I’ve posted this image before, for my mini-bio of John Delamain Crocker (he’s the one with pipe). June S, my ambulance-driving diarist, captioned the photo “Dodd Crowley Crocker and ?”, which by my estimation makes the man in the ARP overalls Bernard Crowley. The 1911 census shows him living at 239 King’s Road with his father, grandmother and two sisters (he was actually one of nine surviving siblings). Those premises are now occupied by the clothes company L.K. Bennett.
Bernard, born in Chelsea in 1894, was a heavy tailor – he made and altered coats and other outerwear – and in 1911 was still learning his trade from his father, who had come over from Ireland decades before.
I wonder if, during the long hours they spent sheltering in the ‘dugout’ at the ambulance station waiting for a callout, June and Bernard discussed tailoring and matters relating. June herself was an accomplished tailor and reputedly could whip up a lined suit in a matter of days.
The demographic of the ambulance service was an interesting one: by-and-large the men were middle-aged, waiting for orders to join their regiment, medically rejected, in protected occupations, were chauffeurs or taxi-drivers, retired, or any combination of those. The women, as is perhaps evident from my posts, tended towards the posh or even aristocratic.
I have not been able to find out much more about Bernard, except that he married Ruby Walker in 1915 – they appear to have been living apart in 1939. I cannot tell if he served in World War One, partly because there are others of the same name and partly because many of the service records were destroyed by a bomb and subsequent soaking by the fire brigade during World War Two.
As for the ambulance service records, most of these were deliberately destroyed – seen as irrelevant – after the war. The treatment of the ambulance service as a Cinderella service is a theme I will return to.