surrounding the cathedral enveloped it. Two teams of specialist fire watchers recruited from the Royal Institute of British Architects — and hand-picked because they had heads for heights — were crawling along the wooden beams with hand pumps to reach the blazing section. But suddenly the incendiary bomb, having burnt through the wood, fell far, far to the nave below, where it was easily put out. Though almost every building around St Paul’s perished, the cathedral survived.
This pump was filthy when I bought it and has been carefully washed with hot soapy water. It is far from perfect, but for the price was a fantastic find and it is different from my earlier example.