Ex-fireman wins prize for engine
5:30am Thursday 4th September 2014 in By Craig Jones, Reporter
RETIRED firefighter Chris Wannell and his wife Audrey won a top prize at the Great Dorset Steam Fair after displaying their vintage fire engine.
Mr Wannell, 73, who serves on Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council, received the Bill Budden Challenge Cup for best vintage commercial vehicle for the couple’s 1937 red Leyland engine.
The couple beat off competition from 300 other exhibitors to win the award at the fair, which was held last weekend, and Mr Wannell said the prize came out of the blue as work on the vehicle was incomplete.
“It was a shock as we don’t go to these events to win prizes, we just go to enjoy the ambiance and meet new people,” he said.
“This is a huge honour and a big shock too as the vehicle isn’t actually finished yet. I’m still working on it.”
He purchased the vehicle in 1980 and has begun displaying it at events in recent years.
He said: “I’d been doing bits and pieces on it but the big turning point came in February 2012 when my daughter Heather got engaged.
“I said I’d get the fire engine ready to be part of the celebration and it was there for the ceremony in October.”
The pair received a trophy to go with their title and are now planning on giving the Leyland pump vehicle a new base coat of red paint to further spruce it up.
The Wannells also displayed their 1943 Austin K4 turn table ladder fire engine at the show.
And it was a true family affair, as they were joined by their grown-up children, Martin and Heather, and their grandchildren at the event.
Martin displayed a 1959 Commer water tender along with his parents’ vehicles.
“It was a great having my children and grandchilden there.
“We love to go to these events as a family,” said Mr Wannell, who started displaying his Austin fire engines at shows in 1976, with the family since going on to display at events such as Castle Combe and the Gloucestershire Steam Extravaganza.
“I have owned the Austin for 39 years. I was an engineer and retained firefighter before I retired so working on these vehicles is a great fit for me.
“We just can’t believe that we won the cup at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. We are trying to find a place to put the trophy.”