Tuesday 6 February 2024: Yesterday, HRH The Princess Royal, Commandant-in-Chief (Youth) for St John Ambulance, visited the National Health Service Auxiliary and first aid charity’s HQ in Devizes for the dedication of a brand new Community Support Unit for use by St John volunteers around the county.

A successful local fundraising campaign by St John Ambulance and the St John Priory Group in Wiltshire raised £65,000 to enable the purchase of this vital new part of the charity’s local fleet, with the cost being split between various donors including a very generous legacy donation in another county and more than £10,000 from Wincanton PLC, for B&Q in Swindon.

The appeal has been supported widely across all Wiltshire communities with many local Parish and Town Councils and the Chippenham Area Board making donations to St John Ambulance. This highlights the role of the Community Support Unit as a truly community-based vehicle that not only supports the charity’s many local volunteers but will be used to support all the parishes in Wiltshire when they are delivering lifesaving first aid.

The Princess Royal took part in the dedication ceremony by formally receiving the Community Support Unit on behalf of the Order of St John from the donors. After this she spent time talking to St John volunteers and staff, including groups of Cadets (volunteers aged 10-17) and Badgers (volunteers aged 5-11), before signing the visitors book and being presented with a posy by Connor Hill, Wiltshire District Cadet of the Year, and Josh Mason, Wiltshire District Badger of the Year.


The new AWD MAN vehicle will be based in Swindon and can transport up to six volunteers, plus all the equipment they need – first aid and responder equipment, defibrillators, medical gases, gazebos, promotional materials and more – to community events and other gatherings. The vehicle also has charging points and electric sockets for devices such as electronic patient record tablets, digital radio comms, and a microwave, meaning that the volunteer team can be comfortable while working on longer duties.

The vehicle licence type means that it can be used for blue light emergency response driver training by its ambulance crews, and no additional advanced driving qualifications are required to use it. It will be based at the charity’s Swindon depot but available for volunteers around Wiltshire to use.

Bob Sanderson, District Manager for St John Ambulance in Wiltshire, said: “I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to secure this vehicle following a successful fundraising campaign. It was also an honour to have The Princess Royal receive it from all the donors on our behalf.

“The split between donations has made this the perfect campaign, with contributions received from private donors, community donations, volunteer-led events, Trusts and corporates. I’m so grateful to everyone who donated to St John so we can continue to ensure that our fleet has the most appropriate vehicles, such as this one, for our ongoing needs. I know how pleased the volunteers will be to have this vehicle and am looking forward to seeing it at many events in Wiltshire in the future.”

Professor Michael Seed, Chair of the Wiltshire St John Priory Group, added: “I am delighted that The Princess Royal, who works tirelessly to support our charity, was able to join us today for the dedication ceremony. We are truly grateful to her for all she does. I’d also like to add my personal thanks to Bob and to the local St John Priory Group members for all the amazing work they have done to secure this funding. Having been trained to operate these vehicles, I can personally say what an incredible asset it is and I look forward to seeing it serve the public in Wiltshire well for many years to come.”

For more information about St John Ambulance, please visit www.sja.org.uk.