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The memorial plaque to John Slade.


Reading the memorials on the memorial in Postman's Park, it soon becomes apparent how prevelent house fires were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Indeed, numerous of thos remembered here lost their lives in fires as they tried to save others from the flames.

One such hero was John Slade (1873 - 1902), whose memrial reads, "John Slade, Private 4TH Batt. Royal Fusiliers, Of Stepney. When His House Caught Fire Saved One Man And, Dashing Upstairs To Rouse Others, Lost His Life. Dec 26 1902."


On Friday 2nd January 1903, under the above headline, the Lancashire Eveing Post carried the following brief report on the tragedy.

It sated that:-

"Mr. Wynne E. Baxter held an enquiry THursday at the London Hospital concerning the death of John Slade, a private in the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers.

Deceased lost his life through trying to save his friend and relatives during a fire at his mother's home at Woolwich, where he had gone to spend Christmas.

The Coroner said his conduct was heroic and the result was to be deplored."


The Daily News published a more detailed report on the inquest proceeding in its edition of the 2nd of January 1903:-

"Mr. Wynne E. Baxter held an inquiry at the London Hospital concerning the death of John Slade, a private in the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, who died from the effect of burns received under sad circumstances.

Mary Elizabeth Slade, of 99, Whitehorse Street, Stepney, widow of deceased, deposed that on Christmas Eve he came home from Woolwich, with Private Baxter, of the same regiment.

They had both had a little to drink.

Witness and deceased went to bed about twelve o'clock, and Private Baxter lay down on the couch in the front parlour, in which a lighted paraffin lamp was left on a round table.

They had been in bed about three hours, when they were awakened by the fall of the lamp.

Rushing downstairs, they found the parlour one mass of flames, and Baxter sitting on the floor in the midst of them.

Deceased tried to smother the flames, and dragged Baxter into the street.

He then rushed back to save the others.

Witness next saw her brother fall from a window into the street, and then her husband brought out on a stretcher.

The Coroner: Where do you think the deceased got his burns?

Witness: In going upstairs to try and save the others.

Police-constables Bouillancy, 359 H, and Edwards, 368 H, gave an account of their successful efforts in rescuing others who were in the house by getting into the garden through neighbouring premises, standing on tin baths, and dragging the people through the windows.

The Coroner remarked that the deceased had lost his life through trying to save his friend and relatives; his conduct was heroic, and the result was to be deplored.

At the same time it was impossible to dddoubt tha both the deceased and Baxter were the worse for drink.

The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," and highly commended Constables Bouillancy and Edwards for their bravery and prompt and judicious action."