In the third article in this series on September 20 we considered the history of the High Wycombe Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade (SJAB) over the inter-war period from 1919 to 1937.

We saw how in the 1934 they acquired a brand new Commer ambulance, which was fitted with the latest equipment - a hydraulic lifting arrangement to elevate patient and stretcher into the upper bunk.

A second ambulance was purchased in 1937, a custom-built Vauxhall ambulance – streamlined and equipped to a high standard.

Both these vehicles served very well throughout the second world war and for the next two decades.

We now look at the history of the High Wycombe SJAB during the war years 1939 to 1945.

As might be expected the Brigade played a very prominent role, both in the preparations before the war and throughout the conflict.

As early as 1936 member William J Lunnon was sent to the Home Office Anti-Gas School in Gloucestershire for a crash course in the decontamination of gassed patients.

He then established, and was appointed the first Commandant of, the First Aid and Anti-Gas Cleansing Station in the Health Centre adjacent to the Rye. Up to around 80 people worked at this facility, which became known as the High Wycombe Civil Defence Casualty Service.

When war came in September 1939 the whole complexion of activity involving the High Wycombe Division changed and was never the same again. Many of the younger

members were called up into the forces but numbers were bolstered by new recruits, many of whom were of a slightly older generation.

Records show that in the two years 1937 to 1939 the divisional membership nearly doubled to 69. By 1941 no less than 43 members. had been called up, 26 of those were involved in medical units of the three services.

Numbers could have decreased quite suddenly if it had not been for a considerable influx of new members volunteering to cover the wartime emergency.

By 1942 there were 97 members, and membership remained above 90 for the duration of the war. At least 80% of these were also involved in the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) unit.

One of the local men who joined in 1939 was William G Ives. He served in WW1 in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry and then throughout WW2 in the SJAB. He remained a member for 20 years until he had to resign in 1959 through ill-health.

Women of course played a major role on the “Home Front” and in 1940 a St John Nursing Division was formed in conjunction with local employer Ernest Turners.

This meant that ambulance crews could be complemented with a nurse. Many of its members were also involved in the ARP.

Another innovation locally was the formation of an Industrial Unit, which was based at the Ernest Turner Electrical Instruments factory in Totteridge Avenue.

The most traumatic incidents which St John ambulance had to attend during the war were airplane crashes, and occasionally SJAB members were injured. One instance was when a Lockheed Lighting came down and hit the signal-box at West Wycombe Station. Charles Day the Station Master was also a SJAB member and happened to be in the signal-box at the time. He suffered severe burns and although he recovered he was scarred for life.

As older readers will remember High Wycombe escaped almost free of air raid damage, although there were a few relatively minor incidents.

I can remember one, when a stick of bombs was released by a presumably damaged German bomber in the field behind our house in Cressex Road. No damage was caused apart from several craters left in the field. Very appropriately the Cressex Road V.E. (Victory in Europe) party was held in the largest of these!

Nevertheless, all the ARP services in High Wycombe were on standby every day and night throughout the six years of war. These included those at St John Headquarters, the Casualty Service Centre on Rye Mead, and the mobile first aid posts, each with 12 groups of four. Mill End Road and Spring Gardens Schools had first aid depots and there were also six minor first aid posts scattered at a variety of schools across the town.

Even towards the end there was no time to relax as a new menace appeared in our skies—namely the V1 Flying Bomb or “doodlebug” and also the V2 rockets.

Flying bombs did explode in the area, mainly in woods or open land causing little damage but a few injuries to residents. For example a V1 flew over Cressex and Booker and landed in woods at Lane End. I remember my father pushing me under the stout table in the dining room and laying on top of me when it flew over near our house.