31 May 2013
Volunteers Week (1-7 June) gives the Red Cross an opportunity to say thank you to the wonderful people, such as Theodora Bullock, who make the organisation’s work possible. Here’s her story:
Theodora Bullock (now a sprightly 92-years-old), first walked into a London Red Cross office to sign up as a first aid volunteer in 1939.
She couldn’t know it at the time, but war broke out soon afterwards and she was suddenly catapulted into playing a vital and busy role.
After gaining qualifications in first aid, nursing and ‘anti-gas’, the young volunteer was soon providing nursing duties whenever London hospitals were short-staffed. She recalled: “I qualified just in time for the blitz so we were very, very busy.”
It proved to be a dangerous, and almost fatal, role. Theodora said: “I was living right in the most popular bombing path and, one night on duty, my tin hat got hit by a piece of shrapnel. I was hit so hard I fell over.
“I’ve kept the hat and it’s one of my most prized possessions, sitting on the bookcase to remind me of my lucky escape.”
On Theodora’s 21st birthday, she was called up to become a full-time student nurse, largely due to her Red Cross training. Following the war, she became a social worker but volunteering remained a prominent feature in her life.
Throughout the decades, Theodora’s volunteering role has also ensured had front row positions at many big historical events. She provided first aid cover at the Queen’s coronation in 1953 (“It was marvellous!”) and attended lots of shows at the London Palladium where “there was a lot of fainting.”
She has also represented the Red Cross on Remembrance Sundays at Westminster, and was even on duty when people paid their respects to Winston Churchill as he lay in state inside Westminster Hall. She said: “It was very moving because there were so many poor men who were crying.”
When she retired, Theodora moved to Cemaes Bay, Anglesey, where her close ties with the Red Cross have endured. She still fundraises every year, wearing the commandant’s uniform she first wore in 1956 (which, incidentally, still fits her perfectly).
Looking back, Theodora thinks that being part of the Red Cross for seven decades has been a wonderful experience and helped her cope with some of life’s more difficult experiences.
She said: “It’s always been there – I’ve had a fair amount of tragedy and it carries you through.
“My experience with the Red Cross has helped me be more resilient in my own life. I wouldn’t be without it. It’s been a real privilege.”
Become a first aid volunteer
Download the Red Cross mobile first aid app