Maintaining links with retired London Ambulance Service Staff
ISSUE 72 • SPRING 2010
London Ambulance Service (LAS) museum curator Terry Spurr MBE has finally retired from the LAS after more than 43 years service. Here’s how it all started.
The items began to build up very quickly and he was allowed an extra two lockers in which to store them. As time moved on, the collection grew larger and larger, and, having attained the rank of station officer at Becontree, Terry then had a Comer coach (pictured above) given to him by Terry Cooper as a mobile storeroom.. Terry Cooper at the time was the divisional ambulance officer of the north east division. It was with this vehicle that Terry first started to take his collection ‘on the road’. His first display being the Dagenham Town Show in 1980. Since then Terry has attended literally thousand’s of display events, both in the UK and Europe.
As word spread about Terry’s interest people started to send him ambulance related articles, including uniform, equipment and stories of theirs and their families ambulance history. However, this was causing acute storage problems. Once again Terry Cooper lent a helping hand by allowing Terry to move his now vast collection into the empty workshops at Ilford Ambulance Station. After a great deal of degreasing, cleansing, and getting the place ready for use, the workshop was officially opened as the LAS Museum on 18th. May 1989, and Terry installed as its and first and only curator.
The opening ceremony was conducted by Mr Morrell, Chairman of the former South West Thames Regional Health Authority. Also in attendance was the Lord Mayor of Redbridge and many senior dignitaries from the LAS. The event was also featured in local and national media. Since then, the museum has been registered with the South-East England Museum Society and so became an official museum. Over the years the museum has been visited by many famous people. The whole cast of the television series “London’s Burning” being among them. The museum was also featured twice in the television programme “Collector’s Lot” in which presenter Sue Cook described the museum’s collection as the best she had seen during the making of the series.
The vintage vehicles, uniforms and equipment were later featured in many television dramas and documentaries with LAS staff often taking the part of ‘actors’ during the filming. Terry was awarded the MBE in the 1999 New Year’s Honour’s List for: ‘Services to the London Ambulance Service and the Construction of the Museum, and Dedication to the History of the Service’. Terry’s response was that: “ I did it ‘cos no one else did”. This was to become the first of several honours to be bestowed on Terry. He became a “Freeman of the City of London, and Liveryman with the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers” on 2007. This was for Terry’s charity work with the trips to Euro Disney with severely disabled and terminally ill children in conjunction with London’s licensed black cab drivers. In all, Terry took part in 17 trips. He was also made a “Serving Brother of St. John Ambulance” in the same year.
The museum today is the home of many thousands of ambulance exhibits from all over the UK, Europe and the wider world, many of which are original, and unique. There is also a Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade section, and a World War Two display. The museum has also been visited by many dignitaries world-wide, including the heads of ambulance services from Canada, Cuba, Israel, Australia, USA and Europe. In the German town of Fulda, the museum has the Freedom of the City. Of all the vast array of artefacts on display in the museum, Terry’s pride of possession is a plaster relief sculpture dated 1941, depicting Sir Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister, in uniform and in the drivers seat of a London Auxiliary Ambulance Service vehicle during the Blitz. Similar sculptures of Sir Winston were also dedicated to London’s fire and police services during WW2.
Although Terry retired as a full time member of staff on 19th. September 2002, he continued in a part-time capacity as curator until Monday 28th. March 2010 when he finally calls time on a life-long love affair with the LAS and makes a clean break from the Service, to spend more time with his family. It was typical of Terry when I asked him if he had any final words to say about the museum that he only wished to thank the many people who had helped him to make the museum the success it is today, in particular to Bert Gibbs and Roy Kitchen.
On behalf of LASRA, enjoy your retirement Terry, and thank you for everything you have done for us. A true legend of the LAS.
By John Boast
Terry joined the LAS in january 1967 and started collecting ambulance memoribillia the following year whilst based at headquarters.
Last Revision Date: 4/30/10 - 8:45 PM