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The Last Shift

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OK, so you have a firefighter on your watch or station and he is completing his last day or night shift, what do you do for him?

Personally, I try to go to as many as I can, especially if I know them well.

The off going watch usually do a final parade, sometimes in full undress dependant upon what the retiring firefighter wants. The SM usually does a little bit of a speech and presents the firefighter with their gift from the station or watch, dependant upon how they collect etc. Sometimes, not always, we may get a senior officer such as the Dep attend, but this is rare. Plenty of photos follow at the end. We also still seem to prefer a mounted axe with the medals and FRS badges mounted on the plinth. 

So, what do you do on your station:-

  • Do you collect from the watch or the whole station?
  • What gifts do you go for these days?
  • Do you carry out a parade?
  • Is if full undress or duty rig?
  • Do any senior officers above the SM attend?

Feel free to discuss and share your firefighters last shift.

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While I understand some will not want a formal leaving do, I really do think it is not a good move to simply 'slide away'.  Just a pint after work, a breakfast somewhere or some kind of event to draw a line under your time is a must. I once went on a friend's leaving do which was a weekend to Alton Towers, staying in a Travelodge and with pizzas and beers in the evening. It sounded odd, but was a real good laugh and lots of time to catch up with people I hadn't seen for ages. So there's always a way to say goodbye

I know a number of guys who have done nothing and regretted it later. That's a real shame, as there is no second chance. So if you are about to go, or know someone who is planning to, I reckon its better to regret having a do which you didn't enjoy, than it is to not have one and regret it later.

I really enjoyed mine. For the record, at a Golf club bar, with alcohol, food, photographs, speeches (25 minutes of me being ripped apart by a hilarious character assignation and then returning the favour to those gathered) , flowers for Mrs Messy and a gift for me, before a cab home. I also received a folder with the scores of stupid newsletters, false LFB instructions and counterfeit FBU posters I had prepared & circulated during many years of peddling what is now known as fake news. A great night which I certainly do not regret 

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Retirement Do's have always been a big part of the social circle in LFB. They used to be 'compulsory' as I was often told I was going to a retirement Do of someone I hardly knew... but that is how you got to know the your watch at surrounding stations away from the business of calls, as well as it being a respectful thing to do. I always happily went along and enjoyed meeting some great old characters (Many sadly no longer with us) who always had a gem of wisdom or a story about some more senior hand who may have been giving me a bit of grief. ;)

They are generally held in halls/clubs/function rooms etc, some are held in Pubs (I went to one last night in a pub as it goes). I daresay its a time served thing, but I seem to go to loads these days.... about one per month would seem about right. This year has been a big year as the majority of my 1987 intake have retired. The other tradition is either a paid bar or a paid bar after the speeches and presentations. There is often a DJ or less often a live band. Tickets are sold in advance and on the door, with money collected going toward the Axe, the Mrs (or Mr's) flowers and the costs of the night. The speech as Messy says is often the highlight and I seem to have become a bit of a face on the speech circuit, enjoying researching their records... althoug last night was the fourth in recent times where I've had the actual speech or at least a final few words and the presentation foisted on me as I've walked in the door. :ph34r:

The last shift rollcall and presentation seems to be a more recent event in LFB, probably the last decade or so. I try to get to all of those under my immediate command and others I've known a long time. The other thing we do (in the old F Division part of the NE area) is have a 'gathering' often on the last night for a BBQ or general meet up.... where several machines from neighbouring stations will turn up having told control 'they need to pop out' for a while.

The retirement holiday is also a once rare event that is becoming more popular in LFB... Butlins, surfing, Golf, Benidorm.... The last one I attended was in Benidorm in 2015 and was one of the funniest 4 days I've ever had.

My own is approaching and the venue is already booked, a bit premature but as its at the start of the summer holidays I've booked put the date out and booked the phone box now, lest people may want to start booking their summer holidays. This side of it I'm dreading it as it really is the last line of the last chapter... .but I'm hopeful the memories will stay with me for the rest of my life. I couldn't imagine slipping away without a final gathering and although I respect those who choose to do that, I think its really sad.

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On my old watch it was tradition to have a drink for everyone that joined and left the watch for whatever reason. Even when I left despite not retiring or reaching any milestone, we still went out for a watch curry and drinks. Think it’s a sad indictment of the times when a watch can’t even organise a beer for a departing colleague but I understand the feeling. People nowadays just want to clock on and off and do their time to keep a living, anything extra curricular isn’t so much of a concern anymore in our modern, caring, so-called ‘community’ fire service.

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We had a FF retire a few weeks ago after 30+ years, the watch got him a replica of his original uniform, cork hat and yellow leggings etc, then let him take parade in his kit. They got him an engraved tally with the time in as his start date. 

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