Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 26, 2018
Webpage updated: August 26, 2018




On Monday July 5th 1948, the day the National Health Service came in to existence, Mr W Edwin Beckly handed over the Plymouth and District Ambulance Service, with its ten motor ambulances, to the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman H J Perry, at a ceremony in the J H Beckly Memorial Ambulance Station at Greenbank, and the City of Plymouth Ambulance Service was born.

Two old Austin ambulances were sold in October 1949:  DR 9736 went to Plymouth Motors Ltd and DR 9738 went to Mr C H Rowe, also of Plymouth.   The former was probably used by the Devon and Cornwall Private Ambulance Service, which was owned by Mr W J Speare and operated from the Plymouth Motor Company's premises at 14a Athenaeum Street.

Prior to 1951 the crews had to return to their station or find a telephone box to ring headquarters before going to the next call but in that year they were fitted with radio-telephones.

A further two Austin ambulances were sold during 1951.  BCO 34 went to Lammas Motors of London in April and CDR 406 was sold by tender to a Mr Luckhurst of Devonport in June 1951.

Mr W E Beckly, the nephew of Mr John Henry Beckly, opened a new ambulance station at Crownhill on Friday July 30th 1954.  The architects were Messrs Walls and Pearn and the contractors were Messrs J W Spencer Ltd.  It replaced the Stonehouse sub-station and was partly funded by a 7,500 war damage compensation payment in respect of the original Plymouth and District Ambulance Service one in Notte Street.

Built on two storeys, the control room, kitchen, dining room, locker room and drying room were on the ground floor with lecture rooms and rest rooms above.  The station was to be manned by paid personnel during the day but by Saint John Ambulance Brigade volunteers at night and at weekends, for whom the rest rooms were provided.  Adjoining the building was a garage for the six ambulances and a workshop for servicing and repairs.  Beneath the yard was a 1,000 gallon petrol tank.  Thoughtfully, each ambulance had its own heater mounted on the wall in front of it to assist in starting the engine in cold weather.

Among those present at the official opening were the Deputy Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Mr J Folley; the Reverend J C Houghton, who dedicated the building; Miss Christine Short and Miss Dorothy Cornish, daughters of ambulance personnel, who presented bouquets to Mrs Folley and Mrs Beckly; Mr T R Adams, general foreman; Mr S Martin, plasterer; Mr S Strong, carpenter; Doctor T Pierson, the Medical Officer of Health; Mr R Sampson, the ambulance officer; Mr C H P Pearn, from the architects; and Mr S Grinter, representing the contractors.

The Station opened for business at 5pm and received its first call at 7.10pm to take a woman to hospital.

Under Local Government reorganisation of 1974, when Plymouth lost its administrative status, its fleet was merged into a new Devon County Ambulance Service, run from Exeter.

The old Station in Greenbank was demolished in February 2004 but the one at Crownhill is still standing and used by the British Red Cross Society.