Sheffield book reveals hidden story of wartime women ambulance drivers

A book celebrating the hidden history of Sheffield’s female ambulance drivers during World War Two has been launched at a city museum.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 10:33 am
Updated Thursday, 5th September 2019, 24:01 am
Author Mike Dyson launches his book about Sheffield wartime women ambulance drivers at the city's National Emergency Services Museum, alongside learning and discovery co-ordinator Rosie Norrell

The book, The ARP Ambulance Service by local historian Mike Dyson, tells the story of the women and men who served in the city’s Air Raid Precautions (ARP) ambulance service during the war.

It includes the remarkable stories of drivers such as May Mirfin, who was on duty during the chaos of the Sheffield Blitz, and Nellie Badsey, who helped to ferry wounded prisoners of war.

Mike was inspired to begin his research by his mother, Connie, who was a member of the ARP but spoke little about her experiences.

He said: “My mum was really the inspiration to begin my research.

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“She was an ambulance driver but did not say anything about the Blitz.

“The ambulance service was only one part of the ARP but is usually one of the least researched.

“It was a daunting task to take on and it took me about five years to pull together all the information.

“At first I didn’t intend it to become a book but the more I discovered, the more I felt there was a story waiting to be told.”

The book was officially launched at the National Emergency Services Museum (NESM) in West Bar, Sheffield.

It was developed in conjunction with NESM with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and complements the museum’s major exhibition, Blood, Bandages and Blue Lights, which celebrates the history of the ambulance service.

The book is exclusively available from the museum.

*The NESM is currently looking for volunteers to join its team.

“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our museum”, said Holly Roberts, the museum’s curator and one of only two full-time staff members.

“As an independent, self-funded museum and a charity we wouldn’t be able to operate at all without people giving up their time to support us.

“They really do have a huge impact both on the success of the museum and on the visitor experience.”

Volunteers at NESM are encouraged to become fully involved in every aspect of the museum. This means helping with anything from designing and building new exhibitions or restoring and maintaining vintage vehicles to refurbishing NESM’s Victorian building.

Volunteers also help to conserve and archive the one million objects in the museum’s collection and deliver special events both in the museum and outside it. They even jump into the driver’s seat of historic fire engines or police cars to attend shows, schools and weddings.

It is this opportunity to be immersed in the life of the museum that gives volunteering at NESM its unique character, said Holly.

While she recognises that the museum is competing with many other charities and organisations for volunteers, Holly believes that the varied opportunities provide a more rounded experience than some other organisations can offer.

The museum has recently relaunched its volunteer programme and is currently recruiting to its visitor experience, maintenance and driving teams.

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