OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 26, 2018
Webpage updated: August 26, 2018

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AMBULANCE SERVICES IN OLD DEVONPORT

From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution working conditions had become more dangerous and accidents and injuries more frequent and life threatening.  A navee working on constructing a railway, for example, could be miles away from the nearest Doctor or hospital and without fast treatment of his injury could face disablement or death.  His ability to support his family was thus in great jeopardy.  As a result of this terrible situation, there was a move to revive the former Knights Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem, who in the 11th century had taken care of pilgrims to the Holy Land but whose English properties had been suppressed by King Henry VIII during his purge of the monasteries during the sixteenth century.  A  new British Order of Saint John was formed and on July 10th 1877 they inaugurated the Saint John Ambulance Association.  Its members would be trained in what they called "First Aid".  This movement became extremely popular and in Plymouth units were formed by the Great Western Railway Company and the Plymouth Co-operative Society, both of which being represented in Devonport.  This was followed in June 1887 by the formation of the Saint John Ambulance Brigade, whose trained members would attend events such as football matches and provide both "First Aid" and a speedy means of transporting the injured to hospital.  They also became involved in getting sick people from home to hospital as well.  The Plymouth Saint John Ambulance Association was formed in April 1893.  It was connected to the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and was supervised by Doctor W Buchan.

No reference has yet been found to indicate that the Royal Dockyard in Devonport had a Saint John Ambulance unit but they did have their own surgery.  Exactly how far the George Street Ambulance Corps, formed by Mr Hugh Hedley Vicars Miller at the George Street Baptist Chapel in Plymouth, operated within the Borough of Devonport is also not known, although it is believed they attended the great fire in Richmond Walk in December 1913.

Thus the earliest reference to an ambulance being based in Devonport was in 1920, six years after the amalgamation with Plymouth.  On the afternoon of Saturday October 2nd the Mayoress of Plymouth, supported by her husband, Alderman Lovell R Dunstan and the Morice Town Salvation Army Silver Band, officially opened the fourth ambulance station of the Plymouth and District Ambulance Service at the Royal Albert Hospital and Eye Infirmary.  It was to be staffed by members of the newly-formed Devonport and Stoke Divisions of the George Street Ambulance Corps.  It was anticipated that further Divisions were soon to be formed at Ford and Keyham Barton as only the previous day one had been started at the YMCA's Red Triangle Hut in Saint Budeaux.

During 1921 the George Street Ambulance Corps, the Great Western Railway Saint John Ambulance unit and the Plymouth Co-operative Society Saint John Ambulance unit amalgamated under the Saint John Ambulance Association title and a new headquarters was officially opened at numbers 35 and 36 Notte Street, Plymouth.

The Plymouth and District Ambulance Service, or the Plymouth Saint John Ambulance Brigade, provided heroic service during the Second World War but upon the National Health Service being created in 1948, control of ambulance services became the responsibility of the local authority and so the City of Plymouth Ambulance Service came in to being.

What happened within Old Devonport was much influenced by what happened in Old Plymouth and the "Ambulance Services in Old Plymouth" should be read in conjunction with this article.