THE two Christchurch firefighters who lost their lives in the Great Storm of 1987 will be remembered at a private ceremony in the town’s fire station.

Fireman Graham White, 46, and sub-officer David Gregory, 47, were among 18 people who died as winds gusting up to 100mph ravaged Britain 30 years ago.

They were part of a crew returning to Christchurch fire station after dealing with roof damage in Beacon Drive, Chewton.

Their fire engine had reached Lymington Road, near the junction with Hinton Wood Avenue, at 3am when a 12-tonne elm tree collapsed onto the cab.

A spokesperson for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed there would be an event in honour of the two firefighters on the anniversary of their deaths next Monday.

“We will be marking the anniversary with a memorial event,” she said.

Family have requested that the commemoration remains private.

The two men’s funeral on October 23, 1987, saw hundreds of mourners line the streets of Christchurch.

A cortege went from the fire station to the Priory, with the two coffins draped in Union flags and transported on a fire engine with aerial platform.

Nearly 200 uniformed firefighters from Hampshire and Dorset provided a guard of honour leading to the Priory doors, with more than 600 mourners inside. The firefighters’ sons Ian Gregory, 16, and Timothy White, 23, wore their fathers’ long-service medals.

Christchurch rallied round to contribute to a benefit fund set up by the then-mayor, Cllr David Fox. The appeal reached £5,000 within a few days.

Cllr Fox said then: “Christchurch is a small town and everyone feels a sense of loss.”

The men’s widows, Joyce Gregory and Susanne White, issued a joint statement after the funeral.

They said: “We’re just so proud it’s unbelievable.

“There are just no words to express how we feel. Firemen from all over the country came to pay tribute. It’s been fantastic.

“We wished we could have got out of the funeral car and shaken every man’s hand individually.”

The storm of 1987 caused devastating damage across much of the UK, felling an estimated 15million trees and changing some parts of the country permanently.

It is thought the death toll would have been much higher if the storm had not struck during the night.

Residents of Belle Vue Mansions in Belle Vue Road, Southbourne, were lucky to escape death when the roof was ripped of their building and hurled 150ft into neighbouring Twynham Road.

The storm ripped the roofs of the Greystones flats in Highcliffe, which Christchurch Old People’s Welfare Society had not insured because it had its own workforce to deal with most maintenance.

Christchurch suffered especially badly in the storms, with its borough council estimating at the time that the damage could run to £40,000-£50,000.