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St John Ambulance - Join the club

PUBLISHED: 12:21 02 November 2011 | UPDATED: 16:48 20 February 2013

The UK's leading first aid charity, the volunteers at St John Ambulance provide cover at major events, respond to all kinds of emergencies and help train the public. Here, spokesman for the Surrey division, JANE GARRETT, tells us more

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2010

The UKs leading first aid charity, the volunteers at St John Ambulance provide cover at major events, respond to all kinds of emergencies and help train the public. Here, spokesman for the Surrey division, JANE GARRETT, tells us more

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When was the club set up?
St John Ambulance was founded in 1877, with members concentrating on teaching first aid in the heavy industry areas of the Midlands where accidents were frequent, and the volunteer first aid organisation grew out of that. In 1887, the national uniformed St John Ambulance Brigade was founded the pioneering ambulance service in the UK.
The organisation arrived in Surrey three years later, when volunteers set up in Guildford in 1890 and in Caterham in 1896. Today, there are divisions all over the county, which still provide a relief ambulance service, working with the NHS. Theres also a St John LINKS division at Surrey University, a Surrey Band and a Fellowship Group for retired members.

How often do you meet?
Divisions meet once a week for training, talks and activities. There are training courses, exercises with other emergency services and competitions. Members expertise ranges from first aider to nurse, ambulance crew, paramedic and doctor. They contribute as much time as they feel able, providing first aid cover at sporting and public events from village fetes to GuilFest, the Derby weekend and the London/Brighton bike ride. The recent annual Transfer of the Colours ceremony in Weybridge celebrated a magnificent total of 165,000 hours of volunteering over the past year in Surrey alone.

Whats the best thing about being a member of the club?
That sense of satisfaction from being able to help others when the need arises. For example, saving the life of a member of the audience at the 2008 Music on Fire Concert at Sandhurst when he had a heart attack.

Do you find being surrounded by like-minded individuals inspiring?
Yes, because teamwork is very important both in training and when working together providing first aid cover at public events.

How many members do you have?
Surrey has a total of 1,235 members, which includes 222 Badgers aged five to ten and cadets aged 11 to 18. The Badgers are Surreys fastest growing youth movement.

Do you have links with other clubs?
Members work with the Red Cross, the Police, the South East Coast Ambulance Service and the Fire and Rescue Service, helping at major events and at times of national or local emergencies such as floods. They also take part in emergency training exercises with the other services, for example a simulated inferno at Charterhouse School near Godalming.

Whats the most interesting story from the groups history?
When blizzards made roads impassable recently, our members used the Surrey St Johns fleet of 4x4 vehicles to rescue patients when normal ambulances couldnt get through. Last winter, they even helped an NHS crew deliver a baby.
When Surrey St John ambulances get upgraded, the old ones are often driven by members to other countries where they are needed. Several have been driven right across Europe.

and the funniest?
This could have resulted in a major sense of humour failure, but luckily all was well in the end! Cranleigh Division decided to try for the Guinness Book of Records. Their idea? To set 24,000 candles alight at once in a huge cross design on Cranleigh Showground. The first attempt was a washout, with torrential rain. The second attempt was blown away by gusting winds. The entire candle design was then repositioned with help from two former Mayors of Waverley, Celia and John Savage, and hurrah! Three days later, the wind dropped and the spectacle was absolutely breathtaking.

When is your next event that is open to the public/potential new members?
On Saturday April 24, Surrey is holding its free life-saving training day for the public at 14 venues across the county. Come and meet our volunteers, do the training and find out about becoming a member of either the adult divisions or Cadet of Badger groups.

Describe your club in five words...
A well-trained, caring, friendly, life-saving family (okay, thats six, but whos counting!).

  • For more information about joining Surrey St John Ambulance, visit their website at

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