Greenfield mill tragedy fireman to be honoured with a red plaque?

A FIREMAN killed tackling a major blaze at a Saddleworth mill could be honoured 66 years after he lost his life.

Wilfred Nelson, a 41-year-old father of one, perished after falling 40 feet from the third floor at Wellington Mill on Wellington Road, Greenfield on March 5, 1955.

He left a widow, Gladys and a 12-year-old son. The family lived on Manchester Road, Mossley.

A coroner later recorded a death of misadventure on the brave fire fighter, based at the former fire station in Mossley and a member of the then Lancashire County FB.

Photo courtesy of The Fireground Rochdale Fire Museum

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

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

The tribute could also include memories of another Mossley fireman who died tragically on Manchester Road, Greenfield while answering a fire call.

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

Firefighters’ Memorial Day is held annually to commemorate more than 2,500 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’s name is also included in the National Firefighters book of rememembrance.

Dave Swallow, station manager for Mossley and Stalybridge, has approached the FBU with a view to installing a lasting memorial to Wilfrid, 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 third floor.

“He was last seen at around 06:30 on the third floor trying to reach areas where the fire was still burning.

A similar red plaque (photo by Peter Lee Rodgers)

“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 08:00 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.

The fire at Wellingon Mill (Pic via Clifford Ashton Fireflash Delta)

The mill was owned by the Knoll Spinning Company Limited. The fire broke out on the fifth and top storey.

It was said the glow could be seen “as far away as Denshaw” with people on foot and in cars flocking to the scene.

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.

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