Life story: Frank Hardy and his efforts to professionalise firefighting in New Zealand

Frank Hardy was a soldier with the Royal Tank Regiment before emigrating to New Zealand in 1949. Hardy is pictured in an ...
HARDY FAMILY

Frank Hardy was a soldier with the Royal Tank Regiment before emigrating to New Zealand in 1949. Hardy is pictured in an undated photo of him in uniform.

OBITUARY: Men of a certain generation are often defined by their role in World War II, their hardships, their toil.

The price paid by Englishman Frank Hardy, who died on September 15 in Christchurch, aged 96, was years spent as a prisoner of war in Austria during his time in the Royal Tank Regiment.

But that was not even close to the end of Frank's story. Upon release, he joined the National Fire Service in Slough, England, the first step in a lifelong firefighting career.

Frank Hardy was seen off with a guard of honour from retired and current NZ Fire Service members. He was carried out on ...
CHRIS HARDY

Frank Hardy was seen off with a guard of honour from retired and current NZ Fire Service members. He was carried out on the No. 1 fire engine, which he served on decades ago.

He soon chased down his childhood sweetheart in London and married her. In 1949 the pair emigrated to the homeland of the friends he made in prison – New Zealand.

At the time, the professional nature of a modern fire service had not yet emerged and Kiwi firefighters completed many mundane tasks.

Through experience, study and expertise, Frank quickly made his way up the ranks of New Zealand's Fire Service to become one three founding Fire Commissioners.

Frank Hardy, who died in Christchurch on September 15, 2017, was a foundation member of the professional fire service in ...
FRANK HARDY

Frank Hardy, who died in Christchurch on September 15, 2017, was a foundation member of the professional fire service in New Zealand. Pictured in his uniform.

In Alan Bruce's book Into the Line of Fire, Bruce said of Frank: "I doubt if any other person did more to lift the status of firefighters during his career in Dunedin, Christchurch and then as an influential Fire Commissioner, than he did."

A year after moving to New Zealand, Frank graduated from the Institution of Fire Engineers, an organisation he became president of in 1957.

He became station officer of the Christchurch brigade in 1953 before moving to Dunedin in 1955 to take up the role of deputy chief fire officer in Dunedin.

Frank Hardy, pictured on an engine at the Slough brigade before emigrating to New Zealand in 1949.
FRANK HARDY

Frank Hardy, pictured on an engine at the Slough brigade before emigrating to New Zealand in 1949.

He made his return to Christchurch in 1969 as chief fire officer to continue the brigade's modernisation through improved models of fire engines.

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Fire and Emergency NZ national area commander urban Paul McGill said Frank made a "significant" contribution to firefighters and to the professionalisation of the role throughout his career.

"He was a very highly regarded and progressive chief fire officer in both the Dunedin and Christchurch brigade," McGill said.

In 1971, Frank was awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal in recognition of his contribution.

Frank's most significant deployment came in 1974 when he was appointed to the NZ Fire Services Commission, tasked with forming the National Fire Service two years later.

"He was right there when the NZ Fire Service was established and he was selected from a wide range of officers, which is a sign of his calibre," McGill said.

He was awarded the QEII Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1980.

Frank, Sir Jack Hunn and W. J. Henderson, became the country's first Fire Commissioners, moulding the national fire service throughout the country.

He remained a commissioner for eight years until 1982, a year after he turned 60, the retirement age at the time, concluding 33 years in the NZ Fire Service.

Chris Hardy said his father was "very loving and kind – he was always there for me".

"We grew closer in the later years, as is often the case with parents."

His main lesson he handed down was to "work hard".

"He was very self-sufficient, I mean he was still driving up until the day he died."

Frank died at Burwood Hospital on September 15. He was 96.

On September 22, a funeral was held for Frank at Westpark Chapel, in Burnside, and was attended by hundreds.

"There was a huge fire brigade presence and they formed a guard of honour. It must have been at least 80 people long," his son said.

He was taken away in the historic No. 1 fire truck, often used for funerals of significant firefighters. There was added meaning for Frank though – he actually rode it when it was operational.

 - Stuff

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