Friends for life

When the war ended, for many members of the AAGB their friendships didn’t, a good example is that of Driver’s Betty Bacon and Hilly Smith, they continued to be friends until the end of their lives, often enjoying reminiscing of their days in the AAGB. A few stories that stand out to Mark (Betty’s grandson) were about Hilly taking the roof off of her Ambulance, JEV 893, when she underestimated a low bridge! Another was when Betty and Hilly were out together one day, they pulled up at a traffic light only to see a wheel roll past them, one of them exclaimed how they should pick it up as it looks like one of theirs, it was only when they pulled away from the traffic light to a loud clunk as it was one of the wheels of the rear double axel of JEV 896. Another time that the two were out together the came across a wooden crate in the road, on closer inspection it was in fact a crate full of butter, on returning to the garage in Leeds, it was decided not to hand it over to the authorities and the whole of the garage enjoyed un-rationed  butter for a number of weeks, a welcome change from the normal 2oz (50g) weekly ration.

The two photos in black and white are of Betty and Hilly on a day out to (we think) Harewood house, Leeds. The Colour photo was taken at the burghley horse trials 1977 and shows from right to left, Betty, Hilly, Mark (Betty’s grandson) and Trish (Betty’s daughter).This is just one example of how Hilly became like another member of Betty’s family.

Dorothy Helen Daly

During the course of the war, three members of the AAGB were killed, two were on service and one was off duty.

On the night of the 4th of May 1942 Ms Dorothy Helen Daly, a Driver of the AAGB was off duty and visiting the residence of Lady Daly in Spicer Road, Exeter. Just after midnight, 20 German bombers arrived over the town centre. Within 70 minuets of arriving the town was devastated, 1,500 houses and 30 acres of the town which included offices, warehouses, shops and pubs had all been destroyed. On that night 156 people were killed and 583 were injured.

Tragically, Driver Daly was amongst those who were killed on Spicer road in the early hours of the morning aged 50.

Following the raid, German radio was intercepted saying “Exeter is the jewel of the west; we have destroyed that jewel, and we will return to finish the job”. Luckily that never happened and the 4th was the last morning that Exeter was bombarded however for some, including Driver Daly they had had to pay the ultimate cost of war.

On the 4th of August 2017, a cross was laid at the Exeter War memorial, the cross read;

“In Remembrance, Dorothy Helen Daly, A.A.G.B., 4/5/1942”

Following the laying of the cross, we traveled to Spicer road, now a thriving street in suburbia, the only signs of the devastation of the Exeter Blitz is a Gap in a row of houses, most likely where Driver Daly was killed.

Book

On July the 1st I took a trip to London. I traveled to Grosvenor Square, outside the American Embassy where I met with Mr Raymond Colledge who is the current chairman of the American Society in London (the organisation which headed the AAGB). Ray had no previous knowledge of the AAGB and as such we spent about an hour talking about the AAGB, the American Society and the various artefacts that I took with me.

Due to the lack of information about the AAGB, and the difficulty that I have had in finding information, I have started the process of writing a book. “The American Ambulance, Great Britain” ISBN:978-1-5272-1160-5 will hopefully be available by the end of the year and will be close to 40 pages long, A5 in size.

I am extremely grateful to Ray for agreeing to write a foreword for my book and also for the support of the American Society in London who will support me where possible.

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Headquarters AAGB

Recently I took a trip to London regarding an AAGB related project (see pinned post). It seemed fitting that as I was in the area that I should visit the former headquarters of the AAGB, 44 Lower Belgrave Street, London, S.W.1. What a lovely looking building it is, a very grand building for a grand organisation!DSC06950

Sign

Recently we got this lovely hand made sign. My thanks go to the kind seller who allowed us the chance to own it. It shows a dodge ambulance with the crossed flags on top. On the back is an engraving, dating it to 1941.dsc06366.jpg

 

Original badges

We were very lucky to get these recently. This is an original arm badge along with an original service badge for three Years. These are extremely rare and we are over the moon with them. We also got 5 original buttons, using these we will now cast a set of replica ones which will complete our uniform making it, as far as we know, the only complete uniform in the world!DSC06372

Letter of appreciation

Below is a scan of the letter of appreciation from Aneurin Bevan (who famously created the NHS) to Gilbert H Carr, Director General, AAGB. Throughout it, Mr Bevan says how “its work will long be remembered with gratitude” and its “memorable work”, unfortunately though, Mr Bevan was wrong and instead of them being remembered they were forgotten about! This is certainly making our work trying to recreate the history very hard!

Defence Medal Claim

Whilst digging through some of Driver Bacon’s paperwork we found this. This is her original DM7, defence medal claim form. This confirmed the suspicion we had that due to her situation after the war she never got round to claiming her Defence Medal. After various correspondence with the Home Office, I am pleased to say that we have been successful in claiming the medal on her behalf. It is currently in the safe keeping of her daughter until we receive it to keep with her records.DSC05809