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Ronald Copeland

(1884-1958) – Ambulance driver

Unable to fight because of poor eyesight, Ronald Copeland converted his private vehicle into an ambulance and drove it to France to help with transporting wounded soldiers from the Front to hospitals. His wife Ida inherited Trelissick from her stepfather in 1937, and subsequently they donated it to the National Trust.

Credit: Trelissick House (National Trust)

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Richard Ronald John Copeland, known as Ronald, from the Copeland-Spode ceramics dynasty, trained as a master potter and built up the Copeland China Collection.  He was the husband of Ida Copeland (née Ida Fenzi) who inherited Trelissick mansion and estate from her stepfather Leonard Daneham Cunliffe in 1937.  In 1955 they donated Trelissick to the National Trust.

In 1914 Ronald Copeland was deemed unfit for active war service because of poor eyesight.  He converted his private vehicle into an ambulance and drove it to France to help with transporting wounded soldiers from the Front to hospitals. 

The first ever motorised ambulances to transport wounded people were used in the First World War. On 12 September 1914 a small meeting was held at the Royal Automobile Club, at which a few members offered to place themselves and their cars at the disposal of The Red Cross. The Red Cross established the motor ambulance department, which sent 3,446 motor vehicles, including 2,171 motor ambulances, to various destinations throughout the war. In total, 94 ambulances were destroyed by the enemy and subsequently scrapped by the Joint War Committee. As well as this, private motor cars also played an important part in transporting the wounded. Private owners lent and often drove their own cars in order to transport patients. The motor vehicles were used to supplement motor ambulances, carrying patients who could sit up.

Ida, a relative of Florence Nightingale, volunteered for nursing duty with the Voluntary Aid Detachment organised by the Red Cross. Both Ida and Ronald survived their war experiences to lead lives of great public benefit and duty, founding hospitals and taking a prominent role in youth work, for example as President of the North Staffordshire Boy Scouts' Association.  Ida became the 25th woman elected to Parliament, handsomely defeating Oswald Mosely in Stoke-on-Trent in 1931. Like her husband she was active in youth work and became Divisional Leader for Guides in the North West. She was also a great friend of Lord Baden Powell who was a frequent visitor to Trelissick with his family. 

Credit: Trelissick House (National Trust)