In 1929, firemen in Gillingham, England planned to show off their abilities by “rescuing” nine boys and six firemen from a house. Due to an unknown error, all fifteen died.
The Fireman’s Wedding refers to the tradition in which two firemen would dress as the bride and groom and stage the fire-fighting demonstration based on a mock wedding party. The annual fair was held in Gillingham Park in aid of St Bartholomew's Hospital Fund. The finale was always a rescue and fire-fighting demonstration by the Gillingham Fire Brigade.
For many years, the closing event at the Gillingham Park fair was a display to show off the skills of the Gillingham Fire Brigade. Each year, a house of wood and canvas, three stories and 40 feet high, was constructed in the park. Fire Brigade members would stage a ‘mock rescue’ of a wedding party from a simulated fire in the replica house; the goal was to demonstrate their prowess and skills as they rescued all the guests from the house. Six men and nine boys between the ages of 10 and 14 entered the house ready to enact their staged rescue. The display at the fair on 11 July 1929 went tragically wrong and real flames engulfed the house and its occupants. Despite the presence of the Fire Brigade, 13 people were burned to death in front of a crowd that contained many of their relatives and remaining two died later in the hospital.