Auxiliary Fire Service Girl, City Fire Station

Image credit: Southwark Art Collection

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Ethel Gabain was born in Le Harve, France, and studied at London’s Slade School of Fine Art and Central School of Arts and Crafts. Known for her portraits of actresses in character roles, Gabain was commissioned to record the effects of the war on Britain. As a war artist, she often portrayed both the physical dangers women faced and women completing tasks traditionally done by men, as with this portrait of an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) girl. During the Second World War, women joined the AFS to help minimise the damage after the bombings. Women undertook training but often did not fight the fires. They became watchers, drivers, and managed communication networks and canteen vans. After the war, the majority of the AFS women were discharged or persuaded to retire.

Southwark Heritage Centre



Auxiliary Fire Service Girl, City Fire Station




oil on canvas


H 78.7 x W 66 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased from the War Artists' Advisory Committee

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Southwark Heritage Centre

Walworth Road, London, Greater London SE17 1RY England

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