Wickhambrook man to receive OBE

John Barton is to be honoured with an OBE ANL-140714-115257001
John Barton is to be honoured with an OBE ANL-140714-115257001

A Wickhambrook man is set to receive an OBE for his contribution to fire and rescue services.

John Barton, General secretary of the Retained Firefighters Union (RFU), was put forward for an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours on June 14.

The honour pays tribute to Mr Barton’s work with the RFU, as well as his previous work as a firefighter.

The date of the presentation is yet to be announced. Even Mr Barton himself won’t know until within five weeks of the ceremony.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever known for job satisfaction,” said Mr Barton. “You get the comradeship and you can help people in the community.

“It’s a very proud moment - it makes me think ‘have I done enough to deserve this?’. I work alongside colleagues who help make things run and it’s what they do that is pivotal to the organisation.

“I don’t know who nominated me and I never will. Even if I could, I’d choose not to know.”

Mr Barton previously spent more than 30 years as a firefighter in Wickhambrook. He joined in 1975 and worked alongside his new wife’s father and brother, who were also firemen.

“We married in 1975,” said Mr Barton. “We moved into the village and I put in an application. It took about four months for it to be accepted.

“I thought I knew a lot about fire stations - sliding down poles and all that. But I got to know a lot more about how fire stations worked.”

When he retired from the fire service in 2005, he began working full-time for the Retained Firefighters Union, which he’d joined originally in 1978.

Mr Barton’s position as a moderate trade unionist has cemented his reputation in the community and may have been a factor in the decision to award him an OBE.

“I joined the union just before the nine-week national strike,” said Mr Barton. “I wanted to join a union that had a non striking constitution. We don’t abandon the community.

“The public needs to be protected. They don’t have any say in our working rights or conditions, but it’s them that have to put up with the consequences.

“I couldn’t live with myself if someone died because I hadn’t turned up to do my job.

“I had a good innings in the fire service. I was in charge of the fire station for 14 years, I reached the top of the tree. I just wanted to be able to give more attention to my family.

Despite the accolade, Mr Barton intends to stay close to the community he has served all these years. “I plan to carry on what I’m doing,” said Mr Barton. “You do the job you do and it affects the way you are, the way you conduct yourself.

“I see no reason to change the way I approach things. It’s a great thing to help people. I’ll just carry on with my day job.”