The NFS was created in August 1941 by the amalgamation of the wartime national Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and the local authority fire brigades (about 1,600 of them). It existed until 1948, when it was again split by the Fire Services Act 1947, with fire services reverting to local authority control, although this time there were far fewer brigades, with only one per county and county borough.
The NFS had both full-time and part-time members, male and female. Its uniform was the traditional dark blue double-breasted tunic, and it adopted the peaked cap worn by the AFS instead of the peakless sailor-style cap which had been worn by many pre-war fire brigades (including the London Fire Brigade). The peaked cap was retained by fire services after the war.
When they were on duty, but in the frequent long stretches between calls, many firemen and firewomen performed vital wartime manufacturing work, in workshops in the fire stations or adjacent to them. This was entirely voluntary, but since many of the wartime personnel had worked in factories before the war it was work with which they were familiar and skilled.
At peak strength the NFS had 370,000 personnel, including 80,000 women. The women were mostly employed on administrative duties.
The NFS was divided into about forty Fire Forces. These were subdivided into Divisions. Each Division had two Columns and each Column had five Companies.
|National Fire Service Ranks|
|Rank||Number in April 1947||Rank||Number in April 1947||London||Outside London|
|Leading Fireman||Leading Firewoman|
|Section Leader||Senior Leading Firewoman||Sergeant||Sergeant|
|Company Officer||1,100||Assistant Group Officer||50||Inspector||Inspector|
|Senior Company Officer||250||Group Officer||27||Sub-Divisional Inspector||Chief Inspector|
|Column Officer||382||Assistant Area Officer||1||Chief Inspector||Superintendent|
|Divisional Officer||194||Area Officer||11||Superintendent||Chief Superintendent|
|Assistant Fire Force Commander||52||Regional Woman Fire Officer||3||Deputy Commander|
|Fire Force Commander||53||Commander|
|Chief Regional Fire Officer|
|Senior Staff Officer|
|Chief of the Fire Staff & Inspector-in-Chief||1|