When I Joined the service
My name is Graham Alland, and I started work with the Portsmouth Ambulance Service (Hampshire UK) on the 24th January 1966 (see photo) on day work, that meant that we took all the patients to different clinics and we also took the disabled children to school, the wage then was about £11 a week. Shift work only became available if one of the shift men left or passed away and it was done on a seniority basis, but it is what all of us daymen waited for, as it was more cash and a chance to do real Ambulance work.
And so after two years, on the 9th March 1968 it was my turn to be promoted to shift work, now I would be on a better wage and the real Ambulance work would begin, although I don't mind admitting to being somewhat apprehensive of the prospects of some of the severe accidents that the service dealt with and how I would react.
In those days we had an Ambulance that stayed on station to deal with Accident and Emergencies and one person from the seven to three shift and one from the three to eleven shift would team up with one of the shift leaders to be the crew. This was done on a rota system and it was known internally as, the Blood Crew, the shift leader usually went in the back of the Ambulance with the patient and the other crew member drove the vehicle.I obviously dealt with many incidents over the years, some strange, some funny, and some gruesome, but I will tell you of a few that were much publicised and also that will stay in my memory for ever.
I was doing a night shift, it was on Sunday 12th October 1969 at 1.30 am we went to a serious car accident in Southsea, a car had crashed, the driver had disappeared and the woman passenger was thrown through the plate glass window of a betting shop. When we arrived she was lying on a lot of broken glass, and above her ready to drop was another very large piece. After some time with the aid of a couple of police officers, we managed to lift the woman from the glass and put her on our stretcher, other police officers had got some paper to protect their hands and were holding the hanging glass so that it did not fall on us. The woman was very badly cut, one of her ears was missing and her arm was almost severed at the shoulder and unfortunately even with our best efforts she died on the way to the hospital. The strange bit.....We later found out that this woman was recently widowed, and her late husband was the owner of the very same betting shop that she was found in. The driver of the car was later found uninjured (the woman's new boyfriend) and there was no reason for the accident as there was no other vehicle involved, very strange.
On 15th August 1967, there were two aircraft crashes on the same day in Portsmouth, (I believe they were Dakota's but I am not an expert). Portsmouth did have its own Airport many years ago and one very wet day an aircraft had just arrived from Jersey and was landing on the grass runway, the ground was so wet that it could not stop and crashed into an embankment over the back of the Airport and as far as I can remember there were no injuries. Later on that day I was on "blood" and we got a call to the city Airport where a plane was reported as just crashed. The general feeling amongst the staff was that it was the same plane that had crashed earlier and someone had only just spotted it and reported it, after all there could not be two crashes on one day, could there, Wrong.
Any way it was a 999 call and we had to respond. As we drove up the Eastern Road towards the Airport the traffic seemed to be at a standstill, that was very strange being so far away from the Airport, but with bells (yes bells) & sirens blearing we overtook them all and then found out the reason for the hold-up. Another aircraft had crashed, but this time it was on the main road completely blocking it, and the only injury was a woman that had a leg injury, it was amazing that it did not collide with any cars, as this was a very busy main road. All the other passengers were understandably somewhat shocked. The crash had caused absolute chaos to the city's traffic, as there were only two ways off Portsea Island, that was the Eastern road, that the plane had blocked, and Portsbridge (The main A3). It was interesting to note that when they tried to remove the plane from the road, they put a steel hawser through both the rear doors of the plane, connected it to a tractor unit and tried to pull the plane back on to the airfield, but all they succeeded in doing was to badly damage the tail section of the plane. It was removed by other means after many hours.
On the 4th March 1972 Hovertravels SR-N6 012 overturned off Southsea with a loss of 5 lives. The craft that runs between Southsea and the Isle of Wight was hit by a very large freak wave that turned it completely over about a mile offshore I was once again on "blood", when we were called to an incident involving the Hovercraft and at that time we had no other details. When we arrived the rain was pouring down and it was blowing a gale and at first there was no sign of the Hovercraft, then we saw a helicopter go over and also spotted a small group of people looking out to sea.
All we could see from the beach, was a group of people some way out to sea near the fort, that looked like they were standing on the water, (as the Hovercraft was flat underneath). We immediately called for backup and several more Ambulances were sent to join us but at the time there was nothing we could do until the Helicopters and small craft were able to rescue them and bring them ashore. Southsea common was right behind us and we knew that would be the obvious place the helicopters would land so we went there and waited. Some of the small craft took the victims into the Dockyard and Ambulances met them there.
By this time many more members of the public had started to arrive along with the fire brigade and naval divers. Many little boats were coming out through the harbour entrance and heading for the hovercraft. The first survivors were brought ashore by the helicopters that landed quite close to us rocking the Ambulance with it's down draught, we then reversed to the helicopters, but we could not get too close otherwise the blades would have sliced the top off our Ambulance.
Our crew from Portsea Station, were the first on the scene and we arrived shortly afterwards from the Eastern road depot, we spent time arranging things and helped with the loading of the other Ambulances that had arrived, this went on for some hours. It was also not long before Mr Ward the Chief Ambulance Officer at the time, arrived to take control.
The hovercraft was eventually towed ashore at Southsea, as it was thought other people could still be trapped inside it. A rope was brought onto the beach, and several sailors, fire and police officers, along with our crews and several members of the public tried to pull the craft onto the beach, but it was hopeless. The fire brigade attacked the flat bottom with axes and oxyacetylene equipment but they were unable to get in, so in the end it was towed in to the Dockyard to be lifted over. Five people lost their lives that day, one of them was a young girl that was being taken on a birthday treat by her uncle.
In 1972 I was 22 – young and full of power. I was in the first year of my studies in Zurich.I was with a friend of mine on a visit to London. One of my older brothers worked in those days in London. On this Saturday I made lonely railway-trip from London to the coast, I left the train at the station in Portsmouth and walked down to the seaside. For the first time I saw a hovercraft – so I decided to cross to Ryde. The return trip back to Portsmouth is in my memories as it would be today; - waiting for the late departure in Ryde - the speed of the craft over the sea - the waves which shook the craft - the first turn to left and then the second turn on the back of the craft - flying against the wall - some seconds without conscious - opening of the first window - diving in the sea - loosing the swimming belt - swimming back to the craft - seeing a man drowning in the high waves - climbing on the bottom of the craft - the high waves crossing us - the captain with his safety-gun calling for help - colder and colder – slipering surface - waiting for help – can a sustain the forces of nature - the hammering of the survivors from inside of the craft - seeing the helicopters coming - heavy down draught of the helicopters - on the small ship - entering the harbour - loosing the own power before entering the bus - helping hands into the ambulance - waking up on the bed – the girls who tried giving me back the needed warmth - doctors trying to find what wrong with the Swiss boy - In the large room with 10? People - the night with nightmare and lot of problems - leaving on Sunday the hospital with the aid of the police - interview in the police station - return trip alone by train to London With the help of God and the help of brave men and woman I have now a good life as husband and father of a son and a daughter. I wish you a good Sunday – please give my great thanks to all of the people in Portsmouth. Sincerely Thomas
HOVERCRAFT ACCIDENT 1029 HC Deb 06 March 1972 vol 832 cc1029-32 1029 Mr. Pink (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the hovercraft disaster which occurred last Saturday with loss of life. The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant) regret to have to report that an SRN 6 hovercraft, operated by Hovertravel Limited, overturned at the 1030 end of a journey from Ryde to Southsea when half 1030a mile south-west of Clarence Pier at approximately 4.8 p.m. on Saturday, 4th March, 1972; 26 persons, including the captain, were aboard the craft, and four lives were lost. This is the first hovercraft casualty in passenger service in the United Kingdom involving loss of life. Officials of the Department are conducting an on-the-spot inquiry into the incident, and urgent consideration will be given to the findings. I should like to thank all those concerned in the rescue operation's, without which the loss of life might have been greater. I know that the House will wish to join me in expressing sympathy with those who have been bereaved as the result of the disaster. Mr. Pink I thank the Under-Secretary for that reply, and wish to associate myself with his expressions of sympathy. As this is the first major hovercraft accident, may I ask him to treat the inquiry as a matter of urgency in view of the undoubted anxiety which will occur to operators and users of hovercraft throughout the world? Will he consider making regulations for the operation of hovercraft in bad weather? Mr. Grant I assure my hon. Friend that the matter is being dealt with urgently. We expect the on-the-spot inquiry to be completed this week and its report will be urgently considered by the Department. The suggestion in the last part of his supplementary question will be considered in the light of the findings of the inquiry. Mr. Mason May I, too, associate my right hon. and hon. Friends with the Minister's expression of sympathy for the bereaved and also pay tribute to Captain Course for his action in helping to save so many passengers in hazardous circumstances? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the 117,000 crossings by hovercraft involving—allowing for even a two thirds payload—the safe passage of about 2¼ million people, apart from crossings of the Channel and various other operations in many parts of the world, represent a remarkable safety record? Although the design may now be in question, may I ask the Under-Secretary to agree that there may have been an unusual combination of freak wind and wave conditions? May I 1031 also press him 1031to accept that speed is imperative in considering this whole matter, so enabling the Department, the Air Registration Board and the British Hovercraft Corporation to find the cause quickly, which will result in the remedy being effected and the restraint being lifted as soon as possible? Mr. Grant I share the right hon. Gentleman's comments about Captain Course, who was the captain of this vessel. I also agree with him that the industry has had an extremely good safety record. Certainly I confirm that no effort will be spared to bring the results of the inquiry, and such action as may be necessary as a result of it, to a speedy conclusion. Mr. Woodnutt May I express my deepest sympathy to the friends and relatives of those who died and, of course, to those who suffered, and in this I know I am expressing the view of all the people of the Isle of Wight, who feel most unhappy that this tragedy should have occurred to a craft of which they are justly proud? May I also add my tribute to Captain Course and all the rescuers? I managed to get there about 40 minutes after the accident happened. I can speak from personal experience of the quiet calm, courage and skill displayed by everybody in this operation. Is the Under-Secretary aware that this tragedy emphasises the high degree of safety of this form of craft? It is a fact that of the nine operational services in this country over the last six years, involving the carriage of 7 million passengers, this has been the first fatal accident. Does my hon. Friend agree that we must not let this tragedy, sad though it is, obscure the wonderful record and future potential of this craft? Mr. Grant Yes, indeed. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the comments in the first part of his supplementary question, and I entirely agree with the observations he made in the second part. Mr. R. C. Mitchell Like the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt), I happened to travel to and from the Isle of Wight on Saturday afternoon by hovercraft. I am glad that 1032 the Minister emphasised the excellent safety 1032record of this craft. Will he now express his complete confidence in the whole future of the hovercraft as a form of travel? Mr. Grant The hon. Gentleman has taken the matter rather wider. Nevertheless, in previous debates and discussions, views on the future of the hovercraft industry have been clearly expressed. I agree that we should not necessarily allow ourselves to be deflected as a result of what one hopes is an isolated, though sad and tragic, incident. Mr. Rost Has the Minister seen the article in today's Daily Express by Sir Christopher Cockerell pointing out that the craft involved in the accident was designed as long ago as 1961 and emphasising that there has been a drying up of Government finance for research and development on hovercraft generally? Is it not nonsensical that we should be able to find hundreds of millions of pounds to prop up inefficient nationalised and declining industries and yet starve an industry with such growth and export potential of R. & D. finance?
After that tragic accident, the Hovercraft to the Isle of Wight is now cancelled if the wind reaches a certain speed, also emergency doors have now been fitted in the bottom of them. A couple of days after this event, I was called into the Chief Ambulance Officer's office, and he asked me if I would like to go on a Intubation and Infusion course . This was the forunner of the paramedic and it was a course that was held in the operating theatres of a local hospital in which you were taught to put up drips and also insert intubation tubes into the unconscious patient, this also meant that we would spend more time at the roadside stabilising a patient before removal to the hospital. You would also spend a week of the course in the casualty department of another hospital and that I found very interesting. As we carried the equipment around with us in a sort of black brief case, we became known as the black bag men, and it would amuse some of the patients when they heard a call go out over the radio for a, "Black Bag Man".
Another accident I attended in 1972 was at London Road North End Portsmouth, a fire engine on its way to a car fire in the north of the city, swerved to avoid another car, and in doing so rolled over and hit a row of parked cars. Luckily there was no one in them, but several of the fire officers were injured and needed hospital treatment. The Chief Fire Officer (Mr George Brunner) can be seen inspecting the appliance that was less than two months old.
The Car that it crushed against the tree
The South Parade Pier Fire June 11th 1974.
In June 1974, Ken Russell utilised South Parade Pier for the filming of his rock opera "Tommy" starring Roger Daltry, Elton John and Tina Turner. During the filming of the Pinball Wizard scene a serious fire broke out in the Gaiety bar area, causing damage to the value of £500,000.
When we arrived the fire was raging and made worse by the strong wind, there was nothing we could do apart from standing by to treat any injuries that may occur to the hundred or so firefighters that were on scene.
The fire brigade was very well organised and it was not long before thier mobile canteen arrived with food and drink in abundance, as it seemed that this was going to be a very long job. We were also invited to refreshments, so it was the first time I had sat at a table in the middle of the main road, eating a meal, whilst having a front row seat at a major fire.
South Parade Pier Fire at its height. (Thanks to Jenny Bignell of Hampshire for pictures)
Some days earlier they were filming Tommy at the Wesley Central hall in Fratton road Portsmouth, and as there were a lot of people involved we were sent to stand by, and my claim to fame is that I got to speak to Oliver Reed, (the actor) who was actually sober at the time.
Southsea Pier after the Fire (copyright Roger Lovell)
These are just a few of the incidents that I attended in the early years of my career, that I hope you find interesting, there have obviously been many many more.
With my wife Anne, collecting my 30 year Medal
I held many ranks in the service, including station officer and control superintendent. I retired in 1998 as the Training Business Manager, looking after the industial first aid side of the service.
I have done and seen so many things in my sixty five years, I even worked twenty years part time for 'Barrells' a local undertakers, and was in the Auxiliary Fire Service (in the sixties, but that's another story) that people have said "You could write a book on your life" and so I have, but only to give to my son Paul and daughter Samantha, so that they can see what dad did in his life. Unless someone want's to put it in print and earn me lots of money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Now where's my duster.
GrahamDrop me a mail
You have visited the old days, now come right up to date by visiting our vocal group web site and listen to the music, just click on the............. "Sounds Unlimited" link. Also click on the Retired Ambulance Personnel site, to see some of the vehicles and crews of yesteryear.
Help Support the Hampshire & I.O.W. Air Ambulance, Launched in July 2007, Click on link.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance
Sounds Unlimited Vocal Group
Retired Ambulance Personnel