St John Ambulance

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St John Ambulance
St John New Zealand logo.svg
St John Ambulance logo (New Zealand)
Countries with national organisations affiliated to SJA
Abbreviation SJA
Formation 1877
Type Registered Charities
Purpose Education and public service
Region served
42 national organisations[1]
Parent organisation
Order of Saint John (chartered 1888)

St John Ambulance is a trade name used by a number of affiliated organisations in different countries, counties, states or provinces dedicated to the teaching and practice of medical first aid and the provision of ambulance and community volunteer services, all of which derive their origins from the St John Ambulance Association founded in 1877 in the United Kingdom.[2] The active uniformed first-aiders known as the St John Ambulance Brigade or Community Services were introduced in 1887.[2][3] There are now more than 500,000 such volunteers worldwide.[2] The brand name and logo are owned by the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem with the international office located in London, England. Logos may vary in each country but always contain the eight-pointed Maltese Cross as the essential identifier.

The membership aspect of St John Ambulance is largely ranked, and members fall into a hierarchical structure of reporting. Ranks run from corporals, through sergeants and officers all the way up to high national ranks, but there is significant variation between Priories and it is hard to generalise the structure too much from an international perspective.

Most members of St John Ambulance are not themselves members of the Order, and vice versa, so a major presence of the Order does not dictate a major presence of St John Ambulance. Most notably, the Order of St John and St John Ambulance are non-denominational, so as to serve all. St John Ambulance works on a more geographical nature than the Order, and has to contend with the differing national laws, medical practices and cultures of countries.

National and regional

The legal status of each organisation varies by country, province, state, county, territory and municipality. In both England and Wales the resident St John Ambulance organisations are simultaneously but separately registered as charities and companies, whereas St John Ambulance South Africa (for example) is a distinct entity registered as a "public benefit organisation".

The presence of St John Ambulance is different among countries:

Johanniter International

In the aftermath of World War II, British soldiers established Saint John brigades in Germany. In cooperation with the Johanniter Orden (the Protestant German Order of Saint John), the Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe was founded in 1952. In recent years, more national Saint John societies, not directly linked to the British St John Ambulance, have been founded in Europe, notably in Austria and Poland.

At the international meeting of the governing bodies of the Orders of Saint John in the course of celebrations to mark the Order's 900th anniversary in 1999, the idea to cooperate more intensively within Europe was born. As a result, Johanniter International today links sixteen national Saint John organisations all over Europe.

Name and mottos

In the phrase "Order of St John", St is an abbreviation for Saint, and corporate and national logos began to reflect this as a change from St. (with the dot) in 2006-7.[citation needed]

The unusual name of the organisation has been known to cause confusion to members of the public, and many people often assume that the "St John" prefix indicates a church related organisation. In fact, in its modern form, the prefix refers to the Order of St John.

The Order's mottoes are Pro fide (For the faith) and Pro utilitate hominum (For the service of mankind). The 'Priory of England and The Islands' has recently replaced the Latin mottoes with a single English sentence: "For the faith and in the service of humanity", which some see as a controversial move. However, in December 2006 it was agreed by Priory Council that this move should be partially reversed and the Latin mottoes were reintroduced in the Cadet Code of Chivalry.

Structure of the Order

The Order is not to be confused with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta or other members of The Alliance of the Orders of St John of Jerusalem. There are also "copycat" organisations using the St John name which are not generally recognised by members of the Alliance of Orders of St John.


Central Ambulance Station, Auckland, New Zealand

Eleven priories currently exist:

  • England and The Islands
  • Scotland
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • United States of America
  • Wales
  • St John Kenya
  • St John Singapore
  • Hong Kong

Commanderies exist in:

  • Northern Ireland (The Commandery of Ards, headquartered in Belfast)
  • Western Australia (The Commandery of Western Australia, headquartered in Perth)

The Priory of England and The Islands is the home priory of the Order, and any country which does not belong to its own dedicated priory is assumed into this home priory. Most of these are small Commonwealth islands, or countries in which there is only a minor presence. Local St John Councils (e.g. Provincial, Territorial and state Councils within a priory) and National St John Councils (such as Singapore) are governed ultimately by the "St John Councils (General) Regulations 1975" of The Grand Priory of the Order and are legally incorporated locally under relevant legislation (e.g. societies, companies or foundations). In countries such as Australia and Canada the Priory is a separate corporation whose purpose is to administer the Order of St John on behalf of its Prior (e.g. Governors General, Lord Lieutenant or prominent individuals such as John Drexel IV in the USA). St John Ambulance training and volunteer / professional services are governed by Council Boards of DIrectors. Local St John Councils may pay an assessment to the Priory in exchange for services such as Investiture services, international relations with Grand Priory and/or research on products and services for and on behalf of Councils. As a voluntary organisation St John Ambulance is a community-based and community-owned charitable entity ultimately accountable to the community in which it operates.

That said, the relationship between the Order of St. John and St. John Ambulance is not directly paralleled. This explains somewhat why a breakdown into Priories may not be tantamount to a breakdown of St John Ambulance.

Key dates

  • 10 July 1877: St John Ambulance Association formed to teach first-aid in large railway centres and mining districts.
  • June 1887: St John Ambulance Brigade is formed as a uniformed organisation to provide a First Aid and Ambulance services at public events.
  • 14 May 1888: British Order of St John is granted royal charter by Queen Victoria.[1]
  • 1908: By mutual agreement with St Andrew's Ambulance Association, St John Ambulance Association ceased operating in Scotland but the Order continued to operate.
  • 1974 The St John Ambulance Association and The St John Ambulance Brigade amalgamated to form the present St John Ambulance Foundation
  • 1999: The Order of St John celebrated its 900th anniversary worldwide

St John Ambulance in popular culture

The St John logo appears on the right door of several models of the TARDIS in the long-running British series Doctor Who. This was copied from British police telephone boxes from the 1970s and earlier.

The St John logo also appears on the windows of a hut dedicated to first aid at a Church Fair shown in an episode of Jeeves and Wooster.[4]

In 2016, the UK St John Ambulance organisation, via its website, launched a campaign for baby CPR featuring a song by animated nursery rhyme characters, including Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Incy Wincy Spider and The Cat and The Fiddle.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b "History in Summary". St John International. Retrieved 12 May 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c The Difference - newsletter from St John Ambulance, (Nov 2014) p4 "A Brief History of St John Ambulance"
  3. ^ M Durrant (1948) American Journal of Nursing 48 (12) pp763–765 "St. John Ambulance Brigade"
  4. ^ "Jeeves and Wooster (1990-1993): The Village Sports Day at Twing". IMDb. 
  5. ^ Harris, Kelly (23 January 2016). "St John Ambulance launches nursery rhyme-themed campaign to teach baby CPR to parents". Dudley News. 

External links

  • St John International - official website
  • Museum of St John in Clerkenwell, London
  • Annual inspection of Birmingham's St. John's Ambulance Brigade & Nursing Corps. by Maj.-Gen. Sir P. Wilkinson, 1928 (Pathé newsreel)
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