St John Ambulance is the name of a number of affiliated organisations in different countries which teach and provide first aid and emergency medical services, and are primarily staffed by volunteers. The associations are overseen by the international Order of St John and its priories (national branches).
The first such organisation to be founded was the St John Ambulance Association, which was founded in 1877 in England. Its first uniformed first-aiders were founded in 1887 as the St John Ambulance Brigade. These two have since been merged into a single association. St John Ambulance now has over 40 national organisations.
The legal status of each organisation varies by country, province, state, county, territory and municipality. In both England and Wales the resident St John Ambulance organisations are simultaneously but separately registered as charities and companies, whereas St John Ambulance South Africa (for example) is a distinct entity registered as a “public benefit organisation”.
St John Ambulance were traditionally organised with military-style ranks. Some associations have replaced these with civilian titles (e.g. Unit Manager, Superintendent).
Relationship with the Order of Saint John
The Order of Saint John, formally the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem is an international order of chivalry which is headquartered in the United Kingdom. The Order founded the St John Ambulance associations and oversees their work. The Order also oversee the St John Eye Hospital Group, which is separate to the ambulance associations. Most members of St John Ambulance are not themselves members of the Order, and vice versa, so a major presence of the Order does not dictate a major presence of St John Ambulance.