Blantyre Ambulance 1915

You may have seen this postcard which features an Ambulance in Blantyre during World War 1. Information published by others has been incorrect in both a published book and online and I wanted to correct the detail here.

From October 1914, Blantyre residents were engaged in raising money to build and equip a motor ambulance waggon for the front. The intention was to gift the ambulance to the British Red Cross to help with the war effort, either at the front or at home.

Let’s get some things straight. It is not World War 2. It is not 1917. This wagon is not pictured at Caldergrove Auxiliary Hospital, nor is it a Crossley 25/30 model which was never manufactured until 1919.

The date is Saturday 1st May 1915 and this was the very day a brand new ambulance was presented to the Blantyre Branch of the British Red Cross. The wagon arrived in Blantyre that same day and it proudly toured around various points in the Parish, including here pictured actually at Calderglen House.

It was big news too. At Commercial Place in the presence of about 2,000 people a special dedication service was held, with all local ministers taking part. The Rev. Charles Turnbull, of the Parish Church, gave an interesting statement on how the money had been raised, and said that the idea of providing an ambulance waggon originated with Mias Bannatyne of Milheugh; Miss Cochrane of Calderglen; Miss Jackson of Bardykes; and Miss Mooreof Greenhall, and these ladies, with the assistance of a committee of other well-known ladies, had worked continually to make the scheme success. In short, the Ambulance was the mastermind and effort of Blantyre’s women.

The total money raised was £505 11s 4d. and the cost of the waggon was £450. It was agreed that the other £50 or so should be given to name a bed in the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Gorges, France.

The order for the building of the car was given to the Red Cross Society. It was a Darracq model which could accommodate patients stretchers and eight people sitting, together with seat for an attendant. The car was to be under the control of the Red Cross Society and is known to have been kept in a garage in High Blantyre at Broompark.

As early as 5 days later, on the morning of Wednesday 5th May it was first called into service, assisting in the removal of wounded soldiers to Stobhill Hospital.

The women likely raised the funds from fetes and flag days. These collection days were popular throughout the town during WW1 years. For example a flag day later in Blantyre on 4th November 1916, raised over £34 in itself making a significant contribution for the Red Cross. A subsequent instruction from the War Office asked for raised funds to be used to buy ambulances throughout the UK. By the end of 1916, the National campaign had raised £70,000 promising a further 50 new ambulances.

I’ve scanned the postcard into a better resolution here, and for those who want to see what the colours looked like, there’s a great version of the postcard colourised by Andy Paterson back in 2007.

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