Ailsa Montagu settled in Hampshire in 2005 when she married Hon Ralph Montagu, heir to the Beaulieu Estate. Born and raised in The Netherlands, she read languages at Oxford University and has worked in Belgium, the Netherlands and London as an editor, journalist and translator. She is also archives officer to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), the UK’s only all-woman military unit and part of the city of London’s emergency response team.
‘Being a member of the FANY has in some ways prepared me for involvement with the Association of Air Ambulances. Both are voluntary organisations, both are permanently on call and both bring together people from all walks of life who are resourceful and ready to be of service.’
Ailsa has been Patron of HIOWAA since the service first began operating on 1 July 2007. Both the charity and the first flight were launched from Beaulieu with her involvement. ‘Like most people, I assumed that the Air Ambulances were state-funded, and was amazed to learn that they get no government or even lottery support. Both the aircraft itself and the fuel it uses rely entirely on public donations. Yet the service it provides is something we absolutely cannot do without if we want to save people’s lives.’
‘When I was part of a group being taught First Aid, we were taken through various life-saving treatments. But the most important thing we were told was that speed was of the essence. Speed is what the Air Ambulance is about. Whether it’s a congested town centre or a remote rural area – and Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have both – there are some incidents that only a helicopter can get to quickly enough.’
‘The fact that the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance has raised the money to acquire and operate a dedicated helicopter in so short a time is a tribute to the commitment of our volunteers and to the generosity of the public. But the work of fund-raising must go on. 2010 is going to be another crucial year, as HIOWAA is launching an appeal to upgrade its aircraft and extend its flying hours. This in turn will enable the Air Ambulance to develop to the next level of service, saving more lives even more quickly.’
‘One day, you and your loved ones may have cause to be grateful to the Air Ambulance service.’