|Compagnie de Pompiers Militaires Bucarest
The Bucharest Military Firefighting Company was established in 1844, following the law project by General Starov in 1835 and modernized by the Department of Internal Affairs in 1843, through the law put forth by Muntenia’s legislative body and promulgated by its ruler, George Bibescu, on the 29th of February 1844.
The Company had a “Section” in each sector of Bucharest, named a “Commission”, and a central Section attached to the police, called “Agie”. The unit, operationally independent, was functionally linked to the Police and administratively to the Army. It was made up of officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers transferred from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Infantry Regiments of Muntenia. Command of the unit was entrusted to Captain Emanoil Boteanu. The duration of compulsory service for privately enlisted men among the Firefighters was, similarly to the militia forces, 6 months. The Firefighters’ training and equipment were provided with regard to both aspects: military and firefighting. The regular uniform and the basic drills were almost identical to those of the Line Infantry.
Thus, the unit did not only distinguish itself in its field of specialization, as for instance it did during the Great Bucharest Fire of 1847, but also in the military field of operations, where the soldiers of the Company, through their skill, valour and sheer selflessness, proved themselves in the battle of Dealul Spirii, on the 13th of September 1848, battle which was fought in conditions of numerical inferiority against the troops of the Ottoman Empire. 150 men of the Bucharest Firefighters’ Company were sent that day, under the command of Lieutenant Pavel Zaganescu, to the barracks of the cavalry at Dealul Spirii, alongside 750 soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments. They were to participate in the ceremony of transferring of the barracks to a Turkish column 5 000 strong, led by Kerim-Pasha, part of the Ottoman occupation troops. A full-blown battle broke out, suddenly putting an end to the ceremony, because of a melee which spiralled out of control, between Romanian firefighters, striving to get into formation, and Turkish soldiers, blocking the way. The Ottomans started firing their cannons at close range, but the Romanian firefighters, in a dazzling show of bravery and bold action, conquered the guns and turned them against their former owners. After a brief attempt by officers to put an end to the conflict, Turkish soldiers began savagely stabbing the Romanian wounded soldiers with bayonets, as retribution for their audacity. This rekindled the fire of battle, with even greater intensity. Of the Romanian firemen 2 officers and 48 soldiers fell, while 57 men were injured. Among the Ottomans, 1 senior officer, a few officers and 158 soldiers were slain – the number of Turkish injured was not disclosed. One of the leaders of the Firefighters’ Company was forced to take refuge in Transylvania, after the skirmish, supporting the battle for liberation of the Romanians in that province. Junior Lieutenant Dinca Balsan became a centurion in the Legion of Axente Sever.
The law of 1844, by which the Firefighting Company was created, established that the Firemen’s uniforms were to be “just so as those of the Army’s Infantry” but with slight differences. The shape and colour of the uniforms remained unchanged up until 1851:
– A ridged brass helmet, with the Eagle of Muntenia on the front and with a scaled chinstrap. At ceremonies, a black horsetail was attached to the ridge. The alternative headgear was a so-called “round cap”, of grey cloth, with a short round leather visor, with a small and soft brim and with a strip in the characteristic colour of the “Commission” to which the soldier belonged. The Section attached to the Agie had been assigned the colour red, with the Eagle of Muntenia on the front.
– Tunic of dark-blue cloth, with slightly shorter laps than those of the Line Infantry, with a straight collar, with one row of 9 gilt buttons, with cornered cuffs, with false pocket flaps at the back, fastened with 6 gilt buttons, with piping at the collar, the shoulder-boards, the cuffs and at the back flaps, in the colour of the “Commission” the soldier belonged to – red.
– Black cloth tie.
– Straight dark-blue breeches, with red piping in the colour of the “Commission” the respective soldier belonged to. Those of the Agie Section had red piping.
– The “Firefighting” uniform consisted of a dark-blue spencer, with a wide leather belt at the waist, grey breeches – the spencer and the breeches were of canvas for the summer attire. The “Firefighting” helmet was devoid of the ridge and of the black horsetail, but instead had on the front the number of the “Section” the soldier belonged to, instead of the Eagle. The Section of the Agie kept the Eagle on the “Firefighting” helmet as well.
– Black laced boots.
– A cartridge pouch and a bayonet scabbard suspended on two wide black leather belts, worn diagonally across the chest.
-Rank insignia was represented on the collar, through borders of white braided lace stripes, for NCOs and Junior Officers, and silver thread for Officers. Officers also wore scaled metal epaulettes on their shoulders and the Hausse-Col at the neck, a distinctive mark in the shape of a metallic crescent, on which the Eagle of Muntenia was represented in relief.
Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza created a special medal, “Pro Virtute Militari”, to reward the firemen heroes of the battle of Dealul Spirii, by the Law nr. 20 on the 30th of May 1860. The medal had an inscription on the back with the date and the location of this significant feat of arms, unique in the military history of Romania. The decoration was awarded only after Romania had obtained its independence, under the ruler Carol I, by way of law I.D. 9067 of September 8th 1878.
By Royal Decree 1368 of May 15th 1935, the Military Firefighting Companies of Bucharest and Iasi were awarded the right to wear, as of the 9th of May 1935, the commemorative “100 Year Hausse-Col”, identical for both officers and regular soldiers. This was a mark of yellow metal, crescent shaped, bearing the royal crown and the coat of arms of Muntenia. It was worn in front, under the lower edge of the collar, attached by a chain around the neck. It was meant to identify the units of great prestige in the Romanian army which had reached 100 years of glorious and uninterrupted existence.