Henry Tom BROOKS [1880-1940]
In 1922 Henry Tom Brooks was appointed to the position of Superintendent of the Hong Kong Fire Brigade. His task was to modernize the fire service in Hong Kong which was considerably out of date. He gradually improved things and by the time he retired, as Chief Fire Officer, he had established two main fire stations and eleven sub-stations in the Colony. One of his initial achievements was to provide training facilities for the fire-fighters.
Henry was with the London Fire Brigade for 18 years. In 1908, when the first petrol driven fire engine appeared, he was one of the first to be trained as a driver. During that time Henry had been a member of the Royal Fleet Reserve in London and when WWI broke out he served on HMS Sappho - in the North Sea patrol. He was then transferred to the War College at Portsmouth on special duty. However, he was recalled to the London Fire Brigade owing to the air-raids.
When Henry arrived in HK with his wife Emily, son Roland, and daugher Doris, he was iniitially stationed at Kowloon Fire Station. The family moved to the Hong Kong Central Fire Station on its completion in 1926. It was a substantial six storey square building on the waterfront, on Des Voeux Road, overlooking the Vehicular Ferry Pier. In the centre of the building there was an open-air courtyard which was used for training of personnel. Several large doors at the front of the building allowed for quick exit of the fire engines - and also the ambulance that was housed there.
On 18 July 1925 a landslip occurred at Po Hing Fong - destroying many houses and causing 73 deaths. For his exceptional courage in rescuing victims Henry was awarded the Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem Medal (Note: Another landslip, the Po Shan Road disaster was to occur some years later half-a-mile away.)
Henry retired from the Fire Service and returned to England in 1937 with Emily. His farewell function at the CFS received front page coverage in the South China Morning Post. Henry died in Exmouth, Devon, of a heart attack in 1940.
His son, Roland Henry John Brooks (Ron) also joined the HK Fire Brigade, as an officer in 1931, and became Deputy Chief Officer before leaving in 1955 to live in New Zealand.