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15 October 2014
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Volunteer Ambulance Drivers

by Ambulance_Drivers

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Nina Clement (Mrs)
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Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
03 January 2004

My Mother died last year aged 92 and has always remembered with mixed emotions the second world war.

In 1936 hen she was 27 Mother passed her driving test; shortly afterwards there was a call for volunteer ambulance drivers - which she answered. Success was immediately followed by being taught to drive an open gear box Lewis's (a L'pool department store) van. My Mother if she ever exceeded 6 stone was very happy. I have this picture of her in protective gear standing next to and being dwarfed by this large delivery van, now ambulance.

She always told stories of the comradeship in FI Division and indeed the drivers remained friends until "death did them part".

Stories that stick in my mind that show the awful conditions that the drivers had to endure -

1. Mother to reach a casulty during the blitz drove into a street right to the other end where the house had been bombed but also where she was stopped by the Police. They asked how she had got there as the road was closed and that she had driven under a landmine hanging from a tree. Mother had not seen the landmine and the Police had forgotten to close off the other end of the road!

2. Once delivering the bodies of 4 babies to the makeshift morgue Mother was reported and reprimanded for crying. She never forgot the hurt that caused.

3. On a lighter note Mother was also getting told off for wearing her tin hat at a jaunty angle - her excuse was that being so slight there wasn't one that would stay on properly. This being underlined by the two black eyes she once received when she tripped over.

Many other stories could be told but Mother and the other drivers were always upset that they and all the other volunteer drivers were never officially recognised and she took that regret with her when she passed on.

It must not be forgotten that in the 1930/1940s it was abnormal for ladies to be able to drive and then to be faced with the large lorries and horrific sights was unforgetable.

Her very proud son


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Message 1 - Volunteer Ambulance Drivers

Posted on: 03 January 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

What a fascinating story! It is interesting in all sorts of ways.

The driving test was only made compulsory on the 1st of June 1935, so your mother must have been one of the first few hundred, if that, to take it.

Driving an open gear box van or lorry wasn't easy. Changing gear required double declutching to match gearbox cog revs to engine speed, some heavy and nifty footwork on the clutch and accelerator. There was no synchromesh in those days! And driving in the rain or snow was a nightmare; windscreen wipers were only first used in 1935, but initially only on new cars.

You have every reason to be proud of your mother's harrowing war service and I look forward to reading much more about her.

Best regards,



Message 2 - Volunteer Ambulance Drivers

Posted on: 03 January 2004 by gladgran

I have a friend, Janet, born in West Hartlepool, now 81 years and registered blind. Her mother was drafted into the Ambulance Service on 1st September 1939, before war was announced!

It is interesting to hear about these unsung heroes. Janet herself worked nightshift on Sundays, filling hot water bottles for beds at a hospital that never had any patients! The volunteers were given lectures on First Aid by the Nursing Sister.

HAPPY NEW YEAR. Best wishes, Gladys.

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