CFA officially recognised Duncan Holman’s 80 years of service yesterday amongst family, friends and his brigade.
Duncan joined his local brigade in Drouin in 1938 when he was 14 years old, seven years before CFA was formed.
“He’s big enough, send him over tonight and we’ll sign him up – and he signed me up that night,” Duncan said.
Duncan describes his early years in the brigade as thrilling and exciting.
“I had a lot of mates in the brigade, we all trained together and we all got along.”
From the early days of attending fires with a horse and cart and hand pumping water out of the ground, Duncan said they were happy to receive their first truck.
“The truck held about two gallons of water which lasted about two minutes,” Duncan explained.
However, little water was better than none… “A lot of the time we had no water, because we had no pump, so we had to fight fires with beaters.”
Within Duncan’s first year with the brigade, he had to face the devastating Black Friday fires in 1939. The fire killed 71 people, destroyed around 1,000 homes and burnt more than two million hectares of forest.
“We saw a lot of devastation that day, a lot of lives lost,” he said.
A few years later Duncan lied about his age so he could serve in World War II – touring New Guinea as an Engineer.
He returned to Australia and settled in Longwarry where he soon became Captain of the Longwarry Fire Brigade. He held this title for more than 35 years.
Within this time he also married Betty. She was the Communications Officer at Longwarry Fire Brigade for 30 years.
“I was lucky to have Betty because I could get away to fires without getting in trouble,” Duncan said.
Duncan was promoted to Deputy Group Officer after the Gippsland fires in the 70s. Following those fires he earnt the Queen’s medal.
Along with many other medals, in 1991 CFA honoured Duncan a life member.
His son Peter Holman is carrying on his father’s legacy as a volunteer firefighter with CFA’s Warragul Fire Brigade.
Peter describes how inspiring and proud he is of his father.
“He was a very good leader, he inspired the troops and he led by example,” Peter said.
Duncan is the first person to receive an 80 year service medal and he was genuinely humbled by the award.
“I’m honoured, too right I’m honoured,” Duncan said.
“I enjoyed every minute of my life when I was in the fire brigade.”
Photos by CFA Photographer Keith Pakenham