Veteran's appeal for help to ensure the Legion will 'always be there'
PUBLISHED: 10:00 30 September 2012 | UPDATED: 12:53 08 October 2012
VETERAN John Nicholson has travelled the world alongside the Royal Army medical corps, faced terrorism in the Middle East and been charged with caring for the lives of his fellow comrades.
But the one fear John had was losing his independence.
Through the support of the The Royal British Legion, 82-year-old John has been able to maintain that independence, and says he does not want the charity to die out with his fellow veterans of World War Two.
He said: “The Legion has always been there. It was there for the survivors of the First and Second World War, and every other conflict after that. I think I’ve out-lived most of my army friends and more people need to know about The Legion so it is still there for others in the future.”
John, of Station Road in Worle, signed up for the army when he turned 18 and after his 18 months of service ended, he wasted no time in joining up again.
He said: “I missed it so much I signed up again. I loved the nursing bit and served as a medical orderly for 12 years.”
John was part of the field ambulance crew which travelled through the Middle East and he said much of what he saw was tragic.
He said: “I saw a lot of field injuries, especially when we were posted to Aden. One time we were called out to the troops who were fighting the rebels and I was in charge of the stretcher bearers and caring for 15 casualties.
“One of the male nurses called for me to look at a soldier, who he said was in bad shape. I went over and told him to gently lift the soldier onto the stretcher.
“But when he lifted his shoulders up, the soldier’s head stayed there. It was such a tragedy.”
While he was unable to save some, John says he helped a new life begin as he remembered the time he delivered a baby in the back of an ambulance.
John was working back in the UK at the time, at the Yorkshire barracks, where the wives of soldiers were staying.
He said: “The men had just left to serve and I was aware one of the women was pregnant. A few nights later she called out and told me she was having the baby.
“We got her into an ambulance and she was panicking, telling me we would not make it in time. She was right, and I ended up delivering the baby in the back just as we pulled up to the hospital doors.
“The nurse told me I had done a perfect job but I vowed then I would never deliver another child, it affected me that much. It was very stressful.
“A few days later I found out the mother had named the baby John after me.”
In 1980 John became a widower and later moved into sheltered accommodation. While the veteran said he did not know much about The Legion when he came out of the forces, this all changed when John was recently diagnosed with chronic emphysema.
He said: “I have been a life long smoker and I have difficulty breathing so life is not all that easy.
“Someone told me to contact The Legion so I spoke to them and they bought me a scooter to help me get around, do any shopping and get out of the house.
“It has changed my life.
“The one thing that I was dreading was losing my independence and this has made sure that I can keep it.
“I wrote a letter to The Legion after they provided me with a scooter and there were dots all over the paper from where I was crying because it’s helped me so much.”
And he added: “The British Legion needs more support and publicity.
“Unfortunately The Legion does not like to brag but I’m more than happy to do that for them.”
To find out more information on The Legion visit www.britishlegion.org.uk or to be one of the first to volunteer in the Poppy Pride Appeal contact Sue Potepa, the county fundraiser for Somerset, on 07768 794939.