Mavis (or DPW 111) was born at just about the time of the outbreak of World War 2 in August 1939. She is a Morris Commercial CVS 11/40 known as the Equiload. Mr Joe Diver the surveyor for Downham Market UDC (or RDC?) in Norfolk purchased her out of his own pocket for use of the town's fire brigade. She had a 35ft Ajax wooden ladder on top, a brass swivel searchlight on the near side windscreen pillar and a hand operated brass bell. Four firemen sat on benches either side in the back. There was a 40 gallon water tank and a hose reel which could be run out through rollers in the side lockers. A lever in the cab behind the gear lever drove a pump via the gear box. She towed a Dennis Major pump.
When the war had been going for some time the fire services were nationalised. Mavis found herself at the Norfolk Fire headquarters in Hethersett just outside Norwich. It was thought that enemy action could disable the telephone service so Mavis was converted into a wireless communication vehicle. She served in this capacity through to the post war period. The telephones were never put out of action so Mavis only really went out on exercises which may account for her low mileage of 15,000 today.
She was auctioned off as surplus to requirements in the 1950's to a Norfolk man who converted her to a camper van. Bunks across the bulkhead, sink and cooker down one side, bench along the other side with a table which could be folded down to make a double bed in the middle. Great fun.
1964 saw her arrival at the Clayton family. Three children, a St Bernard dog and two grown-ups. We had great times. Great birthday parties. In those days it was possible to camp in out of the way places without necessarily invoking the wrath of the authorities. We went all over East Anglia and penetrated as far as North Yorkshire on our weekends and holidays.
The small people grew into larger people and mechanical problems multiplied - we outgrew her. We had become so fond of her that we were loth to part so we kept her without taking her out. The local fire brigade heard about her languishing and suggested that she would make a good project for their apprentices to restore. One day she was towed away to her old home at Downham Market and sheltered in a shed behind the Fire Station. There she remained as no sooner had she arrived than the apprentice scheme fell victim to the latest round of economies. Her condition continued to deteriorate and the Fire Service began asking questions about what we proposed to do with her as they were about to build a new station and wanted the space.
We had become friendly with a local crowd of re-enactors. During a conversation one day in the pub somebody let slip that what she would really like was a mobile WVS canteen to take to re-enactments. It would be much more fun than the usual trestle table. The penny dropped and the rest is history. Mavis was rescued, the fire brigade had their shed back and Mavis was ensconced in another shed in a nettle patch behind the bus garage in Wymondham (Wind'em as they say in Norfolk). Here she remained for a number of years while she went through a root, branch and expensive renovation.
She returned home one sunny day in 2004 all bright and bushy tailed. We have equipped her with crockery, teapots and many other artefacts. There is a two burner Valor paraffin stove for boiling water with an oven for heating sausage rolls. A small table and chairs for the convenience of our clients outside. Two hatches through which we serve char and wads to our brave boys. She can be seen at numerous re-enactments, mostly in East Anglia as she is quite thirsty and heavy to drive.
We have met one or two people who remember driving Mavis in her fire brigade days. We had wondered about some initials scratched into the metal inside the steering wheel boss. One day at Bressingham Steam Museum we were showing Mavis off to a Mr Watson, an ex-fireman. He used to drive Mavis in his youth as indeed had his father. He remembered the occasion when he inscribed his initials (JRW) there. We have been presented with a gorgeous brass bell which we can ring to tell the troops when the kettle has boiled and sandwiches made.
And then there is Kip. Mavis is not very comfortable to spend the night in, all hard boards and sharp corners. Kip is her tender behind. A small Dutch caravan just big enough for the two of us to sleep in and make a cup of tea with our cornflakes in the morning. She tows comfortably behind Mavis.
For the technically minded Mavis' engine is a six cylinder side valve with a bore of 82mms and a stroke of 110mms. 3485cc. Maximum break horsepower 70. Four bearing crankshaft. 2.375 gallon oil sump . Coil ignition. Four speed gear box. Solex carburetter type 35TVDL. Autovac fuel pump. She does about 12-15mpg.
We are always thrilled to hear from people with any sort of interest or news. Knowledge about her early life, the factory where she was made, Norfolk Fire Service. We can attend events if not too far away! We are on the look-out for contemporary artefacts ranging from a humble roller towel to WVS uniforms, hats, badges, overalls. In short anything to enhance her authenticity. We can be contacted via her website or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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