Staring at the tattoos on his forearms, Lanztville Deputy Fire Chief John Marment pauses, squints then nods his head slowly. “Yes,” he says in an accent that 25 years in Canada has failed to dent, “I’m pretty sure my wife’s name’s on at least one of these.”
The uncertainty can be forgiven – the ink, after all, was applied more than 50 years ago when Marment joined the British Army at 17 and saw active service hunting insurgents in the Middle East. But while the tattoos may have faded with time, Marment’s focus remains razor sharp.
“Being a firefighter is about helping people in need,” he says. “I’m just one of those people that has to help others, and coming to the Lantzville Hall has allowed me to continue to do that.”
A native of the London suburb of Croydon, Marment ended his Army career after nine years and returned home to become a professional firefighter. His job was a busy one, with his Fire Hall averaging 300 calls per month. He saw his fair share of tragedy, but prefers to remember the happier outcomes, like the night his crew responded to a fire at a local pub.
Marment was alone outside operating the engine’s pump while all seven colleagues went inside. “Suddenly I heard ‘Help, help!’” from around the corner,” he recalls. “There on the roof was the pub’s owner, his wife, their two kids and their German Shepherd. Behind them the roof of the pub was fully involved. I knew I needed to get a ladder to them immediately.”
Single-handedly Marment guided each person down the ladder. His fellow firefighters exited the building in time to see him carrying the huge Shepherd down in his arms. “After that,” he laughs, “it was always ‘woof, woof’ when the lads wanted to poke fun.”
In 1990, after 15 years as a firefighter, Marment and wife Ann decided to follow her parents (Ann’s Mom was a war bride) in moving to Canada. They first settled in North Nanaimo, but four years later set down permanent roots in Lantzville. Now married 46 years, the pair have two sons, Lee and Roger, and now two granddaughters, Abby and Gillian.
One of Marment’s first tasks in Canada was getting his window cleaning business off the ground. He remembers walking the streets handing out more than 3,000 flyers. These days Choice Cleaning Services enjoys a huge client base and is so successful Marment refers to himself, tongue-in-cheek, as a “Vision Technician.”
Marment’s next task on arriving in Lantzville was to become a volunteer firefighter. “It was in my blood, I guess. I wanted to carry on serving. I’d served my country and my community in England, now I wanted to serve my new country and my new community.”
With a few years before retirement Marment is proud of the choices he’s made. He’s never been back to England (family come to visit him) and as the Hall’s training officer for the past 10 years he’s shared a wealth of firefighting experience. Most of all, he still gets to serve.
“It’s one of the best occupations I could have picked,” he says of firefighting. “You always know someone’s in trouble and needs your help. I’ve always found it so rewarding – coming back in the morning, knowing you’ve done your job”.