Southend Municipal Corporation

Operated from c.1947 to c.1982

Founder/Director – Southend Municipal Council

During the second half of the 20th century, the long, Southend Corporation shed became an established landmark on the eastern perimeter of the airport. Built a few years after the airport’s opening, the southernmost 2/3rds of the shed and the apron to the south of that would eventually become home to the Southend Municipal Corporation’s crew and the large plethora of vehicles that were required to support airport operations. Meanwhile, the northern 1/3rd would be used as a hangar and workshop by Ladi Marmol and his various business concerns. As such, the responsibilities of firefighting, refuelling, ad-hoc loading/unloading and occasional out-of-hours marshalling duties fell to the SMC duty crews. From the post-war years onwards, the Corporation built up a large fleet of mostly ex-WWII RAF vehicles which included Crossley fire tenders and 6-wheeled AEC ‘Marshall’ fuel/water bowsers. Indeed, you can read more about the working life of SMC duty crew officer Barry Cole by clicking here.

Below are a number of select vehicles that were used by the Southend Municipal Corporation with very approximate dates…

 

Fuel/Water Bowsers

Thompson Brothers Mk V Fuel Bowser

c.1950 to Late ’60s

Mostly built before and during the war, these rather curious looking carriages were generally put to work on fighter stations, their low, three wheeled design enabling them to manoeuvre more easily around aircraft and in many cases even park under their wings. Most of these vehicles were powered by a Ford 10hp engine and it is believed that the tanks of the Mk V had a fuel capacity of around 500 gallons (2,273 litres) along with a 50 gallon (227 litre) tank for oil. Two of these ungainly looking machines were lent to the airport by Shell Oil and by the latter half of the 1960s, they were being used solely as oilers although the decision was eventually taken by Southend Corporation to replace them with their own equipment.

Bedford QL Refuelling Truck

c.1955 to Early ’60s

The SMC owned two of these and each came equipped with a 850 gallon tank. Motive power was provided by a 3.5 litre, straight 6, Bedford petrol engine which produced a rather paltry 72hp.

A.E.C. 6×6 Matador ‘Marshall’ 854 Fuel Bowser

Late ’50s to Mid ’80s

These vehicles were initially produced for the armed services during WWII and once hostilities came to an end, a good number of them were sold off as military surplus and would as such, then go on to find a second wind with numerous airports and companies across the country. The standard A.E.C. Matador was a 4 x 4, nigh on 8 ton truck capable of carrying loads of up to 4 tons, although during the war the R.A.F. had also procured a six wheeled variant that unofficially came to be known as the ‘Marshall’ and it was this particular model that would eventually find its way to Southend.

Over the years, SEN procured seven examples in total, each of which came equipped with a 2,500 gallon (11,365 litre) tank and was powered by a 7.6 litre, A.E.C. diesel engine that produced 95hp. Initially, five were loaded with 100/130 octane Avgas while the other two carried Avtur (or what eventually came to be known as Jet A-1) although this ratio would gradually change as more turboprops and then jets started to frequent the airport. Two of these vehicles would also later undergo conversion into a water bowser and a fire tender respectively. The sole fire tender (colloquially known as ‘Red 8’) lingered on into the ’80s although whether it remained in active service after the handover to Southend’s Duty Crew is unknown.

Foden S20 Fuel Bowser

c.Mid ’60s to Mid ’70s

One of four known articulated bowsers to be used at Southend during the SMC era. This S20 cab would appear to be a smaller version of the three-axle Python refueller which was being sold by Foden to various airports around the country from the late ’50s onwards. These rather smart units were generally powered by either a Gardner, Rolls Royce or the rather unreliable Foden FD-6 engine. These power plants produced between 180 and 220hp.

Dennis F8 & Modified Dennison or SISU Articulated Fuel Bowsers

1960s to Late ’70s

In the rather revealing Richard Vandervord shot above, several articulated fuel bowsers can be seen lined up outside the Southend Municipal Corporation shed. As far as the rather rare Dennis F8s are concerned, three vehicles are believed to have been used (two of these vehicles are directly under the tail rotor of the Bell 212) while a fourth (in ESSO colours) was present at SEN during the early ’70s and was likely used as a source of spares. While the exact engine for this type is unknown, its extremely popular fire engine equivalent used either a 6 or 8 cylinder, Rolls Royce B60 or B80 which produced 135 or 165hp respectively. As far as the Dennison/SISU machine was concerned, this rather curious looking tractor unit was possibly a design that had been further modified for airport use and as such, its technical specs will no doubt forever remain a mystery. Only one was believed to have been used at SEN. This vehicle can be seen to the far right in the picture above. 

Leyland Comet Fuel Bowser

Late ’60s to c.1982

At least one of these vehicles was owned by Southend Municipal Corporation. The engine would have been either a 6.1 or 6.6 litre, Leyland 375 straight 6, producing 110 or 125hp respectively.

Leyland Beaver Refuelling Bowser

c.Mid ’70s to c.1982

The A.E.C. Mercury first appeared during the 1930s, although this name fell out of use only for it to be restored again during the 1950s and it was the Leyland version of the later Mercury model that was used at SEN with both units later being passed on to the new SEN duty crew. These two vehicles were used as Jet A-1 bowsers and were amongst the first to appear at SEN adorned in white rather than the standard ‘Corporation Blue’. These vehicles would normally have been fitted with 11.1 litre, straight 6, Leyland 680 diesel engines which produced a nominal 150hp or 240hp if turbocharged.

 

Fire Bowsers/Tenders

Crossley 4WD Fire Tender

Early to Late ’50s

Another WWII era, four wheel drive design was the Crossley Fire Tender which was primarily used at R.A.F bases around the country. Rather than spraying just water, the pump was purposefully designed to work in tandem with a compressor which used Saponin (a plant based soaping compound) and water mix that produced copious amounts of foam. As far as can be ascertained, two of these tenders were stationed at Southend from the early to late 1950s.

A.E.C. Merryweather Regent Fire Tender

Early ’50s to Mid ’60s

Seen all over London and a good many other places around the U.K. from the early 1950s onwards, the A.E.C. Merryweather Regent became standard equipment for many fire brigades across the country. Powered by a 9.6 litre, A.E.C. A218 diesel engine, these tenders were tough and reliable by the standards of the day and most importantly, could pump as much as 1,000 gallons of water per minute. With Southend becoming increasingly busier during the 1950s, not to mention that the aircraft types themselves were becoming ever larger, the ageing Crossleys would eventually need to be replaced. Again, it is believed that two of these tenders were based at Southend.

Land Rover Series I

1960s

Designated at the airport’s ‘quick response’ aircraft rescue vehicle KJN 571 also came equipped with a powder trailer. Needless to say, it was likely also used for other duties such as bird scaring and runway debris checks.

Bedford RHLZ Self Propelled Pump

1960s to Mid ’70s

Probably better known as the venerable ‘Green Goddess’ which appeared on British streets whenever the fire service downed their hose pipes and went on strike. Two of these multi-purpose vehicles would also end up finding their way to SEN (SJN 978 & NJN 231). Somewhat unusually for such large appliances, they were powered by a relatively modest 4.9 litre, straight 6 petrol engine which produced around 110hp.

Thornycroft Nubian Sun Crash Tender

Mid-60s to c.1982

While one of SEN’s A.E.C. Matadors would eventually find itself being converted into a water bowser, in Thorneycraft Nubian Major VXN 861 the airport would get its first, purpose built 6 x 6 crash tender. Equipped with a 1,500 gallon tank, it would appear that this particular fire tender was one of the longest lived at the airport. As far as is known it was the only example of its kind to be procured by SEN. The engine of choice for these vehicles was usually a 6.5 litre, straight 8, waterproofed Rolls Royce B81 which produced around 185hp.

Thornycroft Nubian Major Crash Tender

Unknown to c.1982

Nubian Major EGW 203J was seemingly another late addition to the SMC fleet although its arrival date remains something of a mystery. It was powered by a huge, 14.8 litre V8 Cummings diesel and also came equipped with a 1,500 gallon foam tank. Again, this was yet another of the small number of vehicles to be passed on to the SEN duty crew.

 

The Southend Municipal Corporation shed’s exact date of closure is unknown although the mass scrapping of many of its vehicles had already been going on since the late ’70s. Handling services eventually became a separate concern under I.C.S. & later Routair while the duty crew now provided refuelling, airport support and emergency services from a facility on the south side, just to the west of Viscount House. With Ladi Marmol finally hanging up his wings in 1987, the building was then more or less abandoned and remained so until 1989.

During this year, courier giant U.P.S. took over the shed and used it to sort freight that was being transported nightly in and out of SEN by Channel Express. However, with the opening of Channel’s new freight facility at East Midlands, operations ceased and from August 1993, the former Corporation haunt would once again fall silent. It is possible that the shed was then later used for storage or as a temporary base for airport construction workers/maintenance crews, but eventually this building fell into disrepair and was finally pulled down around 2002/2003.

 

Do you have any other, interesting snippets of information about Southend Municipal Corporation’s SEN history or indeed any pictures that you would like to share? If so, then please contact us on saadinfomail@gmail.com

Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.