The Hoxne Ambulance, c. 1953
The Hoxne Ambulance Fund was set up in April 1937 to meet the needs of the village. For the small subscription of 1d per week it entitled subscribers to free transportation to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital or the Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital. Various entertainments were held to raise extra funds. The transport provided was by private cars with regular drivers.
Joan Banham recollects collecting the Cross Street subscriptions for the Ambulance Car before the war but cannot remember who dealt with Low Street or Heckfield Green. From what she remembers it was a Saturday morning task, she gave the money to her father William Banham who passed it on to the committee.
At the AGM of the Ambulance Fund, in January 1946, the subscription was raised to 10s per annum with the exception of pensioners whose subscription would remain at 6s per annum.
In July 1946 Mr W. V. Brunger offered to provide an ambulance. This was hoped to be available to non-subscribers and residents of surrounding villages on payment based on the mileage.
At a committee meeting in August 1946 arrangements were made for the care of the ambulance. Mr Arthur Brown offered his services as engineer, free of charge, and Mr R.L. Aspland offered to see to the first-aid requirements. Mr Brown also drove the ambulance.The ambulance was to be garaged at Mr Runacres, Cross Street and all enquiries for the service of the ambulance were to be made to Mr W. E. Bryant of Heckfield Green. Journies to Norwich or Ipswich were only to be free to subscribers. Non-members were to be charged on a mileage basis with a minimum of 30s per journey. 'Sitting' cases were still to be transported by car.
At the AGM in January 1946 Mr W. V. Brunger was made president of the fund in appreciation of his presentation of the motor ambulance. By this time there were 206 members.
From July 1948 the Ministry of Health State Scheme automatically provided an ambulance free of charge where required. Hoxne would be in the Stowmarket district, comprising Stowmarket, Hartismere and part of Gipping. The district was to be served by a whole-time station at Stowmarket and another part-time station at Mellis, both being administred by the British Red Cross Society. If neccessary this might be increased by adding a part-time station at Fressingfield and continuing the part-time station at Hoxne. The Hoxne Ambulance Fund committee decided that, despite this service, they would continue as before but review the fund as neccessary.
Later that year a winding up of the fund was considered due to the restriction of petrol supples for the 'sitting' case car drivers and membership had dropped to 123. By 1949, due the illness of Mr Arthur Brown, his services had been taken over by Messrs. M. Lewis, P. Duncan and Jack Banham.
By March 1950 the fund had taken on a new lease of life, its membership had increased from 123 to 235 with its yearly subscription being 6s for a man, wife and children up to school-leaving age and 3s for pensioners. During the previous year the motor ambulance had been called out 14 times. Among the volunteer drivers Mr P. Duncan, who also maintained the ambulance, had made 6 journeys, Jack Banham 4, Mr R. H. Sharp 3 and Mr Stearn 1.
In 1951 a second-hand ambulance was purchased for £25 for spare parts. The main ambulance, having been stored for some years by M. Lewis, had been moved to premises in Cross Street, loaned free of charge by Mr. C. Weston. A new rule was brought in that subscribers were restricted to 6 free journeys to hospital and a further 6 where the Fund would meet the charge.
In 1953 it was decided that enquiries should be made through the Red Cross with a view to eventually getting a new ambulance, as the old one was showing its age and to obtain a more up-to-date stretcher.
In 1954 it was decided to extend the fund to include parts of Denham. By the end of that year membership had increased to 246. A total of 121 journeys had been made by ambulance and cars to hospital. An new ambulance had been acquired from Ipswich Corporation and was being made servicable by Mr B. C. Lewis and his staff.
In 1955 the committee consisted of : president Mr Wm. V. Brunger, chairman Mr R. Baxter, secretary and treasurer Mr Ernest C. Whistler, transport officers Mr J. E. Bird and Mr B. C. Lewis, auditor Mr G. B. Hastings, and other committee members, Mrs R. Miles, Mrs W. Bailey, Messrs. J. S. Neave, H. W. Gilbey, J. Banham, R. Hamson and A. Warne.
It is currently not known when the Ambulance Fund was eventually wound up but over the years it had been a very successful asset to Hoxne.
Below is Heather Chinery's (nee Bird) recollection of the Hoxne Ambulance.
"As far as Hoxne ambulance is concerned I remember Bert Lewis driving it and my father going in the back with the patients. I think Reggie Baxter also used to take a turn at going with patients. My father attended first aid courses at Eye and kept himself up to date with medical practices. He also collected subscriptions from members and I remember him having a book which he kept the accounts in. When we were living in the bungalow at Heckfield Green we had no telephone and when the ambulance was called out at night Bobby Newport, who was living at the Red Lion with my grandparents, used to come up the road to wake my father.
I remember one night he had to go to Denham as a Miss/Mrs Coe had tried to commit suicide. She was in a pond and they had to get her out before taking her to hospital. Both my father and my grandfather used to take people to hospital by car. Occasionally my father had to drive the ambulance but he didn’t like doing it.
Blankets etc. for the ambulance were stored at the Red Lion and sheets were laundered there.
We left Hoxne in the autumn of 1958 and I don’t think the scheme was still in operation then. I suspect it stopped when the service was provided by NHS."
Article provided by Pauline Rimmer, picture by Steve Govier