FORMER firefighter Bob Shepherd should probably write a book.

After all, he has more than three decades of stories and experiences to his name during which time he worked on a number of crews within Essex Fire Service.

Bob, who now lives in Leavenheath, even bought one of the houses set aside for officers next to Colchester’s Station on Cowdray Avenue where he remained for a number of year.

He explains the recent focus on the fire service, focusing on images taken by the Gazette, had revealed some familiar faces - including his own.

“I was going up the ladder and also in another picture where we were sitting around the table in the mess room,” says Bob, now 72.

One of the last recruits to be trained at the county training centre when it was in Ilford, Bob then transferred to Witham.

It was July1966 and Bob would go on to work at Chelmsford and then Colchester, returning in latter years to work at the training centre in Witham.

Among the many major incidents he attended were the fire which ripped through the Woolworths in the early 1970s and at the Cavalry Barracks.

“I was one of the first crews to go up to the fire at Woolworths which first started in the morning and then I went off shift and went home.

“My wife greeted me by telling me there was a huge fire in town and I said I knew, but we had put it out.

“It turned out and it had started up again and got much worse,” remembers Bob.

Another, early memory from the late 1960s was while he was stationed at Chelmsford and spotted a young boy stood on a bridge outside their station.

“He was there a long while and I just kept spotting him.

“We had our inspection and then our stand-to and he was still there so we went out and spoke to him.

“And when we got close we saw he was very upset, tears streaming down his face, and the reason he was just standing there was because his knee was stuck in a metal part of the bridge.

“You never forget things like that,” says Bob, who admits it could be a tough job.

“Banter was how we kept things going.

“We would have a lot of jokes and wind each other up.

“I remember being sent around the county for a skirting board ladder, when I had not long joined the service, never once cottoning on that I was being wound up,” adds Bob.

“I loved the people I worked with but once I retired I didn’t miss the job itself because it could be very hard when you are dealing with serious incidents all the time,” he continues.

These included car accidents and industrial accidents where people had got caught in machinery.

“We were once called to help a chap who was working on a roller coaster on Clacton Pier.

“One of the cars slid back and trapped him and he was very badly injured but we kept him talking and conscious and he survived.

“Another time a chap had a fence post go through him during a car crash but it missed all the vital organs and he survived after we cut him out. Those things stay with you.

“Sadly I didn’t often get to see people again after we had helped them.”

Bob was awarded his long service, good conduct medal after 25 years having worked his way up to Acting sub officer, leading fireman and working with Blue Watch and subsequently Green Watch when it was created following a change in the shift pattern and hours they worked.

“Once the Green Watch was created we did two days, two nights and then had four days off, before that we only got two days off.

“One of the major changes throughout my time was the introduction of more and more health and safety regulations which was obviously good in some ways but bad in others,” he says.

Bob was on the scene when a digger blocked the railway line at the bottom of Ipswich Road in the 1980s having rolled from a building site when vandals got in.

“They were building something nearby, a big store I think, and some kids got on to the site and were mucking about with the digger which then rolled down on to the railway line.

“A train had literally just gone through so we then had to work fast to remove it before the next one came,” he says.

Along with attending serious incidents Bob also remembers the community side including taking part in Colchester Carnival and getting involved in fundraising events such as the Fire Swim.

A memorable challenge was to row across the English Channel, explains Bob.

“I didn’t actually go across in the boat but they made me the operations manager so I was in charge of getting the boat and helping with the logistics,” he explains.

Having retired in 1996 Bob now works at Felixstowe docks.