‘No matter the job, it was our duty to be there’: Ray honoured for 75 years of service to Rochy CFA

By Campaspe News

RAY Larcombe was just 15 when he joined the Rochester Fire Brigade in 1942.

After a meeting at Scouts and with the urge to earn his fire-fighting badge, he knew he was in the right place.

Three quarters of a century later and Ray has been awarded his 75-year service medal.

His urge to be a part of the team grew and developed into something more.

‘‘I just wanted to help people,’’ Ray said.

‘‘It was our duty to head out as soon as the siren, or the bell in those days, rang.

‘‘No matter what the job, how big or small, it was our duty to be there and help where we could.’’

Some would say his days in the Scouts really led him in the right direction.

‘‘You were taught so many things when you were part of the Scouts. From cooking to sewing, but the main thing was you were taught to want to help the community and I think that’s where it all started for me,’’ he said.

And for Ray and the team, a lot has changed over the years.

‘‘The war was raging in the beginning of my time in the brigade and that really made things hard,’’ he said.

‘‘A lot of our able-bodied men, including our captain at the time, were shipped off to war and that meant we had to get younger ones to come and give us a hand.’’

Fighting fires wasn’t his full-time occupation. He was employed as a packing boy at Parson’s grocery store, and later as a manager at Northern Timber.

‘‘Neither of my bosses would dock our pay if we got called out to an emergency,’’ he said.

‘‘I was also lucky that both of my workplaces were close to the station so I could be one of the first ones there.’’

There were a few specific call-outs Ray remembers clearly and ones that made their mark on the town as well.

‘‘Probably the biggest fire I went to was the one at Murray Goulburn and of course another one would have been the fire at the Rochester High School,’’ he said.

But it wasn’t all gloomy memories from his time in the brigade.

‘‘I remember we used to have a piano in the station and we used to hold little dances to raise money for something in the community,’’ he recalled.

‘‘In winter we used to have a hydrant in the station and we would practise drills inside, and then in summer we would move outside and turn the hose on to cool ourselves down.’’

Ray was still heading out to fires up until a few years ago, taking sandwiches, drinks and supplies to firefighters on the front line.

And while the 92-year-old is starting to slow down a little due to a few health concerns, his wife, Gladys, said he still likes to stay involved where he can.

“He’s still very active, just not operational. He always goes along to the meetings, and he keeps in touch with everyone. Ray has always been very dedicated to the community,” she said.

“He was just so proud to go off and do his duty.”

And, of course, Ray was honoured to receive this accolade.

‘‘He was very proud to receive it. His service from 1942 to 1944 was never recognised (prior to the formation of CFA). So yes, very proud to receive his 75-year medal,” Gladys said.