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Sir John Furley

John Furley was born on 19 March 1836 to Robert Furley and Margaret, at 32 North Street, Ashford, now the Masonic Hall

As a young volunteer with Ashford military for 14 years, John Furley found he was too weak to fight, but his fascination with the military took him to battlefields in Europe. He saw what was needed for more successful care for the wounded and sick : the supplies, equipment and specialist transport.

He founded the British Red Cross.

In 1870 he got into Paris disguised as coachman and set up a First Aid Supplies depot as the British Red Cross: caring for the wounded of both sides during the Seige of Paris

John married Maria Baker, a nurse, in 1874.

The Red Cross focussed on the those wounded in war. John Furley saw a wider need for First Aid in industry, in peace as well as war. The Red Cross International Committee in Geneva were slow to respond.

John Furley took his proposal for First Aid in peace to the Order of St John. In 1877 St John”s Ambulance began providing First Aid and transport for the injured.

Ashford Railway Works had its own St John’s Ambulance First Aid Unit and Ambulance

Sir John Furley invented the Furley Stretcher for the battlefield

And the First Aid Kit – first introduced as an ambulance hamper

He worked with his friends back home in Ashford on the Ashford Litter: a stretcher and cover on a lightweight sprung wheels. Easily pulled and pushed by one or two people, it was hugely in demand. It as made in Ashford and sold all over the world to emergency services.

Sir John also designed a train for transporting those wounded by war.

When he died at home in 1919 Sir John had overseen the Supply and Distribution of First Aid supplies in many war zones. His wife Maria worked alongside him.

Through his pioneering work Sir John Furley‘s legacy is what we now know as the NHS Ambulance service, and what we now call Humanitarian work around the world.