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History of the FRS Watch Colours


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I’m gonna have a guess ? Red white and blue because of some kind of nod to the Union Jack ? Then the 4th watch came along in the late 1970s and they chose green for that, why green?  🤷🏼‍♂️

im regularly wrong about everything, and a confirmed idiot, so please don’t take this answer to the bank ! 

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The Green Watch started in March 1979 when the 2-2-2 (2 Days, 2 nights, 2 Leave) shifts changed to 2-2-4. It was a shame as I loved the 2-2-2 system. with only one full day off a week, you felt as if you were always at work.... great news if you were keen as of course, it meant you picked up more shouts

I have no idea why it went to the colour green, as if using primary colours, you would imagine yellow or even black would have been more likely. 

I do know from personal experience that GW was used as a dumping ground for all the wrong-uns, incompetents, drunks and useless barstewards.......... and by goodness, we had fun on that first day!!!!!!!!🙄🤣

On the new GW at my station there were only 4 of us drawn from other watches at the station (and only 2 on duty) as the rest of the crew were from elsewhere. It was odd as we hardly knew each other

But we had a fatal RTC within 15 minutes of the 09:00 start which required some difficult heaving lifting. The new Guvnor didnt know anyone and we were like a crew of firefighters on an outduty. The second job was 10 miles into the neighbouring county which confused the 2 firefighters from the west end & city who usually only went a few 100 metres. My colleague lit up his pipe 5 miles into the journey just as the city boys wondered if we were nearly there😊, the look on their faces was priceless. They also expected hydrants on every corner, but we had a small industrial building on a farm with a crap hydrant 800m away, so used a water shuttle.

I grew to love 2-2-4 and consider it to be the best shift system available  

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As with many a Fire Service tradition we look to it’s links to sailing. Saluting with palms down and coming to attention without stamping one’s foot which would awaken your shipmates below deck on wooden ships, strings/rounds, knots and lines, the word ‘watch’ itself, the term ‘mess’  and others being carried over, Nav lights on Chicago Pumps etc. it’s all naval.

The Britannia System of three Watches (Red, White and Blue) of 56 hours each per week was replaced by the 42 hour per week 2-2-4, the starting of the roll out occurred in the pre Thatcher era of January 1979 following the 1977 Fireman’s strike over pay and conditions.

Green was chosen over black as a non controversial colour due to considerable unease in public bodies at the time to use the term ‘black’ and this was avoided where ever possible, in schools and elsewhere black people were officially refereed to as ‘coloured’ plus the historic term was already in popular use with the Black Watch Battalion of the Royal Highland Regiment.

Yellow was discussed but associated with cowardice and expected to be unpopular and gold ruled out due to any potential aires of superiority so that left green. 

Messys right, its true that every Brigade used the creation of the fourth watch to dump all it’s jokers, misfits, sick lame and lazies and for many years was seen in the same light. Even when I joined more than two decades later I was laughed at by training staff that I was joining Greens and given the history lecture. But Messys wrong in so far as it’s not the best shift system for 2022 and modern life 😘😜

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