By Clifford Jordan.
The Visit of The St. John Ambulance Brigade Cadets to Brighton.
Seen in the photograph, taken on board Alex Henshaw’s coach, are some of the Rye Ambulance Cadets on their way to the Royal Pavilion Brighton in the summer of 1956 to be inspected by their Colonel-in-Chief Princess Margaret.
Some of the party are easily recognized in the photograph, they include; Jean Bryant, Owen Hatter, John Wallbank, Keith Whitnall, Terry Laine and Clifford Jordan.
The officer in charge of the cadets was Sid England, who was assisted by senior members of the brigade, Ron White, Reg Hollands, Dora Hollands, Jack Watson and Margery Clarke.
The party set out in fine sunny weather and those of us in senior uniforms rather envied the shirt-sleeve order of the juniors. All this was about to change however due to the vagaries of the British weather!
After being duly inspected by her Royal Highness the order was given for a march past with a further procession in Brighton itself. The Parade had just set out on their way when there was an almighty crack of thunder followed by heavy rain which would have done credit to a monsoon.
The cadet in shirt-sleeves next to me let me know in Anglo-Saxon English just what he thought of being soaked to the skin and proceeded to carry on in this manner until the order was given to fall out and take cover. We eventually retired to The Dome where we wrung out our clothes and took refreshments.
The journey home can best be described as a soggy affair due to lack of drying facilities at The Dome itself. The black and white uniforms had turned a shade of grey in places and lost some of their sparkle.
Alex Henshaw was a private coach operator much in demand by various organisations in Rye and district. He bought the coach side of Bourne’s in 1964 and finished up with five coaches before retirement. For many years he was Standard Bearer for the Rye Branch of the British Legion being seen on Rememberance Day Parades in Rye, Rye Harbour and Iden.
The Present Day Cadets
Although present day cadets meet in a building on the same site as fifty years ago the original building has now been converted into two houses. Being a Georgian building it was obviously very expensive to maintain and economic pressures dictated events. The new premises are adequate for the present number of cadets as St. John’s voluntary service has contracted due to the reorganization of the National Health Service.
Once upon a time St. John’s were the only Ambulance Service relying solely on voluntary labour and donations but they have been superseded by the NHS vehicles and now restrict their activities mainly to local functions such as sporting events, fetes and carnivals which they still attend on a voluntary basis.
For young people interested in serving the community and learning first aid the St. John Cadets present a fine opportunity.