The St John Ambulance collections
These collections form a unique record of the organisation,
covering the history of St John Ambulance (Association and Brigade)
in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and in countries overseas,
from its origins in the 1870s up until the present day.
Here are just a few examples to give a sense of the scope of the
collections. Equipment ranges in size from examples of early
ambulance transport to a Victorian nurse’s miniature first aid kit.
There are training books written in numerous languages and first
aid information comes in many forms, from cigarette cards to pop-up
books and even on bandages.
Uniform includes ceremonial attire, a 1922 Cadet uniform and ARP
gas suit, and posters and advertisements feature uniform of many
periods. The collection of medals, trophies and decorative
certificates give a real sense of members’ achievements and include
one certificate made by a forger inside a prisoner-of-war camp.
Banners and textiles commemorate special St John occasions.
Personal memorabilia tells what is was like to belong to the
movement in different times and places. Nurse Nesbit’s cartoons
record the lighter moments of serving in a first World War
hospital. In an album, Lyn Brown put down her reactions as one of
the first people to enter the newly liberated Belsen camp in
The film archive provides a glimpse into SJA’s involvement with
the film industry and a huge photographic collection gives
fascinating insights into individual lives and social change, as
well as the changing organisation. Oral histories, particularly
strong on the Second World War, also cover topics as diverse as
first aid in the depression of the 1930s, setting up a division in
Zanzibar in the 1950s and the work of a welfare officer in the Gulf
War of 1991.