A proud heritage of delivering training to the UK’s fire and emergency services.

Professionalising the UK Fire Service

Whenever there is an emergency incident, we all depend on fully trained fire officers or emergency responders to attend and resolve the situation, wherever or whenever it takes place.  But it wasn’t always this way. 

Historically, firefighting was dealt with at a local level only, with firefighters unable to travel outside their parish or village boundaries to respond to a fire or an emergency.  In those days, it was even common for fire pumps to be sponsored by an insurance company. This brought its own unique challenge because if you weren’t insured by the company that owned the pump, it could be turned around and your property left to burn!

Delegate water hose training

Making emergency training a national priority

Things started to change just before the Second World War.  In 1938, The Fire Brigades Act set up a training centre for special fire service courses and in 1941, the National Fire Service was set up as the single unified fire service for Great Britain.

A site in Watford was initially identified as the centre, but the outbreak of the War meant that a much larger venue was required.  As a result, training started at a location in Saltdean, Brighton.

Following the denationalisation of the fire service in 1947, the Saltdean centre was seen as too large for peacetime training, so the fire service was transferred to Wotton House, near Dorking.

Aerial view of FSC training grounds and buildings

Moreton-in Marsh – a proud legacy of fire and military excellence

And what about our present home at Moreton-in-Marsh?

RAF Moreton-in-Marsh was operational throughout World War Two as part of Bomber Command. It was the home station of 21 Operational Training Unit, which trained the crew flying Wellington Bombers. The station also flew operational aircraft itself, most notably during the large bombing raids on German cities such as Cologne, Dresden and Hamburg.

RAF Moreton-in-Marsh stopped being an operational station in the late 1950s.  But the Cold War meant that it wasn’t closed.  The Government decided that all RAF national servicemen would have to take a 3 weeks firefighting course at Moreton-in-Marsh during their basic training.

It was felt that in the event of a nuclear war, the majority of these trained ex-national servicemen would become a formidable wartime fire service. They were trained by fire service sub-officers, most of whom were on secondment from all over the country with temporary promotion.

Delegates group photo in front of fire truck

A national technical centre with a vision for the future

This history of training firefighters led to the announcement on 14 June 1966 that a Fire Service Technical College would be established at Moreton-in-Marsh. The first Commandant of the new college was Harry Judge QFSM MIFireE in 1968.

Harry, formerly Chief Fire Officer of the West Riding of Yorkshire, oversaw the development of the National Training Centre.  He saw it as as a huge opportunity to build a world-class training venue in the middle of the country. His vision to create high quality training facilities would last long into the future. To many, Harry is seen as the founding father of the College we have today.

In 1981, the Fire Service Staff College in Dorking closed with some instructors transferring to  Moreton-in-Marsh. As a result, we became known as the national Fire Service College.

Saved painting by Charles Vigor

A living symbol of firefighter history

As well as its world class facilities and incident training ground, the College is also home to a collection of fire service artefacts, including books, paintings and vintage appliances. It’s a great place to visit to get a true flavour of firefighting in days gone by.

Fire art collection

The College houses an impressive collection of art work, including the famous painting, 'Saved' by Charles Vigor.  This painting, from around 1890 is widely accepted as the world’s best-known example of ‘fire art’.  ‘Saved’ can now be viewed in Reception at the College.

When you next visit the College, take a moment to look at the sculpture at the entrance to the Reception. This depicts a phoenix, the mythological bird that can be reborn from its own ashes.  The sculpture is best viewed at sunset when an image of the phoenix can be seen through the reflection of light on the folds of steel.

FSC building entrance


  • Official opening by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 17 May


  • The College’s building works are completed, including the planting of 80,000 trees


  • The College becomes the home of training for senior members of the UK Fire Service when the Senior Staff College in Dorking closes
Instructor fitting trainee with breathing apparatus


  • New state-of-the art Breathing Apparatus training facility opened in partnership with leading technology provider Dräger
  • UKFRS United Kingdom Rescue Challenge takes place at the College
  • College becomes first centre in Europe to achieve Pro Board accreditation to certify to the US based National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards​


  • The College, Chief Fire Officers Association and Fire Industries Association form a new partnership to help the UKFRS share research and innovation
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