Coming to the rescue of region’s residents

St. John Ambulance Wodonga Division was formed in mid – 1961 following first-aid classes given by Wodonga’s Clerk of Courts and St. John Ambulance officer, Terry Knight, with Jack Jones who was the Civil Ambulance Officer acting as first-aid instructor. People joining the classes showed interest in forming a Division.

The Wodonga Council called a public meeting which was held at the Wodonga Court House and addressed by Melbourne St. John officer, Mr. Norm Billing

Terry Knight pledged to conduct the first aid and home nursing classes to train people in First Aid and Auxiliary nursing.

The following year Clarrie Sutton, who’d been superintendent of St. John Ambulance, Swan Hill Division, transferred to Wodonga and replaced Terry Knight as Wodonga’s Superintendent.

Clarrie took over lecturing and First Aid Classes and was promoted during the next two years to Officer Brother, Serving Brother and Knighted by the Queen on 21st November, 1971, being the first Knight of St. John of Jerusalem in country Victoria and one of only a handful of Knights throughout the State.

When he arrived classes were held in the Fire Brigade Hall in High Street, moved to the Band Hall which was in Vermont Court behind the Wodonga Hospital and then to his backyard double garage in Chapple Street for the next 4 or 5 years. Brian McDermott, Malcolm McAuliffe and one of the Rapseys, acted as patients.

Clarrie Sutton, Les Taylor, Gordon Robins, Reg McDermott and Ron Gibson, all senior officers of Wodonga Division of St. John, carried out civil ambulance duties attending accidents when the local ambulancemen had time off.

Clarrie’s wife Mrs. May Sutton, began applying the make-up for training and accident simulation classes.  She also formed an Auxiliary of women to work at fund-raising and became its President. The Auxiliary filled a pivotal role in accepting responsibility as fund raisers. About 10 members conducted stalls, held mannequin parades, made sandwiches and soup and catered for lunches at the races; they also prepared and sold cold meat and salads, stewed apples and sponges with cream  They persisted until the new hall in Chapple St. was not only built but until the debt was paid off too.