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St John Ambulance
Priory of England and the Islands

Logo of St John Ambulance England and the Islands
Motto Pro fide
Pro utilitate hominum
(Latin: for the faith and in the service of humanity)'
Formation 1877
Type Charitable organisation
Limited company
Headquarters Registered Office: St John's Gate, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4DA
Headquarters: 27 St John's Lane, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4BU
Location England and the Islands
Membership 45,000[1]
Chief Commander Mr Roger Chatterton
Budget £78.3m per annum[1]
Staff 1532[1]
St John Ambulance Wales

Logo of St John Ambulance Wales
Motto Pro fide
Pro utilitate hominum
(Latin: for the faith and in the service of humanity)'
Formation 1918
Type Charitable organisation
Limited company
Headquarters Priory House, Beignon Close, Ocean Way, Cardiff CF24 5PB
Location Wales
Membership 5,500
Chief Commander Dr Robert B K Broughton OBE

St John Ambulance is a charity (registered in England and Wales), part of the wider international Order of St. John, dedicated to the teaching and practice of medical first aid. The charity's Latin formal motto is pro fide, pro utilitate hominum, translated as "for the faith and in the service of humanity".



In the 1820s the Knights of Malta living in France offered knighthoods to specific people supporting the Order of Malta in Great Britain, irrespective of their Christian denomination. Their approach was not part of the official policy of the Order of Malta, but the English Knights devoted themselves to charitable activities, which were organised into what became known as Foundations. This British group carrying out very substantial charitable activities was recognised and incorporated in 1888 as the Grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem in England.

Britain was one of the first countries to become industrial and in the 19th century there were many dangerous workplaces. Accidents were frequent but workers rarely saw a doctor in time. Death or disability from untreated injuries was common. Members of the Order of St John wanted to find a way to help. They decided to train ordinary people in first aid so accident victims could be treated quickly and on the spot, and in 1877 they set up St John Ambulance to do this. Classes were set up across the country, particularly in workplaces and areas of heavy industry, but also in villages, seaside towns and middle class suburbs.

In 1887 trained volunteers were organised into a uniformed Brigade to provide a first aid and ambulance service at public events. In many parts of Britain, St John was the first and only provider of an ambulance service right up to the middle of the 20th century, when the National Health Service was founded. When there were far fewer doctors and hospital beds than today, St John nurses looked after the sick and injured in their own homes.

There were originally three charitable Foundations of the modern Order. One, which became The St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Foundation, was established in 1882. The St John Ambulance Association, which was concerned with training the public in first aid, was established in 1877. And, the third was The St John Ambulance Brigade, which provided first aid care to the public. It had its origins in 1873, and became a Foundation in 1887. The St John Ambulance Association and The St John Ambulance Brigade were amalgamated in 1974 to form the present St John Ambulance Foundation.

St John Ambulance was originally divided into two fields, teaching first aid to workplace employees via the St. John Ambulance Association, and providing uniformed medical volunteers to cover public and private events via the St. John Ambulance Brigade. However, these two entities merged in 1968 to form a single unified St. John Ambulance, providing both training and first-aid cover.

Within the Priory of England and the Islands, the organisation is broken down into Counties. The boundaries and areas of these Counties are determined by the organisation itself rather than strictly adhering to national borders. The Islands (Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man[2]) are also considered counties, as is Northern Ireland, for the purposes of administration.

During 2006 St John Ambulance (England & the Islands) trained 551,000, cared for 137,000 people and worked with 20,000 young (age 5-17) volunteers. St John Ambulance volunteers gave 5,700,000 hours of service[1].

Key dates within the history of St John Ambulance in England

  • 1540: The original Order of St John, the Knights Hospitallers is disbanded in England by Henry VIII
  • 1826: An idea to re-establish the Order within England is put forward by some remaining French Knights of the original worldwide Order
  • 1841: The "St John's Day Declaration" is prepared to seek official recognition of the new Order by the original Order, now known as SMOM
  • 10 July 1877: St John Ambulance Association forms to teach first-aid in large railway centres and mining districts
  • June 1887: St John Ambulance Brigade is formed
  • 14 May 1888: English Order of St John is granted royal charter by Queen Victoria
  • 1908 By reciprocal agreement St John Ambulance ceases to operate in Scotland and St Andrew's Ambulance Association ceases to operate in England
  • March 1922: Cadet units are started
  • 1968: The Association and Brigade merge to form a unified St John Ambulance
  • January 1987: Badger setts are introduced to celebrate 100 years since the formation of the Brigade
  • April 2, 2007: St John Ambulance launches its new corporate identity

First aid services

St John Ambulance volunteers and employees attend thousands of events every year providing first aid to the sick and injured. This service is provided free at the point of delivery, although a charge will be made to the event organiser for attendance at commercial events.

In addition to providing first aiders for events, where necessary St John Ambulance can provide mobile treatment centres, ambulances, Healthcare Professionals and other medical provision.

Training services

St John Ambulance also runs courses for external individuals, in a variety of different skills and medical issues. The First Aid at Work course is used by many companies to train designated individuals as first-aiders, as required by employment laws.

The Community First Aid suite has recently been released offering the community a variety of low cost first aid courses at convenient times. They also provide useful training courses for people of all ages.

Transport services

St John Ambulance owns a large number of ambulances and transport vehicles, which are used for commercial and charitable patient transport services and emergency use.

St John Ambulance employees and volunteers provide support to the NHS Ambulance Services in some areas, responding to Patient transport requests, 999 calls at busy times, and assisting the statutory emergency services during times of major incident.

Youth services

St John Ambulance is also a major youth organisation, with over half its membership being made up of those aged 25 and under. Cadet groups are run for those 10 to 17, and Badger Setts are provided for younger children aged 5 to 10. These groups are similar to the Scouts, although there is a greater emphasis on teaching first aid. Members aged 16 or 17 are encouraged to transfer to First Aid Services units if they wish to continue training in First Aid, to become Youth Leaders within their unit.

Super Badger Award

St John Badgers work towards the 'Super Badger Award'. This award consists of members completing 12 subjects, such as 'Creative', 'Global' and 'Wild' Badger. The award is split into 5 sections, where Badgers advance through completing more subjects.

Grand Prior Award scheme

The Grand Prior Award is the primary award designed for Cadets. The award is an essential part of Cadet life, and was updated in 2004 after around 50 years of retaining the previous programme. The award consists of completion of 24 subject areas over the period of cadet membership, until the age of 21. There is no maximum time limit (other than age restrictions) upon completion of the award, however the award should not be completed in fewer than 3 years from the commencement date. The subject areas range from topics such as photography and clerical skills to childcare and crafts. The award is seen as the highest award a Cadet can achieve, and is one of the only badges, as well as the Amalfi Award, 1000 hours service badge, National Competition Winner's badge and Sovereign's Award, which may be retained on the adult uniform.

Every year a reception is held at Buckingham Palace and is attended by HRH Princess Anne to celebrate chosen individuals who have gained their Grand Prior Award.

Amalfi Challenge

The Amalfi Award was launched in recognition of the need for a programme after the Grand Prior Award. The Amalfi Challenge is open to all cadet and adult members aged 16 to 25. The structure of the award focuses on personal task set by the individual. These tasks are categorised into service, relationships, society and challenge. Each participant has to undertake 12 tasks and at completion of 4, 8 and 12 subjects a badge is awarded.


Cadet Leadership

Cadets in St John Ambulance are encouraged to attend Cadet Leadership courses. These courses are progressive and intended to give cadets the skills to take a more active role within their divisions. The courses teach skills which enable cadets to be promoted to NCOs within their divisions. They can then progress and attend further courses designed to improve said skills. Ideally all cadets promoted to the ranks of Cadet Corporal or Cadet Sergeant should have completed Cadet Leadership 1, and those promoted to Leading Cadet should have completed Cadet Leadership 2. Both Cadet Leadership courses also count a subject towards the Cadet's Grand Prior Award. Following the Cadet leadership 2 course, Cadet Leadership 3 allows Cadets to learn the skills required to take on an assistant youth leader role within their division, and includes the BTEC-accredited Essential skills in youth work course.

LINKS units

St John Ambulance units dedicated to meeting the needs of student and university communities can be found at many institutes of higher education across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These units, known as LINKS units, were originally established at universities to form a 'link' between cadet and adult membership, allowing members to carry on their membership and maintain their skills whilst in higher education. However, LINKS units have become integral parts of the student community and the majority of members new to St John Ambulance at point of joining, as students new to university look for societies to join.

LINKS units differ from most other sections in that they do not use a rank structure, instead having a democratically elected committee. This is due to the fact that, as well as being a unit within St John Ambulance, a LINKS unit typically exists as a society in the university's Students' union, and as such must have a committee structure.

As well as providing first aid training to the student community and first aid cover at student events, LINKS members can be found frequenting other events attended by mainstream St John Ambulance units.

First aid and medical equipment services (St John Ambulance Supplies)

St John Ambulance Supplies (often abbreviated to SJS) is a trading sub-division of St John Ambulance providing first aid and Medical equipment and consumables, training equipment, publications, health and safety equipment and clothing. Where a markup is made, surplus from sales are diverted into supporting the charitable work of the Order of St John and the St John Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem.

SJS opened its doors at St John’s Gate in Clerkenwell on 12 February 1879 and was originally known as The Stores Depot. It is now a major commercial operation supplying to the public, private and voluntary sector.

SJS is also the only approved supplier of St John Ambulance uniform, clothing and branded merchandise.

Volunteer membership

Counties are subdivided into Areas, Sectors, Groups or Zones (if the county is big enough to warrant it), and from there into Divisions or Units, of which members join.

St John Ambulance is led by volunteers appointed to functional roles. Where considered appropriate a rank may be assigned to that role, ‘rank’ is use to describe a formal grade within the organisation conferring authority.

Training and skills

St John Ambulance Crusader in a London street.

Most members are volunteers, and can complete a number of first aid qualifications, ranging from a basic emergency life support course and the family first aid course, which deals with common injuries and ailments, through to advanced Emergency Transport Attendant training which covers many of the competencies of the National Health Service Ambulance Technicians. Members are also required to attend training in moving and handling before being permitted to volunteer. Once qualified, they are free to volunteer their time at events, covering a variety of public events such as major football matches, concerts and gigs, smaller community events such as 'fun days', or crewing of emergency ambulances. Time volunteering is unpaid, although expenses are reimbursed.

Qualification levels for first aid volunteers:

  • Observer
  • First aider
  • Advanced first aider (also qualified in use of an AED unit)
  • Patient transport attendant
  • Emergency transport attendant

Additional and enhanced skills

Beyond the initial qualifications, members can train in additional medical skills, such as administration of medical gases, and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). For those wishing to go further still, the organisation runs two internal qualification courses known as Patient Transport Attendant and Emergency Transport Attendant (formerly Ambulance Aid level 1 and 2 respectively). These build upon the first aid skills with additional skills required for ambulance crewing. Those attaining the first level are allowed to crew St John vehicles and provide Patient Transport services (PTS). Those attaining the second level are additionally called upon to crew emergency ambulances as necessary. Training of the Ambulance Aid courses (especially the second) are sometimes undertaken or supplemented by the NHS Ambulance Services.

The different roles a volunteer may be certified as competent in include "first aider", "advanced first aider", "Community First Responder", "Patient Transport Attendant" and "Emergency Transport Attendant".

The use of Cycle Response Units has been introduced by the organisation. The cycles used by St John Ambulance are custom designed and built for the task, with strengthened frames to take the extra weight of the large quantity of medical equipment they carry, including oxygen cylinders and AEDs. Members acting as Cycle Response Units are additionally trained with commercial cycling courses and must demonstrate a reasonable level of fitness. They wear a dedicated cycle uniform, replacing the conventional operational uniform.

Healthcare Professionals

Qualified healthcare professionals may also volunteer their time in St John Ambulance. These include:

  • State Registered Paramedics
  • Registered Nurses
  • Registerd Midwives
  • Operating Department Practitioners
  • Doctors

All healthcare professionals have their qualifications and professional status checked with the appropriate regulatory body before practicing in St John Ambulance. Professionals can carry out any skill appropriate to their type, level of training, competence and when relevant to the situation or patient. Healthcare professionals wear coloured rank slides to distinguish them between internally-trained first aiders and ambulance personnel.

The St John Ambulance uniform

The St John Ambulance uniform is well-known the general public. Members are required to wear uniform when volunteering to provide first aid or transport services, both for identification and to present a professional image. It is protected by law[3] and may only be worn by registered members. Unlike the uniform of other volunteer organisations, the St John uniform is relatively formal and is similar to a British Police uniform, for which members are sometimes mistaken.

There are presently 9 orders of dress intended for different situations. No.1 and No.2 are formal ceremonial dress uniforms, the former with a tailored uniform jacket, the latter without; No.3 and No.4 are less formal, suitable for nursing duties in other medical establishments and during hot weather; No.5 is the basic operational uniform; No.6 is a casual uniform for training and informal events; No.7, No.8 and No.9 are operational uniforms for specific tasks, corresponding respectively to Patient Transport Services, Community First Responder, and Cycle Responder. The two most widely used are No.2 (dress uniform without tailored jacket) and No.5 (operational uniform).

High visibility garments worn over the uniform are sometimes required for outdoor events, adopting the yellow/green two-tone generally accepted for emergency medical services. An alternative No.5 operational uniform is a green two-piece suit, similar to those of paramedics and technicians from many other ambulance organisations. This has traditionally been worn by members operating as an ambulance crew, however it is now becoming more common amongst first aiders, and recently some counties and units have adopted it for all event cover and/or transport work.

Until recently, LINKS units had an exception to wear their own uniform designs. Usually these consisted of a polo shirt and/or sweatshirt with the LINKS logo, and the name of the unit placed on the front, and 'FIRST AID' screen-printed on the rear. This uniform was normally only permissible for duties undertaken at student events such as discos at the Student Union bar, which often have their first aid cover provided by the university LINKS unit. Since introduction of the new corporate identity, stricter uniform rules have been placed on LINKS units, a full uniform must be worn, with the exception of the shirt which can be a plain white shirt, only where there is no access to proper uniform may the white polo shirt be worn on duty.

Other priories and countries have various regional variations of uniform, but most are loosely based on the same design as the English uniform.

St John Ambulance in the British Armed forces

St John Ambulance now has British divisions running where there are a large amount of British servicemen and women with their families overseas. These are namely in Germany and Cyprus. The divisions are directly linked to the UK and national headquarters so that members can transfer to another division or county as they would be able to do at home. The overseas divisions are classed as one whole extra county for the UK in the St John Ambulance structure. The shoulder flash on the uniform states "St John Ambulance Germany" as it would say, for example, "St John Ambulance London District" which shows that they are directly linked to the UK. St John Ambulance British Forces Overseas is run by a volunteer paramedic with links to the military.

Members are able to be trained in a the full-range of St John Ambulance Qualifications. The majority of the volunteers hold positions as First Aiders or Advanced First Aiders; however, recently some members have been trained up to Patient Transport Attendant (PTA) or Emergency Transport Attendant (ETA) qualifications.

The overseas forces divisions were originally founded in 1980. They remained very strong for several years, however, as the forces in Germany were reduced many divisions closed. Over the past few years, St John Ambulance is again making a strong return to British Forces Germany and in the past year a series of divisions were re-opened across Germany.

Until last year, they had a number of ambulance available for public use; but these were decommissioned and an ambulance from the UK borrowed for use in Germany. A car was also donated by a local dealership for use of the training services or transport of volunteers. Current attempts are being made to raise funds to purchase the new 'Crusader' Ambulances that St John Ambulance are using in the UK to further benefit the forces communities.

St John Ambulance British Forces does not just provide medical cover for events, but just as in the UK they provide commercial first aid training, quite often run in co-ordination with Military Education Centres. There is a strong team of first aid trainers across Germany who can teach the range of civilian first aid courses include the HSE-approved First Aid at Work. They are the lone supplier of these courses to soldiers and civilians in the British Forces.

St John Ambulance British Forces Overseas works closely with the German Ambulance Services, particularly the sister organisation "Die Johanniter" in providing first aid and ambulance cover German public events where many British or English Speakers are expected to attend. Members can occasionally be seen on their non-emergency and emergency vehicles responding to public calls. St John Ambulance can also be seen working with "Malteser", the German Red Cross and local fire brigades which provide ambulance services. The German Emergency Services equally assist St John Ambulance at British events on military areas where a high number of German civilians are expected to attend.

Relations with the Order of St John and other organisations

Although the Order of St John is largely seen as a Christian organisation for historical reasons, St John Ambulance does not restrict membership to nor promote any particular religion or denomination. Technically, it falls under the sovereignty of the Queen, and thus is linked to the Church of England; however, this relationship is more tradition than authority, and adult members are not required to pledge allegiance to or support either the monarchy or the Christian faith. Cadet members do still make a pledge upon joining to the monarch and "God"; however, this is again largely seen as tradition, and there is no pledge to the Church of England.

St John Ambulance often serve alongside the British Red Cross, however, St John Ambulance places a greater focus on first aid training and event cover, whereas the Red Cross focuses more on general humanitarian aid. St. Andrew's Ambulance Association is the equivalent organisation in Scotland. Together these three Voluntary Aid Societies publish the official First Aid Manual, the de facto guide for emergency first aid.


  1. ^ a b c d Annual reports
  2. ^ Microsoft Word - Priory Rules 2006 FINAL.doc
  3. ^ Chartered Associations (Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem) Protection Order 1927

See also

External links

Official and international websites

Other related websites


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