At the time of posting this notice, the funeral for John Surtees CBE is taking place at
Worth Abbey in Sussex, attended by hundreds of invited guests including notable
figures from the World of motorsport and entertainment. It is a huge honour that Mel
Johnson is amongst the guests to pay our respect to John and pass our condolences to
Mel is attending in his capacity as a Trustee of SERV(Kent), representing
SERV(Kent), The NABB, Northumbria Bloodbikes, Cumbria Bloodbikes, Devon
Freewheelers, White Knights Bloodbikes, SERV (Norfolk), and Lincolnshire
Emergency Bloodbike Service. These regional Bloodbike groups have all benefitted
from Henry Surtees Foundation funding and/or assistance and advice.
Mel was instrumental in setting up the logistical supply for Kent, Surrey and Sussex
Air Ambulance in 2013, with the charitable triumvirate of the Henry Surtees
Foundation, Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance and SERV (Kent) working
together to deliver the “Blood on Board” project. Once up and running, Mel was
asked, by John, to help the Henry Surtees Foundation by liaising with other regions to
help the project roll out nationwide.
The Henry Surtees Foundation has funded the setting up of Blood on Board projects
for Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance, The Great North Air Ambulance,
Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Dorset Air Ambulance, and Lincolnshire Notts Air
Ambulance. Nationwide it is now approaching 1,000 at the scene transfusions.
Following the very sad news of John’s passing, Mel posted a very moving and
personal statement on his own Facebook page. With Mel’s permission, the following
clearly shows John the legend, the Gentleman, the family man, the passionate man
and above all, the friend.
“John was and always will be, John Surtees the Motorcycle and Racing Car legend.
So many fantastic tributes have been made already, and are being produced by highly
professional people that can do a far far better job than I. From my point of view, I
learnt the hard way that the racers edge never left him. A few years ago while trying
to follow him through the Surrey countryside to Redhill Aerodrome, he’d spotted one
of the very first Jaguar F types to appear on the road and all of a sudden his BMW
Estate took off in hot pursuit. As he later told me, he’d “wanted to get a good look at
how the suspension was working”. That was the man he was, always the driver,
always the engineer and never one to miss an opportunity to learn something.
But away from everything he’d achieved on the track to me he was John “The
Gentleman”. Always humble, always perfectly mannered and just such a truly nice,
decent and caring human being. To have been faced with such a massive hammer
blow when the sport he loved robbed him of the son he was devoted to would have
broken a lesser man. But not John. Instead he turned this tragic event into a focus and
determination to help others. I worked with him when the Henry Surtees Foundation
first became involved with the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance project to carry
blood on board the helicopter for at the scene transfusion. This procedure and project
was right at the forefront of cutting edge Trauma Medicine, and in the last four years
has gone on to save hundreds of lives and prevent hundreds of families going through
the grief and tragedy that had hit John so hard.
I had the pleasure and honour of introducing him to a young man at Brooklands a few
years ago, who carried the very clinical description that the Ambulance Service hang
on patients, of “Unexpected Survivor”. This young lad in his early 20’s had had a
very serious motorcycle accident whilst travelling home from college. He had
suffered a huge list of injuries and had been one of the very early patients to receive a
transfusion at the roadside. Without a doubt had this not have happened he would
have simply “bled out” and would have never made it to hospital. This was made
possible by people like John who had the foresight to be able to stand alongside the
clinical professionals and to then use his own skills and position to make sure such
procedures were financed and made possible. He knew it that day and you could see it
in his eyes that the work he was doing in Henry’s name was making a difference and
allowing another father to still enjoy his time with his son.
We then went on to see the same project rolled out across the country. From Dorset to
Cumbria, John drove the Foundation forward and raised the money. Air Ambulance
and Bloodbike Charities across the country then got the tools they needed to make it
happen, and people got to go home, who otherwise never would. It almost became
routine, we knew what to do, what to give them and how to set the infrastructure up.
I’d take phone calls from highly qualified trauma consultants who knew what they
wanted to do but didn’t know where to start and how to make it happen. John
wouldn’t flinch, he’d just sign the cheques and steer them in the right direction.
Things happened when John was around and people lived as a result of this.
We will miss him dearly and we will remember him.”
Thank you Mel for representing us all on this most difficult of days.
Rest in peace John. Your legacy will live on saving lives.