Kingaroy LAC member Peter McLennan with QAS Acting Assistant Commissioner for the Darling Downs Loretta Johnson and Kingaroy LAC president John Box
John Box and Kingaroy QAS officer-in-charge Mei-Lin Dean cut the Centenary cake

March 3, 2020

Local residents turned out in force on Saturday at an Open Day to mark the centenary of the Kingaroy ambulance service.

There were photographs and newspaper clippings to pore over, historic vehicles and other memorabilia to explore plus Axel the Ambulance and face-painting for the children.

QAS historian Mick Davis AM shared the history of the Kingaroy ambulance centre, speaking to an eager audience filled with current and retired ambulance officers.

Mick explained there had been earlier honorary ambulance centres in the South Burnett … at Mannuem Creek in 1911 and Coolabunia in 1914.

But in February 1920, the citizens of Kingaroy held a public meeting to push for a paid service in Kingaroy.

They voted to affiliate with the Maryborough Ambulance Transport Brigade and Mick Loth, who was then working at Biggenden, was appointed the first Superintendent.

Mick served until 1927 by which time Kingaroy had branched out on its own.

Herb Biddle, an ambulance officer working in Toowoomba, was appointed to fill the vacant Superintendent position – a job he held for an amazing 45 years!

Many memories of these early years were shared at the Centenary celebration.

Mayor Keith Campbell congratulated the Kingaroy Local Ambulance Committee on organising the Open Day and thanked the ambulance officers for all their hard work.

“A sincere congratulations on achieving 100 years, it is a significant achievement,” he said.

“Think of the number of lives that the officers of the ambulance service have saved.”

QAS Acting Assistant Commissioner for the Darling Downs Loretta Johnson agreed, saying 100 years was a “lifetime of saving lives”.

“We have been there for the people of the South Burnett when they needed us the most,” she said.

Things have changed a lot over the past century … in 1920 Supt Loth had to borrow a vehicle to go out on his first emergency call.

Patients were strapped to a stretcher with their heads up under the dashboard.

But conditions in Kingaroy improved rapidly thanks to the funds raised by the local community which were initially matched pound-for-pound by the State Government.

The efforts by those early ambulance officers were much appreciated by local residents.

The Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade (QATB) earned a nickname: “Quick At Tying Bandages”.

These days, the paramedics are part of the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS).

And the Kingaroy station boasts a fleet of modern vehicles, 18 full-time staff and equipment those first officers could only have dreamed about.

Related articles:

Steve and Helen Crittenden-Godley, from Toowoomba, brought along their 1937 Chrysler Royal ambulance to the Open Day … the Chrysler formerly served at the Kingaroy station; Kingaroy QAS also has a special meaning for Steve and Helen who first met at the station. Steve is now Operational Supervisor at the QAS communications centre in Toowoomba and Helen is a Senior Paramedic

Stephen Johns, Senior Operations Supervisor of the Darling Downs Local Ambulance Service Network, with Vince Little, curator of the Highfields Ambulance Museum … Vince retired from the ambulance service in 1990

Kingaroy QAS officer-in-charge Mei-Lin Dean with Kingaroy Police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Dave Tierney … Mei-Lin is the first woman to be appointed in charge of the Kingaroy Ambulance Station
Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington with Acting Assistant Commissioner Loretta Johnson
Uncle Les Stewart, who did the Welcome To Country, with Kingaroy Mayor Keith Campbell
Kingaroy paramedics Patrick Hides and Ben Petrie with Mick Davis, centre … Mick Davis AM ASM is the volunteer Heritage Manager at QAS’s Kedron headquarters
Acting Assistance Commissioner Loretta Johnson with Carl Price, Kingaroy, and Kingaroy LAC member Cr Danita Potter
Some of the ambulance memorabilia on display in the station’s plant room
Proston LAC members Margaret Westerman and president David Hunter
Jayden McAleese, 7, and Karmichael Armstrong, 9, from Kingaroy, were enjoying being ambos in Axel the Ambulance
Jan Adams, from Kingaroy, was practising her CPR skills on one of the dummies brought along by the Murgon LAC
Murgon LAC secretary Kerry Baldwin … the Murgon group is currently promoting CPR and defibrillator awareness
Kingaroy LAC members Abigail Andersson and Sharon Leach in the Biddle Training Room at the Kingaroy ambulance station … the room is named after Herb Biddle, MBE, who was the Kingaroy Ambulance superintendent from 1927 to 1972
Historian Mick Davis shared stories and photos from the early days of the Kingaroy Ambulance
Deb Frecklington with paramedics Alex Glen (Murgon) and Ben Veivers (Kingaroy)
Kingaroy OIC Mei-Lin Dean and Acting Assistant Commissioner Loretta Johnson with some of the current Kingaroy QAS staff
Kingaroy LAC members – who were the main organisers of the Open Day – with the Centenary cake
Kingaroy LAC members with members of the Nanango, Murgon and Proston local ambulance committees
The 1937 Chrysler Royal ambulance which was based in Kingaroy for many years
This 1970 Ford Fairlane was retired from ambulance duty in 1993

* * *

1969 When The Rains Came … 

Marlene Lucas and her daughter, Karissa, travelled from North Queensland for the event

Two special guests at the Kingaroy Ambulance Centenary were Marlene Lucas and her daughter, Karissa, who travelled from Atherton for the celebration.

Marlene’s husband Merv was awarded a meritorious service medal for a rescue he was involved in Kingaroy as a QATB officer in 1969.

Unfortunately, Merv couldn’t be present at the Centenary event as he was recovering from surgery but Marlene was proudly wearing his medal.

Marlene said heavy rain had caused flash flooding in Kingaroy and vehicles and their occupants had been washed off the bridge in Haly Street near Memorial Park.

“They tied a rope around his waist and Merv went out to rescue them,” Marlene said.

* * *

1948 Peanut Silo Tragedy … 

Ray Fechner … his father was rescued from inside one of the peanut storage bins

Another interested person at the Centenary celebration was Kingaroy resident Ray Fechner.

Ray’s father Claude (1921-2001) was rescued by Superintendent Herb Biddle when a tragic accident occurred in 1948 during the construction of the No 3 peanut silos in Haly Street.

Three men were working in Star Bin 13 when one of the supports for their scaffolding platform gave way and they fell 80 feet on to the concrete floor of the narrow storage bin.

One of the men was killed, while Claude and the second worker were badly injured.

A boatswain’s chair was rigged to the end of a crane and Herb was lowered to provide first aid.

Ray said Herb received a medal for his bravery.

* * *

Do You Recognise Them?

Former Kingaroy Shire councillor Marie Shaw brought along two historic photographs linked to the local QAS / QATB which were taken by her late father, the well-known local photographer Arthur Hansen.

Unfortunately, Marie doesn’t know who they feature.

After a quick pass around, it was decided that Mystery Photo 1 MAY depict Bill Stewart, Lindsay Green and Ernie Bradley, who were connected with the Nanango ambulance.

Mystery Photo 2 MAY include Ken Cuskelly.

Any ideas? Email us at

Mystery photograph 1 (Photo: Arthur Hansen)
Mystery photograph 2 (Photo: Arthur Hansen)

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2 Responses to "A Lifetime Of Saving Lives"

  1. John Box  March 4, 2020

    Thank you Anne and SB Online for the outstanding coverage of our Kingaroy Ambulance Centenary Celebrations and the ongoing support and articles provided for our LAC activities.

  2. Roslyn Pincott  March 4, 2020

    Regarding your mystery photos. Ken Cuskelly, who was in Nanango, late ’80/early ’90s is not one of these gentlemen in photo 2. I think the photo is well before Ken’s time. I knew Ken fairly well from June 1987 until he left Nanango.


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