Fireman killed in Greenfield mill tragedy to be honoured with red plaque


THE son of a fireman killed tackling a major mill fire in Greenfield 66 years ago has welcomed plans to erect a lasting memorial to his brave father.

Trevor Nelson was 12 when his dad Wilfred Nelson from Mossley died after falling 40 feet from the third floor at Wellington Mill on Wellington Road on March 5, 1955.

A coroner later recorded a death of misadventure on the brave fire fighter, based at the former fire station on Manchester Road, Mossley.

Now current colleagues at Mossley, with help from the Fire Brigade Union, hope to remember Wilfred with a commemorative red plaque.

Wilfred Nelson

They also want to further recognise his selfless actions by putting together a piece of work to commemorate him on the wall of their Stamford Street headquarters.

Trevor, a retired special needs teacher, is now 78 and lives in Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

The only child of Wilfred and Gladys Nelson, who was originally from Stalybridge, Trevor admitted to surprise when Mossley station manager Dave Swallow, tracked him down to reveal the brigade’s memorial proposals.

“I was a bit suspicious at first,” Trevor told The Independent. “I still don’t know how he found me but I am very happy with what’s happening.

“It is a nice gesture what they are trying to do. I appreciate the trouble being taken to recognise my father,” he said.

Wilfred and Gladys on their wedding day

“His grave is in the cemetery at Micklehurst where my mother (who died in 1993) is also buried. But there was never anything else to mark what happened.

“It was hard for my mum but credit to her. We lived in a fire brigade house opposite the fire station when dad was working.

“But after he died we had to move and we eventually went to Moorlands Crescent.

“We were used to him going out to work at different times but on this occasion he didn’t come back.

“I remember when it happened I was called into the head teacher’s office to be told the bad news. School sent me home on the bus which is a bit different to what they would do now.

“Dad was pretty strict with me but he was a popular chap and well liked from what I can remember.”

Trevor attended All Saints Primary, Micklehurst and then Ashton Grammar School.

Funeral procession

He later qualified as a teacher and stayed in Mossley for several years before moving with his job to Kendal, Cheshire and eventually to Pontefract.

The red plaque scheme is run by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and honours firefighters killed in the line of duty.

An inaugural Firefighters’ Memorial Day was held last year to commemorate the 2,524 members of the fire and rescue service who have died while protecting the public. It will be held again in 2021 on May 4.

Wilfred was one of 100 firemen called at the height of the incident to tackle the blaze at the former spinning mill.

A report of the incident, which spread over three days, stated: “During damping down procedures, a fireman fell approximately 40ft to his death, it is understood, from the 3rd floor.

“He was last seen at around 6.30am on the 3rd floor trying to reach areas where the fire was still burning.

“After being told to ‘knock off and take some hot tea’ he apparently, instead of doing this, tried to find a way to the still burning fire pockets and fell through the ‘badly burned floor-timbers to the ground floor below’.

“He was found at around 8am by a station officer (John Topping) below where he had last been seen damping down.

More than 20 families were evacuated because of danger from sparks and falling masonry.

If successful in the bid for a red plaque, Dave hopes it can be erected on the current Tesco store site in Greenfield. The car park covers much of the space once occupied by the mill.

One Reply to “Fireman killed in Greenfield mill tragedy to be honoured with red plaque”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *