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From the Archives: How the 'Villa Ambulance' helped WWI soldiers

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From the Archives: How the 'Villa Ambulance' helped WWI soldiers

Villa more than enhanced their reputation as a benevolent club during World War I. 

Fred Rinder wrote in the matchday programme during the four-year conflict that staff should "do their utmost for the traditions of our glorious club." 

And they certainly delivered, making upwards of £30,000 to be donated to various charitable causes. 

Interestingly, the last of these was the purchase of an 'Aston Villa Ambulance' for the Red Cross to use "for war purposes." 

 It was built by T. Brittain of Bristol Road and cost £1,000. The body was painted in the club's colours and the rampant lion crest with 'prepared' motto was emblazoned on the door. 

The ambulance travelled all over England, transporting wounded soldiers that were being moved to hospitals closer to home. 

 It was described as "the most useful ambulance car donated." 

'The Aston Villa Ambulance' was a napier chassis, had a six-cylinder engine, went at 45-h-p and was fitted with electric lighting set and interior lamps and electric self-starter. 

It was convertible and was easily adaptable for carrying 'stretcher' or 'sitting up' cases - or for both at the same time and also attendants and driver. 

 It had room for ten 'sitting up' cases. 

It was described as a "great improvement" on the old box-style of ambulance, which was constructed mainly for 'stretcher' case and was "altogether unsuitable" for 'sitting up' cases and conveying wounded soldiers in a more or less convalescent stage from one place to another. 

The 'Aston Villa Ambulance' travelled "all over England" - Chelmsford, Bristol, Manchester, Shrewsbury and Worcester as well as many other places in doing "splendid service in carrying wounded soldiers who were being removed to hospitals nearer their own homes." 

Villa were thanked immensely for their contribution to the war effort in a letter from the Birmingham Joint Voluntary Aid Detachments Committee, chronicled in the December 1919 minute book. 

The letter makes clear how heavily used the ambulance became by stating that "she has frequently done six to eight hundred miles in a week...she has not been kept to look at, neither has she ever failed us when work was required."

Paul Brown
By @paulbrownavfc 12th March 2013
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