One of the longest serving firefighters in the country has been awarded a BEM for services to the fire service and the community of Brackley.
Graham Ayres, 64, has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and began his fire fighting career in 1976 in Brackley after a friend suggested the idea.
Graham said: “I used to work for Brackley Motors, long gone now, and one of the blokes there was a leading firefighter.
“He said to me ‘they are still looking for firefighters, why don’t you come along and have a look’.
“So I went along one Tuesday night and it all started from there, 43 years ago.”
There are no full-time firefighters in Brackley, rather every trained member of the station carries alarms during the hours they are covering. Graham, a vehicle damage assessor by trade, is on call from 6pm until 7am weekdays, and weekends is on call.
Graham, and a very select few, knew about the BEM award about a month ago but were sworn to secrecy until their official release last Friday night.
“The fire chief knew. We had training last Wednesday in Daventry. All of a sudden we were told to stand to attention and the chief appeared.
“He said ‘Mr Ayres, come with me’ so all my mates thought what is going on and told me it had been nice working with me, but the chief congratulated me on the medal.”
Graham’s exploits during his career include receiving a commendation on March 30, 1981, for his efforts in the rescue of two casualties, during which the property on fire collapsed.
Graham has always been active in supporting the Brackley community and its charities, helping to organise annual station open days and annual charity car washes.
Graham also championed The Fire Fighters Charity, assisting with fundraising events which have generated around £3,500 per year and found time to lead and organise campaigns, involving the fire station and Brackley community, to raise money for other causes including £1,000 for the tree of hope, £1,000 for the local air ambulance and £1,000 to buy a wheelchair for a local child in order to assist with his independence.
There has long been station talk about celebrating Graham’s longevity but he never expected an honour from the Queen was on the cards.
Graham said: “Neil Saddler, who used to be our watch manager at Brackley, he started it off. He kept saying we ought to do something for you being here all these years.
“I thought we would go out for a drink or something. I saw him Saturday and he said the nomination was put in 18 months ago.”
Graham has no plans to retire still gaining enormous satisfaction from his role.
“I enjoy it. You do it because every time the alerters go off there is someone in need, somebody needs you.”