Hampshire Fire and Rescue’s first black firefighter has detailed the battles of racism that he faced during his two-decade career.

Ludwig Ramsey joined the service back in 1988, where he served in Basingstoke for five years and Andover for the remainder of the time until 2008.

He said he didn't realise at the moment of joining that he was the first black firefighter.

"It was sought of leaked to me that I was," he told the Advertiser.

"Everyone was a bit apprehensive at the start."

Prior to joining, the now 60-year-old had been part of the RAF where he says he suffered at the hands of racism.

"When I joined the fire brigade, I made sure I was going to challenge all the racism that came my way, which was for most of my career," he said.

"In 1999, a report was published following the death of Stephen Lawrence a few years prior."

The Macpherson report to which he is referring, sparked debate about policing and racism.

"I thought it would be a real kick-start for the brigade to move forward with black and ethnic groups, but it didn’t happen," he added.

"It’s not so much the colleagues on the ground; change has to come from senior management.

"The colleagues understand you have challenges, but if those issues aren't addressed at the top then nothing will happen."

Mr Ramsey finished working for Hampshire Fire and Rescue in 2008, at which time he said not a lot had changed in terms of recruiting BAME groups.

"I don't think progress has been made," he said.

"When we had the review, we were like the police, we were set targets which in my opinion were too low. When I retired there were only about a dozen black firefighters,

"The police invested and they had black officers in at the time, and they utilised those officers.

"The fire brigade never did anything in the beginning and they just assumed the issue would fix itself."

A spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue said that they currently have 37 roles across the organisation filled by people who identify as a member of a BAME group.

But it is possible some of these people have been counted twice if for example they are a fulltime firefighter and in their free time they are an on-call firefighter.

The spokesman also added that there are a "significant number" of people who preferred not to provide this information and as such has not been included.

He recalls a time when he was part of the union, when a deputy chief from Chicago's fire department talked to them about the struggles they experienced in America and the difference change made.

"As soon as they got more black people in, the fire deaths went down because the black firefighters were talking to their community and were able to provide knowledge to those communities that weren't being focused on before," Mr Ramsey said.

"You have to have visual role models in place."

The trailblazer decided to join the fire brigade after witnessing an incident up close, but added that this shouldn't be the norm.

"I grew up in London, and when I was living there one of my friends had a serious fire," he added.

"I came out with everyone else and we thought they were going to die. The fire brigade came and they got everyone out and I thought this is the job I want to be in.

"I was in a position where I couldn’t help, and I thought I want to be in a position where I can help."

Mr Ramsey wants Hampshire Fire and Rescue to do more in trying to recruit people like him and to be "more transparent" in that process.

Inclusion and diversity manager Leanne Illman said: “The lack of BAME candidates applying for fire service positions is a national issue and we at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service are committed to addressing this and being an inclusive employer.

“We have recently hosted a national conference for the Asian Fire Service Association, one of our fire stations was named as a spiritual home of Black History Month and we have twice appeared in the Guinness Book of Records for our engagement work.

“We had held community faith days for Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Vaisakhi, and Chinese New Year, promoted our dedicated network groups and attend Melas and other ethnic events to explain why the fire service is a great place to work. We have taken strides forward in recent years but recognise more needs to be done.”

Hampshire Fire and Rescue will shortly be opening recruitment and you can find out more information by following this link.