Lt. Col. Guy Symonds

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Neither the Irish government nor Comerford may have been aware of it, but Lt. Col. Guy Symonds was not held in high regard in British fire service circles. He had served as a gunnery officer during the First World War and was invalided home from the Italian front and given a post with the Ministry of Munitions fire advisory committee. He first came to notice (raising not a few eyebrows) in 1920 when he gave evidence before the Middlebrook Committee on the hours, pay and conditions of service of professional firefighters. G.V. Blackstone, a senior officer in Britain’s National Fire Service (NFS) and author of the seminal A history of the British Fire Service, wrote a disparaging account of Symonds in his book:

Symonds, the Home Office fire adviser, had proved unacceptable to the service. His advice, contained in Home Office publications, was described as a “medley of fantasy and fallacy, opposed to common sense and fire brigade practice”. His booklet Safety Requirements in Theatres and other Places of Public Entertainment was severely criticized by architects and the fire service. The service went to considerable lengths to denigrate him. It was firmly believed that he was the son of J. Sexton Simonds [chief officer of London Fire Brigade who was dismissed for graft] having changed the “i” to a “y” to give the name a more genteel flavour that matched the monocle, bowler hat and furled umbrella that always accompanied him.’

Notwithstanding, Guy Symonds’s advice on passive defence was incorporated by the Irish government into the new Air Raid Precautions Act.

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