Captain Kerosene: An Adventurous Life

This is the tale of Captain Kerosene. My maternal Grandfather. A Son of the British Empire. A Cabin Boy, a Sailor, a Soldier, a Husband, a Father, a Grandfather, but I think mostly a Fireman.


Dagga [as we called him] died shortly after I started kindergarten, although his legacy and presence in my life remains strong to this day. He was a figure of imposing statue. Perhaps not through physical height, although he was tall, but height of character. A commanding, respected figure of authority, and that was just around the house,.. ha ha.. Yet despite his booming voice, hands that could span both mine with room leftover, he left me with a sense of security, protection, love and respect, and a grounded sense of belonging. He also taught us to ‘Speak the Queen’s English’ and ‘Put your shoulders back girl!’. Yet the overall feeling I recall is love.

BeingRuby - Grandfather2


As a child I was entertained and fascinated by stories of this man who seemed invincible. Stories I thought had been tweaked into grandiose by their telling and retelling. Yet I would learn in later life that these stories had been not stretched beyond their truth. This was a man who spent his youth travelling the world looking for adventure. Be it as a merchant marine in his teens, one of only two who survived a shipwreck in the merciless Bay of Biscay. A soldier in the Salonican Army, fighting alongside the Allied Russians when separated from his troop. Awarded a lifetime pension by the Russians for his bravery and commitment. Now this one I surely thought a glossy fib until I found the papers, buried under other childhood remnants in my fathers garage.

On the beltana

BeingRuby - Grandfather3


In the 1920’s he migrated to Australia, working for his passage aboard the merchant ship ‘Beltana’. It was here in Sydney he would find his destiny in both family and career.

A Lad & his Sidekick

BeingRuby - Grandfather4

Why Captain Kerosene

A legend always needs a great moniker. According to a newspaper article I found, no one knows why. My mother though would tell otherwise. She told us colleagues awarded him this name for the volumes of ‘Fire He Had Eaten’ during his 33 years in the NSW Fire Brigade. She would tell us humorous stories of her youth living above the Firehouse he captained. And yet sadder stories of a grown man coming home from work and collapsing in tears from the horrors he had witnessed during days and nights of fighting fires within the Sydney CBD. In those days the ladders were wooden and building materials were not chosen for their fire retardant nature. Hence tragedies were an everyday occurrence in the life of a fireman. He went on to become Sydney Fire Brigade’s Drill Instructor and during the war trained the Police & Armed Forces in fire fighting. So as you can see, he was a legend, at least in the eyes of his family and colleagues.

Sydney Fire Brigade

BeingRuby - Grandfather5

A Career Fireman

BeingRuby - Grandfather6


Of course there were also the funny stories. Stories of growing up with a strict British father [and drill instructor!] during the years of WWII, and then the more liberated years that followed. I imagine rearing a teenage girl above a Firehouse must of been one of his greatest challenges!.

I think for all his adventures, his lifelong loves would always be his family and the Fire Brigade

Captain Kerosene

beingRuby - Grandfather7

His Legacies a

RL - rowboats

So Happy ‘Grand’ Fathers Day

You’ll forgive me for rambling on about my hero. Personally I think all Firemen [and Firewomen] are heroes!

My Black & White Sunday post can be found over [here]

Images: All images are from the family library of ‘BeingRuby’ [with the exception of the blue image from Ralph Lauren]


Greet Lefèvre said...

You might be proud of your Grand Father!
And the pictures, please take care of them! For your grand children and their grandchildren!
Maybe there will be a next fireman between one of those!


Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Oh Julie,
I just loved reading about your Grandfather... a true hero. To have been in the Navy and the Army is pretty amazing and then to have been a fire fighter AND to have survived them all, is a feat in itself.
What fabulous photographs as well. I mean, they are really special photos.
And to cap it all it means that you are really British. Well, part at least. !!!! Ha Ha XXXX

anythinggoeshere said...

What an interesting man he was and thank you for telling us his story. I also think the firemen and women are some of our biggest heros. What great pictures you have of him ~ I especially like the one of him getting ready to climb on the roof. Happy B/W Sunday to you!

Maya said...

A 100%, all firemen are heroes. I love to watch Rescue Me, a show about firemen in New York City, created by actor Denis Leary after the World Trade Center attack. And what a great story about your grandfather! I never knew my grandfathers..., one drank himself to death, and the other, hmmmm, I'm sure my parents told me, but I don't remember. Love all your pictures too!

Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

Absolutely adore the story of your Captain Kerosene! It is evident from the photos alone that he was a very stoic and magnificent man.

My father is a retired fire chief (35+years), and I have always considered him my hero.

Chemin des Muguets said...

My dear Julie,

Thank you for this touching narrative about your brave grandfather.


Jane said...

An amzing story he sounds like a wonderful man. I do think the men of those days lived such interesting, brave and diverse lives - that is less open to men now, maybe. How I wish our grandfathers could have lived longer so we could enjoy them when we were in a position to appreciate their charms and achievements.

Unknown said...

What an interesting post! It brings me a lot of joy to know that a child can lose a grandparent at a young age but still carry their sense of love with them into adulthood!

:) T said...

Happy Ftahers Day and Grean Fathers Day to all the dads. Lovely story Julie, have a great weekend.

simon said...

I can really relate to this post. I always felt really close to my grandfather on my dads side. Stories of bringing cattle and sheep down the Paroo and Darling River, huge hands, Grand stories and adventure.

Great photos especially in the pevious post!

Thanks Julie!

Millie said...

Just a wonderful, loving tribute Julie! I think you have inherited some of his traits - bravery, humour, fearlessness & a very big heart.
Millie ^_^

Sahildeki Ev said...

He was such a handsome man. I did not know any of my grandfathers. They both died before I was born. I always try to imagine how life would be with a fun and loving grandfather. I always feel that I missed something big in my childhood.

Samy said...

What an amazing story, thankyou for sharing. I wrote a post about my father whom I lost last year but couldn't press the "publish post" button so I agree with Millie about you inheriting some of your grandfather's traits.
That picture where he is about to get on the rooftop is my favourite too.

Kellie Collis said...

My Pop is my hero too. Such a fabulous man. Hope you had a lovely day.x

Lee said...

Julie, what a fascinating, courageous and wonderful man your grandfather was. His legacy lives on in his family, and most of all you. Thank you for sharing. Lee :)

Courtney said...

What a sweet tribute to your grandfather! He sounds like an amazing man. You are lucky to have gotten the chance to know such a special person.

count it all joy said...

What a magnificent man and what a privledge to be his Grand-daughter. I'm sure his legacy lives on in your determination to be fearless. I'm only new to your blog, and I just love it here. I look forward to visiting often. Meredith xo.

Julie B. [Holland] said...

Julie, I lost all my grandparents when I was quite young , I dont have too many memories. Nice to read your story it was quite touching. Thanks for sharing yourself and your family with us.Have a great week... Julie/Holland :)

Made in Persbo...Carina said...

Hi Julie!

I just loved reading about your grandfather and I belive you have every right to be proud of him!
And as you said...every other firemen and firewomen are heroes as well!
Beautiful pictures you show us!

About the fleamarket...I rent a table at the lokal fleamarket once or twice a year. And sometimes I go with my car to a carbootsale.

Have a lovely day Julie!
Hugs, Carina

Tamerie Shriver Halliday said...

Great story and wonderful pictures! Thanks for sharing the story of Captain Kerosene.

The Sobbing Settee ... said...

What a beautifully written tribute to an amazing man!

Reading it took me back to many wonderful memories I have of my gramps ... and then I had to cry ... happy tears they were ;-)

Big thank you!

Fifi Flowers said...

FABULOUS photos!
By chance are you feeling LUCKY... well you should... you WON the giveaway on my blog... come see...

koralee said...

Your post is beautiful....I am sure your Grandfather would of been very proud of it! Wonderful words for a Wonderful Man. Happy Australian Father's Day....

Elaine said...

Such a heartfelt tribute to your grandfather! They don't make them like that anymore.

Fascinating photos from the past. I loved looking at all the old uniforms and vintage fashion.

As always another thoughtful and interesting post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, Julie. I've been away for a while, but thought to use this morning to catch up on your news. I started with your tribute to Captain Kerosene. You posted a heartwarming story here! I'm sure you treasure the photos and information you have on your grandfather. And like no other you know how to put it into words - beautifully!

Jane said...

Hi Julie
How fortunate that you have these photos of your grandfather. He truly was heroic...a man worthy of looking up to. What an appropriate name! Thank you for sharing his story.

Jane (Artfully Graced)

Drawn to The Sea said...

What a wonderful tale, I feel as tho I've just met the Captain. Seeing a hero through the eyes of an adoring girl... surely you have a really good book in you about this one.

(I totally agree about those who rush into fires to save others... the most amazing kind of bravery.)


Alicia said...

We have this in common!! My maternal Grandfather was a NYC fireman for 40 years rising to Chief of his borough. My mom grew up with dalamations I grew up with stories of danger & death. I thought it was soo cool & still do. He died in 1998 at 93 but here at my desk he gazes at me in his dress uniform from 1940. I really need to get a scanner.
I love the photos. I often wonder if 60 years from now ours will have the character that theirs posess???

Mélanie said...

I have loved reading this post about your grandfather. You must be very proud of him