The Green Goddess or Bedford self-propelled pump is a type of fire engine. It has recently made the headlines because emergency fire cover will be provided by Green Goddesses manned by the armed forces during the British firefighters' strike, as a part of Operation Fresco. The first part of the strike ran from 1800 GMT, November 13th, 2002 until 1800 GMT November 15th, 2002

Vehicles for the apocalypse

After the second world war it was decided that in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, what remained of urban fire brigades would need assistance in coping with the aftermath of the attack. The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), an organisation consisting chiefly of civilian volunteers, would tackle blazes and restore water supplies using Green Goddesses.

A rugged fire fighting vehicle was designed and production began in 1953. At the time, they were state of the art fire fighting vehicles, better than what most local authorities had.


The nuclear attack that the Green Goddess was created for never came, and in 1968 the AFS was disbanded. The Green Goddess fleet was put into storage, emerging occasionally to assist in various emergencies, such as pumping water in floods or drought or more notably during the firefighters' strike of 1977.

The Green Goddesses have seen fairly little use over the past few decades and many have under 3000 miles on the clock. They have been kept in good condition and well maintained over the years, but how efficient will the fleet of 827 vehicles that the MoD will be deploying be at fighting fires? The Green Goddesses will probably be as good at fighting fires as they have ever been, but basically the problem is that firefighting technology has moved on in the last 50 years.

Inferior equipment

A Green Goddess has a single 35 ft ladder, incapable of reaching any height above the second floor of a house or office, whereas a recent fire engines, of which more than 3000 are in use, have 5 45 ft ladders and 150 ft aerial platform turntables. A Green Goddess carries only 300 gallons of water, 200 less than its modern counterparts. Not only that but a Green Goddess only has a low pressure pump, whereas modern fine engines have high pressure pumps, which create a high pressure mist of water that is more efficient at putting out fires.

The Green Goddess has a generally inferior set of equipment. They have no radio (but during Operation Fresco they will have police escorts when on duty). They do not have respirator equipment, essential for rescuing people trapped in burning buildings. Separate teams equipped for entering smoke-filled buildings will be available during Operation Fresco, but there are not enough teams for each Green Goddess to be accompanied by one. They do not have cutting gear, useful for rescuing people trapped in car accidents. Lastly a modern fire engine can usually reach speeds of 70 or 80 mph, whereas a Green Goddess tops out at just 35 mph. A few minutes make an enormous difference when it comes to fighting fires. The only area where the Green Goddess wins is that it has four wheel drive which most fire engines lack.

Overall, the Green Goddess is a simple machine, because it was designed to be operated by civilian crews with only basic firefighting training. As Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alan House, author of They Rode Green Fire Engines says "If you just need to pour water on something it's okay, but it doesn't carry the range of equipment fire engines do". Although Operation Fresco partially addresses this lack of specialist equipment, the Green Goddess is unsurprisingly no match for a modern fire engine.,12536,816998,00.html