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Ernie Staples is fondly remembered in Donington




Brian Dobney, Ann Dobney and Jane Stanley with newspaper cuttings about Ernie and photographs.
Brian Dobney, Ann Dobney and Jane Stanley with newspaper cuttings about Ernie and photographs.

An eyewitness account of the May night in 1941 when German incendiaries devastated much of Spalding is included in a book available soon at Donington library.

Ernie Staples was in the Donington fire crew called first to Spalding’s Liberal Club but diverted on the way because it was “all over there”.

Bombs were dropping as those brave men fought fires.

The Donington men found themselves at Massey’s seed shop, where Ernie went up a spiral staircase to tackle an incendiary burning in the bedroom.

He continues: “The White Hart roof was burning and we dealt with that. The Maypole grocery shop was floating in melted butter. Everybody was flat out working ...

“There were ladders up Penningtons and it was all ablaze; nearly everywhere in Spalding was burning that night.

“I dropped down on this length of hose when a stick of bombs was dropped across West Elloe. He was probably after the gas works.”

Born in 1903, the youngest of 11 children, Ernie recalls a lost way of life in Lincolnshire, but one that will stir memories for anyone with a connection to farming or this part of the world.

Stooking corn, ploughing with horses and flitches (joints of meat) hanging from the ceiling were all part of country life.

Ernie’s life was varied to say the least as he was a shepherd, cowman, horseman, churchman, gang-labour driver, fireman and undertaker.

His memoirs feature a story when the wrong coffin was taken to a service ... and a pre-health and safety adventure when he rigged up ladders to scale the 60ft to mend the church clock.

Ernie Staples (front) when he was a sub-officer at Donington Fire Station.
Ernie Staples (front) when he was a sub-officer at Donington Fire Station.

It’s nearly 20 years since Ernie passed away, aged 96, but his memory lives on in Donington.

His book, Ernie Staples Memoirs, was compiled in 1995 but now it will be more widely available.

Parish councillor Phil Lovell has made a copy, had it laminated, and it will go into the volunteer library today (Friday).

Tony Stanley, a retained firemen who served with Ernie, then a sub-officer, said: “He was just an old fashioned man, really, a man who knew everything locally. He was a genuine man.”



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