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Tribute to Joe Milner

by michael - 14:53 on 08 February 2007
07 February 2007

He stewarded Hong Kong through a period of seismic growth, changed the face of the UK fire service and was a champion of firefighter's rights.
Joseph Milner, who died aged 84 at his home in Caston, dedicated his life to protecting two of the world's greatest metropolises.

But in his home village of 30 years he was better known as a community stalwart - serving as longstanding parish councillor, a prominent local member of the Royal British Legion and as a trustee of the local fuel allotment charity.

The former chief officer of the London Fire Brigade and director of Hong Kong Fire Services was recognised for his outstanding service when he was made a CBE in 1975.

But despite his grand achievements, he is remembered as a resolute man who was not afraid to speak out to protect the rights and safety of the rank-and-file firefighters. It was partly thanks to his intervention that fire crews began wider use of life-saving breathing apparatus.

Mr Milner was appointed to London Fire Brigade's top job in 1970 and during his time in charge of the capital's fire brigade he managed the response to one of the tube's worst disasters when an underground train crashed at Moorgate in 1975 killing 43 people and the Worlsey Hotel Fire in Paddington in 1976.

Mr Milner leaves a wife Anne, son Frederick, daughter Jane, two sisters and one brother and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His service was honoured at his funeral at the Church of the Holy Cross in Caston on Monday by members of London Fire Service, local firefighters and British Legion members.

His sister Joyce Woodhouse said: “He was a determined chap, cheerful but duty was his first priority, a true English gentleman. Nothing was ever to much trouble for him to do.

“We are very proud of everything he achieved during his life, he was always very hands-on and never asked his officers to do anything he wasn't willing to do.”

Born in Manchester in 1922, Mr Milner quickly rose through the ranks of the National Fire Service after joining on leaving the army in 1946.

In March 1951, he joined the Hong Kong government fire service, becoming the director of fire services in 1961. During his time in Hong Kong he oversaw its difficult transition from bustling seaport to modern metropolis with its chaotic mix of modern skyscrapers and squatters' shacks and heavy traffic in narrow streets.

But despite contending with floods, typhoons and civil disturbances in 1967, he oversaw a fourfold increase in manpower at the force.

As well as a CBE during his prestigious career he was awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal for Distinguished Service, the Fire Services Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, Order of St John of Jerusalem.

Reproduced with kind permission of the Watton & Swaffham Times

Comment from Fred Sutton at 20:52 on 05 February 2008.
A year has passed already and I still miss Joe very much. In all my years I've never known a finer English gentleman. The stories he told always held me captive and his memory was sharp. You could discuss any subject with Joe and enjoy good feedback. Thank you Joe for all you taught me and all you did for me. Fondest remembrance.

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