A hundred years of teaching life saving skills in Gateshead

St John Ambulance cadets give CPR demo
North East St John Ambulance cadets demonstrate life saving techniques Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Celebrations have taken place to mark a hundred years since the formation of the first cadet unit of the St John Ambulance - here in our region.

Gateshead Saltwell Nursing Cadet Division opened in May 1922 to teach first aid, nursing and care skills to young people.

A century on, and the volunteers of today came together to mark the occasion with a series of events, including an exhibition in Saltwell Towers. The Victorian mansion has a long association with the organisation, having been a hospital in the First Wold War.

The exhibition, featuring pictures, manuals and documents, details the changing face of the St John Ambulance, and charts developments in equipment and treatment over the past one hundred years.

Pictures and documents from the past form part of the exhibition Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

St John Ambulance leaders say as well as providing training in first aid and life saving skills, the cadet unit helps young people with their personal development . In turn, that knowledge can be used for the good of local communities.

Sheila Thorpe, from Burnopfield and Consett St John Ambulance explains: "It's about what we're doing for the young people ... how we see the young people grow and what they give back to the community. We do "restart the heart" training where the young people are involved in that every year and they're going out and teaching the community how to save a life."

Lewis Hibbert, who is the District Cadet of the Year, says volunteering with the organisation has given him a host of opportunities. "I now know a lot of first aid, I went on a leadership course, so they teach you leadership skills, socialising as well, meeting other people teaches you how to socialise."

Medical knowledge and expertise has changed dramatically in the past one hundred years but those connected with this organisation say it is a moment to recognise the contribution of its young volunteers over the decades.