No.9 - John Richard Rolfe.
is the grave of a local man who is now recorded
nationally in the Police Roll of Honour as he lost his
life during police service when he perished at a fire on
the premises of George Mence Smith,
Margate, on January 23rd 1905. The shop owners paid for the
memorial in recognition of his bravery.
fire started at 1.20am on the morning of Monday the
23rd of January
shop contained quantities
of paraffin, turpentine, methylated spirits, linseed
oil, matches and candles. Mr Richard Haddon, 51 year old
manager, lived on the premises with his wife Mary Ann,
48, his 16 year
old daughter Dorothy, son
Harry Bayley and servant Alice Steadman, aged 19.
Hearing cries for help Constables Lepper,
and Rolfe rushed from the nearby Police Station. They
saw Mr Haddon wearing his nightclothes standing in the
doorway of number 17 number 18 was burning fiercely.
Mr Haddon had summoned help he darted back through the
flames to rescue his wife and family, closely followed
by Constable Rolfe. Mr Haddon, finding escape through
the shop impossible, got his wife and daughter to the
of number 18 where they would be able to drop from a
passage window, about 14 feet, onto the lower roof of
number 17. Mr Haddon went first, followed by his wife.
While he was attempting to break his wife’s fall his
daughter jumped and landed on top of them, breaking his
arm, and three of
wife’s ribs with Dorothy suffering serious head
injuries. Meanwhile, Constables Creed and Lepper, with
help from Mr George Miles of the Crown Hotel, Mr T
Stroud of the Wellington Hotel and Mr. J Crowther a
Market Place who obtained a ladder and raised it against
the side of the wall, found Mr Haddon with his wife and
daughter on the roof; the rescue party then helped them
to the ground. Harry, the son, managed to escape through
the front entrance of number 17 and the servant
made her escape via the rear entrance. Mr and Miss
Haddon were taken to the Crown
Mrs Haddon was taken to the premises of Mr Crowther;
they all received medical attention. But Mr Haddon
re-entered the building and was followed by P.C. Rolfe.
Once inside P.C. Rolfe asked Mr Haddon if he had a
light, as the smoke was so thick, Mr Haddon turned up
the gas light, but it
not burn, so that indicated that there was very little
oxygen in the building. Mr Haddon heard P.C. Rolfe
stumble, he warned him to be careful and that was the
last he heard of him. It seems that when Mr Haddon
turned off the stairs onto the middle landing, P.C.
Rolfe made his way to the top floor
see if anyone was there and was almost immediately
overcome, as the heat and fumes were trapped at the top
of the stairwell, with no outlet. The Fire Brigade
received the call at 1.22am and were on the scene at
1.30am; Mr Haddon had managed to vacate the building and
reported to them that there was no one left on the
premises, mistakenly believing that P.C. Rolfe had made
his way out. The fire was under control
quickly, but in the confusion it was not until well
after 2am that P.C. Rolfe was missed. Two firemen
entered the building and found him lying on his back on
the top of the landing, grasping the banister, calling
for help. They took P.C. Rolfe out to Newbys Place
and tried artificial resuscitation.
Police Surgeon arrived and had him taken to the Police
Station where he carried out a full examination and
pronounced him dead at 3.15am, asphyxiation being the
cause. The poor man had
due to marry in three months time.
Turn around from Richard Rolfe’s Grave and opposite
the Surf Boat Memorial
you will see the Grave of George Baker. George Baker is
the first grave you visit in this section who died as a
result of a tragic accident.