In the very early days of the hospital, Mr. Jack Brewer, ‘JACKO’, corn merchant of 17 Old Church Rd, volunteered his services as transport officer and arranged for patients to be driven from the railway station or Beaufort Hospital to Oaklands by vehicles lent by the people of the town, some supplying the car and their driver.
A "Jacko" car disc was supplied in recognition. This went very well but he very soon realised that a vehicle to convey stretcher cases was required, and being a master at the art of recycling he immediately set up a fund, which gained official charity status in 1916, to purchase The Jacko Ambulance.
He collected anything and had the reputation of being able to sell or dispose of anything from old boots to dentures, money to mattresses, on one occasion when over 1/2 ton of jam jars and bottles were collected he had trouble finding packing cases to transport them in, in his indomitable manner he advertised to the local traders for help saying that knowing the scarcity of such items he was prepared to pay 3p each but added should the patriotism of the traders actuate any to refuse payment he would be more than pleased.
His charity work became so time consuming that by the summer of 1918 he had to resign as transport officer but during his time 1,130 wounded had been conveyed to Oaklands from the railway station and 286 from the Beaufort Hospital in the Jacko Ambulance and 2330 in other vehicles at not a penny cost to the Red Cross. During that same summer the Ambulance itself was "wounded" but thanks to Mr. Stephens of The Triangle and the Studebaker Company for the parts supplied free it was repaired and continued ferrying "the boys in blue" for the rest of the war. Jacko received many letters of acknowledgement for his efforts including one from
The Controller of Paper for The Board of Trade wrote as follows;
I have received such a splendid report from our organiser in Somerset, Mr. JS Pickering, that I feel it impossible to do other than write you a personal letter of the highest commendation.
You seem to have mastered the whole of the difficulties in connection with the collection of waste paper, and your record is one which you may be justly proud of.
I would ask you to accept the sincere thanks of this Department for all that you have done, and hope your example will be one which is followed by other towns. Mr. Pickering will visit, and where I have no doubt your scheme will be commended to other patriot persons who like yourself are doing work of such national importance in these strenuous times
W Lindley Jones
A further item of interest relating to The Jacko Ambulance was that on Whit Monday 1918, 250 postcards of the ambulance printed by the Mercury were sold and raised £2 12s 7d. I wonder how much they would fetch today.