In her Honour

A new London Fire rescue boat named after Gillian Tanner, holder of the WW2 George Medal*

A striking new vessel has appeared on the central London Thames recently and her name is TANNER. She is named after Gillian Tanner, who was awarded the George Medal for bravery for her courage in delivering petrol to fire pumps around the docks in Bermondsey during the Blitz in September 1940. Journalist Lynne Wallis wrote in 2017 about “some of the forgotten heroines of the home front” one of whom was Gillian Tanner, and so it’s good to see her achievements memorialised in the naming of a new London Fire Brigade rescue boat.
Her citation listed in the ‘Supplement to the London Gazette, 31 January, 1941′ reads:
“Gillian Kluane Tanner, Auxiliary, Women’s Auxiliary Fire Service, London.
Six serious fires were in progress and for three hours Auxiliary Tanner drove a 30-cwt. lorry loaded with 150 gallons of petrol in cans from fire to fire replenishing petrol supplies, despite intense bombing at the time. She showed remarkable coolness and courage throughout”.

TANNER heading upstream along Lambeth reach
The Women of World War II, in Whitehall, sculpted by John W. Mills

Gillian Tanner was interviewed by BBC Wales in 2005 on the occasion of the unveiling of a monument in Whitehall commemorating the work of millions of women in the Second World War. By then 86 years old, she explained how stationed at Dockhead in Bermondsey, she passed her heavy goods vehicle driving test, gained her licence and went on to drive her fuel-filled lorries even when the area was under attack. She told the BBC reporter: “We used to carry two gallon tins and filled up the fire engine’s trailer pumps with petrol – we had to keep them going.” She added that she didn’t think about “the danger and everything happening when the fires were going. You could hear the bombers, but you just got on with it.”

Memorial plaque on the fireboat TANNER named after her. Photo ©Matt @MYPersonalTrai5
TANNER at her Lambeth River Fire Station base
Thames River Police launch SIR ROBERT PEEL II passing TANNER
Trying out TANNER’s hose
TANNER and FIRE DART, one of the station’s older fireboats, who together with FIRE FLASH, has been in service on the Thames for over 20 years
TANNER on standby

Gillian Tanner was later remembered by the Fire Service training base in Gloucestershire who named one of their buildings ‘Tanner House’. For her “It was a great honour.” How she would have appreciated the naming of a London Fire Brigade fire rescue vessel after her…

New companion for TANNER
Just this last week a second new London fireboat, ERRINGTON, took up her position at the Lambeth River Fire Station.

New fireboat ERRINGTON moves into position next to TANNER

She is named after Harry Errington, who was awarded the George Cross for his exceptional bravery during the Blitz. I will return to his story in a later article.


*Picture of Gillian Tanner from Almay ©Mirrorpix
Picture of Gillian Tanner’s memorial plaque ©Matt @MYPersonalTrai5
All other pictures ©Patricia Stoughton

Sources and further information
LFB article: ‘Women in the fire service’, March 8, 2017
Fire brigades Union ‘Women Blazing a Trail’ Lynne Wallis, July 18, 2017
Medal heroine’s blitz memories: BBC Wales, July 9, 2005