West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s longest serving firefighter to retire

Responding to the Brighton bombing and the Chichester floods – it’s all in a lifetime’s work for West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s longest-serving firefighter.

Ivor Henley

Ivor is a retained firefighter at Burgess Hill, and he will turn off his pager for the final time for the fire and rescue service next week after 48 years of service. Among the incidents, he has attended in his career as part of the emergency response to the Brighton bombing in 1984 and the Chichester floods in 1994.

Ivor, 69, will retire from the fire and rescue service after his last drill night at the station he has served at his whole career on Tuesday 15 September.

As a retained firefighter, Ivor has carried out his duties while running his own joinery business fulltime. Ivor said it was with a heavy heart that he was finally retiring from the service.

He said: “Obviously some of the more notable incidents I have attended stand out – the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton being one of them.

“I was on the second pump from Burgess Hill, and we made it from the fire station to the hotel in just 12 minutes in the Dennis D Series fire engine that we had at the time. I was part of the team that helped pull Norman Tebbit from the rubble, and we also managed to save two Jack Russells that had been trapped.

“One incident that I will likely be remembered for was when I was driving the crew back from an incident at St Francis Hospital in August 1994. It was around five in the morning just as the sun was starting to come up. Out of nowhere this car came out of a side lane and hit the rear quarter of the fire engine. This sent us into a swerve down the road, and we rolled the engine over. It was one of the new Rapier fire engines that West Sussex had bought – and was less than six months old. Fortunately, it was repaired and put back into service. It later transpired the driver of the car was over the drink-drive limit.

“But it is not all about the big jobs – sometimes the smaller incidents leave a lasting impact on you, as you know your actions have made a real difference to those people you have helped.”

Ivor was part of the service’s response when a church caught fire in Cuckfield in 1980. The spectacle of the steeple on fire could be seen for miles around but the church was saved, he says. He was also part of the response when the Great Storm took place in 1987. Ivor was the officer in charge of helping to tackle a large fire at Redd nightclub in Burgess Hill in 2008. His actions to pull back firefighters potentially saved anyone from injury when a ‘flashover’ happened. In 1994, Ivor helped deal with major flooding in Chichester and drove Green Goddess fire engines to help with the relief effort.

Ivor joined as a firefighter on January 4, 1972, and quickly progressed to become Leading Firefighter after two years. He progressed on to become Sub Officer and Station Officer, before serving out the rest of his time with the service as Watch Manager, overseeing the town’s retained firefighters.

He was also an active member of the West Sussex Fire quiz team, winning the regionals in 1979, 86, 91 and 93.


Chief Fire Officer, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, said: “I cannot begin to imagine the sheer number of people in his community who have been helped by Ivor over the years at a time when they needed it most.

“His retirement from our fire and rescue service will be felt far and wide. I do not underestimate the sacrifices that Ivor will have made over the last 48 years to ensure the residents of his community in Burgess Hill are able to sleep soundly in their beds at night. It really is an incredible achievement – and both the service and the town owe him – and his family for lending him to us – a huge debt of gratitude.”


No results

Contact your MP or Councillor

Read Sussex Local Online

Our Podcasts

West Sussex


East Sussex