St John stalwart honoured
IT would be impossible to calculate the hours that first aid expert John Wilding has spent on duty helping others.Man and boy, he has been a devoted volunteer of the St John Ambulance – and now as well as giving up many hours of his free time each week to serve, he is also a full-time employee of the brigade.
IT would be impossible to calculate the hours that first aid expert John Wilding has spent on duty helping others.
Man and boy, he has been a devoted volunteer of the St John Ambulance – and now as well as giving up many hours of his free time each week to serve, he is also a full-time employee of the brigade.
Now Mr Wilding, 55, is set to be honoured for his lifetime of dedication with the highest award one of the charity's volunteers can receive.
On June 13 he will travel to the historic Grand Priory Church, Clerkenwell, London, to be invested as a member of the Order of St John by Lord Slynn, Prior of the Priory of England and the Islands.
He will be admitted as a Serving Brother and presented with the insignia of the order, along with around 100 other people at the investiture ceremony.
"I am really proud and feel it is a great honour and I am really looking forward to the day," said Mr Wilding, divisional superintendent for the Felixstowe St John Ambulance brigade.
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"But we don't serve thinking we might get honoured. I just find the work so interesting and rewarding and it is great to think that we might be able to help someone in an emergency, even in a small way."
Mr Wilding, who lives with his wife Sharon at Cage lane, Walton, took his first St John first aid exam at the age of 11 when he joined the 1st Ipswich unit at Samuel Court.
He stayed in the unit until he was 33, becoming a sergeant, but then left as he married and moved to Felixstowe, wanting time to settle at the resort and devote time to his young family.
But leaving the unit meant he also lost his rank and when he decided to rejoin at Felixstowe he had to start again.
He began as a leader of the Badger unit – the brigade's youngest members. Some of those badgers he trained are now in the adult division, including his own children, Michelle, 22, and Stefon , 18.
Now he leads a team of 20 adults, who provide first aid cover at all the town's public events and theatre shows, as well as cover at major events across the area.
"We often get called to stand as cover at Ipswich Town's football matches, which probably seems great to most people – sadly I am not a football fan and so standing around in the freezing cold is not my idea of fun!" he said.
He will often attend these events, along with meetings and training sessions, after spending all day at work as a full-time crew member of one of the St John's two ambulances in Suffolk, a job he took up 18 months ago.
"Most of our work involves transporting patients to and from hospitals, including Papworth, which frees an emergency ambulance to do other work," he said.
"But we also cover commercial events – such as Newmarket and Great Yarmouth races – and other similar major attractions. We also work for the hospice and most of our time is spent out on the road."