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VIDEO: Sheffield blitz fireman Doug Lightning turns 96

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Celebrating his 96th birthday today is Doug Lightning - believed to be the last surviving fireman on duty during the 1940 Sheffield Blitz.

“I’m feeling good for 96,” said Doug, of Woodhouse.

“There’s nothing much the matter with me and I never ail much. I can still drive and my eyesight isn’t bad at all, though my hearing isn’t great.”

The great grandfather was just 21 when the war broke out and was one of only 68 fully trained firemen in the city at that time.

“I’d actually taken the policeman’s exam but decided to go into the fire service instead as the hours were more sociable for a young lad like me,” laughed Doug.

“I was more interested in my freedom and chasing women at that time.

“I still remember that first night of the Blitz, the noise of the bombs was deafening. The siren started up first but most of us ignored it, as it had been going off for weeks, and the planes were always headed to Manchester or Liverpool.”

The raids, which took place in Sheffield on the nights of December 12 and December 15, 1940, left 693 people dead, 3,000 homes destroyed and a tenth of the population homeless.

Doug recalled: “I was scared most of the time and there was the constant misery of being wet through, the heat scorching you and the pain of cut hands from broken glass everywhere coupled with constant hunger and thirst. I’ve never been that knackered in my life.

“There wasn’t enough men or enough hose to deal with all the fires and it was no good putting a drop of water on this one and a drop on that one so we had to choose our battles carefully. I instructed men to tackle the nearby Black Swan pub as it was burning from the top. This was due to incendiary bombs burning downwards and I was worried the fire would spread to the buildings at the rear of the old Town Hall.

“By concentrating our limited resources for several hours, we did stop these fires from spreading – it was a very small success.

“Many small fires, which could have easily been put out with more supplies and manpower, went unchallenged and burned whole buildings to the ground. They were long and terrible nights.”

After the war, Doug – who was born in 1918 and lived in Balby, Doncaster, before moving to Sheffield as a young lad – served 25 years with the fire service before becoming an insurance salesman.

He married his first wife, Muriel, during the war and the couple had three children – Richard, Margaret and Douglas – before they divorced some years later.

Doug said: “I have three grandchildren and seven great grandchildren as well as step-kids and step-grandkids with my second wife Marjorie who I met and married in the Sixties. We were together until she died in 2003.”

These days Doug mainly spends time in his shed, where he creates bird boxes and tables, which he donates to schools and care homes.

“I enjoy working with my hands when the weather is warm enough,” he said.

 

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