We are grateful for this excellent talk on the history of Norfolk’s St John Ambulance Brigade, by Val Saunders.
The Order of St John was founded by Benedictine monks in Jerusalem in 1080 when they established a ‘hospital’ to provide shelter for pilgrims. The Order was closed down under Henry VIII but was re-established in England in the mid-1800s as the need was recognised for training people in First Aid. In 1887 the St John Ambulance Brigade was set up.
The Norfolk division began in Cromer in 1901; as there were no motorized ambulances, a large basket on wheels was used instead! However, motorized ambulances were, fortunately, available in WW1. In the next few decades, more divisions in the Brigade were set up and ambulance services were provided by both St John Ambulance and the Red Cross. In 1930 a nursing division was set up in Great Yarmouth. During WW2, St John Ambulance helped to train the ARP people; after the war they continued to help at Public Events and to run the ambulance service in Norfolk.
In 1953 they helped with rescuing people from the great floods, from the Hunstanton area round to Wells. Although the number of branches has been reduced over the years, St John in Norfolk still has 20 units and provides central and online First Aid training both for the community and for industry and can still be seen assisting at certain public events.