Two St John volunteers from Dereham clock up 119 years’ service

Meet Florence Mann and George Leslie, dedicated members of Dereham's St John Ambulance division who between them have completed 119 years' service with the charity.

Both of the volunteers have seen many changes in the National Health Service and the way first aid is delivered, but one thing remains the same – their commitment to the organisation remains as strong as it was when they joined.

'I'll do it for as long as I'm physically capable,' said Mr Leslie, 72, of Manor Close, Hockering,

The father-of-two has provided first aid support at major events, including Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding on July 29, 1981, the Queen Mother's funeral on April 5, 2002, and music performances by the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.

He added: 'I have been to places where I never thought I would go.'

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George received his Laurel Leaf service medal at a special ceremony at Norwich's Hewitt School in September for completing 52 years with St John Ambulance.

He was only the third person in Norfolk to get the gold medal – the first was Florence, 86, of Swanton Avenue, Dereham, who received hers in 2004, and the second was Harry Plattin, from the Sennowe Park division, near Guist, who received his award last year.

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Florence, known as Flo, has completed 67 years with the St John Ambulance service this year and gained her Laurel Leaf at the former Phoenix Hotel in Dereham after completing 60 years with the charity.

She was one of the first people in the country to receive such an award, according to Richard Stafferton, 45, divisional superintendent for the Dereham division.

George, a retired depot worker, joined the Dereham branch in 2002 after moving from Hertfordshire. He joined St John Ambulance in 1956 with the Hoddesdon division.

He said he had always been interested in the medical industry and when he joined he learned everything from the St John Ambulance little black book, which contained information on bandaging patients, dealing with fractures, bee stings, fainting and bleeding, among other injuries.

Flo, who moved to the mid-Norfolk town from East Walton, near King's Lynn, when she was nine, first joined the service aged 20 while she worked at Dereham's Hobbies toy factory, which has since closed.

She was one of the first 12 recruits to the nursing division of the first aid charity, which was established in 1944 and allowed women to become members. She said: 'I just wanted to join to learn first aid and help other people. I did the first aid at Hobbies, which was mainly dealing with cuts and bruises.'

Mr Stafferton added: 'She has done bandaging for years and if you don't do it right she will tell you. She is a very organised person and she likes things just right. Although I'm the person in charge she will often keep me in order.'

He added: 'They are both very dedicated, loyal members of St John Ambulance and have given up many years for voluntary service. It has become very much part of their lives. You would be hard pushed to find two people across the country who have done that.'

St John Ambulance members are all volunteers who provide first aid at events and its vehicles now contain hi-tech medical equipment.

George said: 'St John Ambulance is every bit as relevant now as it was when I joined. I believe that first aid should be taught in all schools. I enjoy it because its good fun and I can meet people.'

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