The St John Ambulance collections

St John pamplets

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.

St John Poster

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 1945.

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.