Thursday, 31 May 2012

Daniel Durnford Ivall OBE (1905-2000) , senior fire officer

Daniel Durnford Ivall was a great grandson of Robert Thomas Ivall (1812-1865), the elder brother of David Ivall (1816-1867), my great great grandfather.

Daniel was born 19 December 1905 in Dulwich, SE London, the youngest of three children born to Robert Thomas Owen Ivall (1876-1953) and Florence Sarah Ivall nee Durnford (1876-1974). Daniel Durnford was the name of Florence’s father. The 1911 census shows Robert Ivall (aged 35, a fireman) his wife Florence (35) and children Robert (8), Florence (7) and Daniel (5) living at 199 Perry Vale, Forest Hill in SE London.

British Postal Service Appointment Books show that Daniel was appointed as a certified wireless watcher in August 1922. Soon after this he joined the Merchant Navy, as had his father and brother. The New York Passenger Lists record Daniel's arrival on 7 October 1922 aged 16 years and 9 months, as a seaman on board a ship called Cambridge. His height was 5 foot 8 inches and his weight 9 stones. Merchant Navy records show that he was discharged from this ship at Falmouth on 22 May 1923. His description was eyes brown, hair brown, complexion pale. 

Merchant Navy record card

In 1925, when aged 20, he left the Merchant Navy and joined the London Fire Brigade, as had his father (who was a fireman for 26 years and retired in 1924 as a Sub Officer) and elder brother Robert Daniel Ivall (1902-92). Daniel grew to a height of 6 foot 3 inches, became the British Fire Service and Police Heavyweight Boxing Champion and also won prizes for rowing and putting the shot.

On 16 June 1934 Daniel married Edith Thelma Wigzell at St Martin’s Church in Ruislip. He was aged 28, a fireman officer and she was 21, a clerk. After their marriage they lived in Shenley Avenue, Ruislip Manor (on the western edge of London). Daniel and Edith had a son and a daughter. Their son has written an autobiography (The Spirit Within published in 2006) in which he describes his father as being very strict.

The 1939 national register shows Daniel as a station officer at the London Fire Brigade Headquarters on Albert Embankment, Lambeth. His wife Edith was is shown at The Royal Oak, Andover, Hampshire in the household of Frederick R Welham, a licensed victualler. Presumably she had moved there to get away from the bombing of London that was expected. 

Daniel fought fires during the London blitz. The BBC WW2 People’s War archives contain memoirs of a fireman called Clarence Palmer. They include the following

On December 29th 1940, the fire services of Greater London went into battle against the German Luftwaffe and Won! On December 29th 1940, Reichsmarshall Goering tried to make good his threat to burn England into submission…and lost. For December 29th 1940, was the date of the great fire-blitz over London, the date of one of democracy’s greatest victories over the Axis tyrants. Three men at that fateful night were District Officer Chief Daniel Ivall, Auxiliary Fireman Rudolf Heybrook and Auxiliary Fireman Clarence Palmer. By the time they had reached the first fires they realized it was different. There was the noise of explosive bombs and fire engines in the background. They tried to get onto the roof, it was ablaze in ten different places, the sky was raining fire but more importantly the flames over the centre of the city. It was two hours before those first fires were bought under control; they received an urgent call to go to the Square Mile heart of the City of London. Two heavy falls of bombs had started conflagrations north and south of the Guildhall, every available piece of equipment in the area was fighting them. Flames and smoke billowed skyward, marking the target for explosive bombs.

In 1941 Daniel was sent to the USA and Canada with two auxiliary firemen : Rudolph Haybrook (a portrait artist) and Clarence Palmer (an interior designer and decorator) to give lectures to the N American fire services on what London fire-fighters had learned from the blitz. Pathe News reported their departure – a film clip can be viewed (for free) at The firemen arrived in New York on 19 May 1941 and did a 36,000 mile tour of the continent. Several American newspapers reported their visit. The photo below shows their reception at New Haven, Connecticut.

  The caption read Three British firemen, here to tell Americans how to extinguish incendiary bombs and other flaming tokens of total war, are shown as they were greeted this morning at City Hall by Mayor John W Murphy. Left to right: Mayor Murphy, Clarence Palmer, Rudolph Haybrook and Daniel Ivall.

They returned to Britain a year later, arriving back at Liverpool on 16 June 1942.

Daniel became Assistant Fire Force Commander of No 37 (London) Fire Force. He was awarded the King’s Police and Fire Services Medal for Distinguished Service in 1948

After the war, Daniel became assistant chief officer of the Middlesex Fire Brigade. He played a leading role in the rescue following the Harrow Train Crash on 8 October 1952. The Times printed the following story about the crash the next day.

Many die as three trains crash at Harrow

At least 85 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in the country's worst peacetime rail crash. The accident happened at 0820 GMT at Harrow, a north-west suburb of London. A London-bound express train from Perth ploughed into the back of the 0731 Tring-Euston commuter train as it was about to leave Harrow and Wealdstone station, on the London Midland region line. Seconds later, a third train coming from Euston crashed into the wreckage.
Survivors described hearing a deafening sound like an explosion and then broken glass and debris flying everywhere. John Bannister of Harrow was in the local train in a coach just under the footbridge at the time of the accident. He told The Times newspaper: "It all happened in a second. There was a terrible crash and glass and debris showered on me." He added: "I blacked out for a moment and when I came round I found I was lying on the line with debris on top of me. I managed to free myself and drag myself on to the platform."
There were about 1,000 passengers aboard all three trains, with most casaulities at the rear end of the Tring commuter train and the front coaches of the two express trains. Some of the victims were on the platform as carriages full of commuters were hurled onto them. Others were killed on a footbridge over the track that was punctured by a pile of coaches 30-foot (9 metres) high.

Residents help rescuers

Rescue workers are battling to free survivors still trapped in carriages at the bottom of the pile-up. Fire-fighters and police have been joined by railway workers and local residents. The middle section of the footbridge has been cut away to free up the front two coaches of the local train which seem relatively undamaged. Other coaches have been cut through to bring out survivors and the dead. Police officers occasionally shouted or blew their whistles for silence to listen for any signs of survivors in the wreckage.
The Queen and the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, have sent messages of sympathy to the victims and the bereaved.
A total of 108 passengers and four rail crew were killed and nearly 340 people injured. It later emerged that the driver of the sleeper train from Perth had passed two signals at danger when it ran into the Tring-Euston commuter train at about 60mph. Daniel was awarded an OBE in 1953 for his work at the crash and his contribution to the Fire Service.

Daniel and Edith moved to 30 Larne Road, Ruislip in about 1958 (they inherited the house from Edith’s mother, who lived there). Daniel retired from the Fire Brigade in 1960 aged 55 after 35 years service and then spent 10 years as an Assistant Inspector of Fire Services at the Home Office. The Imperial Calendar (an annual list of salaried Civil Servants), lists D.D. Ivall OBE at this post from 1960 to 1971. In 1988 Daniel and his wife, Edith, moved from Ruislip to Bridport in Dorset, where he died in 2000 aged 94. Edith died in 2008 aged 96.

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