Over the years, the Hokitika VFB has been fortunate to have had a series of capable leaders. To date 19 men have operated in the role as head of the Brigade.
What follows is a list of these men, and a short synopsis of their time in the Brigade.
Captain John C. Millard 1865-1866
Captain Millard was the first captain of the Brigade, elected at its formation in November 1865. He was a painter by profession. During his tenure the first Fire Station was built and a hook and ladder was purchased from Ballarat. He retired from the Brigade in 1866.
Captain William Henshaw 1866 to 1867
William Henshaw came to Hokitika in 1866, and was a carpenter by trade. He had previous fire brigade service having been the first captain of the Daylesford Brigade, Victoria, Australia, from 1861. He left to return to Australia in 1867.
Captain Duncan Macfarlane 1867 to 1873
Captain MacFarlane came to the West Coast like so many others, following the mid-1860s gold rush, and like a number of early members he had previous fire brigade experience having served in West Ballarat Brigade, Victoria, Australia, in the early 1860s. He was elected to office in 1867, and presided over a number of improvements to the Brigade. He supervised the relocation of the first Station to Hamilton St, the Brigade’s first manual pump was procured, and a large quantity of hose was also obtained. He served as Captain until 1873, when he left to become resident magistrate at the ill-fated Government settlement at Jackson Bay.
Captain James Shain 1873 to 1875; 1876 to 1881
Captain Shain’s tenure began in 1873, and was interrupted briefly in 1876 when James Holmes took over. Shain saw to the building of the second Station and tower. He was a popular leader, and died unexpected in 1881, while still Captain. The Brigade collected donations and contributed money towards the coast of a memorial stone for his grave. The resulting grave marker still stands in the Hokitika Cemetery with the helmet and axes emblem carved into the top.
Captain James Holmes 1875 to 1876
Captain Holmes served as deputy for a number of years under Captain Macfarlane. He joined the Brigade in 1868. His tenure as Captain was short, and he was voted out in early 1876. He became Lieutenant under Captain Shain for a term, and was associated with the Brigade for a number of years.
Captain Peter Walker 1881 to1882
Captain Walker joined the Brigade at its inception in 1865. He was closely involved with Competitions teams from the early days in the late 1870s. He was made a Life Honorary Member in 1884, and was an active member of the Brigade until 1891 when he received a Gold Star.
Captain Henry L Michel 1882 to 1908
Captain Michel joined the Brigade in 1874. He was active in the early days of Competitions, joining Peter Walker in attending what is probably the earliest national Fire Brigade Competition in Dunedin in 1876. He was elected Lieutenant in 1881. He also became the UFBA president in 1894, hosted the 1894 UFBA Conference in Hokitika and was instrumental in the writing of key clauses in the New Zealand’s first Fire Brigade Bill. He presided over the erection of the third Fire Station. He served on the Hokitika Fire Board, and was involved in many other civic groups in Hokitika. He was also Mayor of Hokitika. Captain Michel retired in 1908.
Superintendant F. W. Thompson 1908 to 1911
Superintendant Thompson joined the Brigade in 1886. He served as Lieutenant under Captain Michel for 5 years, and became Superintendant upon his retirement in 1908. While he resigned in 1911 as Superintendant, he remained a Brigade member until he received his Gold Star.
Superintendant William C. Braddon 1911 to 1928
Superintendant Braddon joined the Brigade in 1881. He was active in competitions in the 1890s. He was Lieutenant under Captain Michel for 10 years. When he left the Brigade for a few years to farm out of town, Braddon relinquished the Lieutenant rank, dropping to Foreman. After returning to full active service in the Brigade in around 1906, he went on to become Superintendant in 1911. After retiring from the Fire Brigade he became a member of the Hokitika Fire Board.
Superintendant J. J. McIntosh 1928 to 1940
Superintendant McIntosh was elected to the Brigade in 1902. He was Brigade Engineer for a number of years, relinquishing the position to become Superintendant in 1928. He promoted the idea of a new station, and was instrumental in getting the Brigade’s first motorised pump in 1935. He retired from the Brigade in 1940 due to ill-health after 38 years service.
Superintendant L. L. Ross 1940 to 1953
Superintendant Ross’ first experience with the Hokitika VFB was as an auxiliary member during World War I, becoming a full member in 1918. He was active in the Competition team and the West Coast Provincial Fire Brigades Association, becoming president in 1938. After a short stint as Foreman in 1927, he became Deputy Superintendant in 1928, a position he held until 1940, when he became Superintendant. He was elected President of the UFBA in 1948. He retired from the Brigade in 1953.
Chief Fire Officer Ces Preston 1953 to 1958
CFO Preston joined the Brigade in 1924. He was active in the Competition team, being part of the successful 1937 team, which came fourth overall at national competitions in Nelson. He was Deputy Superintendant from 1940, and received his Gold Star in 1949. He served as CFO from 1953 until 1958 when he retired from the Brigade.
Chief Fire Officer Malcolm J. Davidson 1958 to 1971
CFO Davidson joined Hokitika VFB in 1931, continuing a strong family association with the Fire Brigade. He was active in the Competition Team, being part of the successful two man team who won the national event in 1955 in Greymouth. He was DCFO from 1953 to 1957. He became CFO in 1958, retiring in 1971, serving for 40 years.
Chief Fire Officer Peter Thompson 1971 to 1983
CFO Thompson joined the Brigade in 1948, like other former CFOs following other members of his family serving the Brigade. He competed for many years in competition team. He was DCFO from 1958 to 1971. During his tenure as CFO he presided over the change in administration from the Hokitika Fire Board to the New Zealand Fire Service. In 1981 he received the Queen’s Fire Service Medal. He retired from the Brigade in 1983 after 35 years of service.
Chief Fire Officer Raymond K. Breeze 1983 to 1989
CFO Breeze joined Hokitika VFB in 1956. His family also has a strong historical association with the Brigade. He was in the Competition team and served in the Provincial Association. He was elected an Officer in 1965, and DCFO in 1978. In 1989 he retired, and in June of that year he received an MBE.
Chief Fire Officer Colin Growcott 1989 to 1999
CFO Growcott joined the Brigade in 1956. He ran in the Competition team during his early years, and was active in the West Coast Provincial FB Association. He instigated plans for a new Station and was DCFO from 1983. He served until 1999, contributing 44 years to the Brigade. He received a QSM in 1999.
Chief Fire Officer Graeme McMullan 1999 to 2002
CFO McMullan joined the Brigade in 1972. He was in the Competition team and served in the Provincial Association. He served 30 years before he retired in 2002.
Chief Fire Officer Wayne Thompson 2002 to 2006
CFO Thompson joined the Brigade in 1976. Like two generations of his family before him he joined the Competition team and saw much success during his participation. He over saw the building of the new Station that opened in 2003. He served 30 years before retiring in 2006.
Chief Fire Officer John (Harry) Collett 2006 to today
CFO Collett joined the Brigade in 1989. He participated in the Competition team during the 1990s, and has been active in the West Coast Provincial Association. CFO Collett is the current Hokitika chief.