Yorkshire firm working around the clock making life-saving armoured ambulances for Ukraine

A Yorkshire emergency vehicle manufacturer has put its usual operations on hold to produce new armoured ambulances for Ukrainian medics - with the company’s boss planning to drive them across Europe to get them to the frontlines.

Venari Group, which usually makes ambulances for this country, has transformed its 120,000 sq ft of shopfloor space in Goole and Brighouse to make the specialist military-grade vehicles.

The ambulances are being built on former British army vehicles and are now being comprehensively stripped, overhauled, modernised and converted into ambulances by Venari’s highly skilled team, who are working 24 hours a day – throughout the weekend – to speed up production time. Work began last Friday and the first ambulances are expected to be ready for delivery by the end of this week.

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Ukraine is currently losing ambulances at an increasingly rapid rate of 10 per day as a result of the invasion, so Venari is building vehicles designed to carry greater numbers of casualties.

Oliver North is planning to personally transport the ambulances across Europe so they can reach Ukrainian medics. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

With all-terrain capability, they will allow increased manoeuvrability for both paramedics and patients and allow medical teams to treat people who they may not otherwise be able to reach. The armoured variants will provide ballistic protection from small arms fire on the front line to allow safer extractions.

Venari said the work has come about after the Ukrainian Embassy in London contacted the company’s chief executive Oliver North via Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy.

Mr North, a former Royal Engineer, said it is intended the ambulances will be driven close to the Ukrainian border by lorry and he intends to drive one of them to help keep the costs of the project down.

“When the war started, I felt completely helpless and a level of guilt and was actually speaking to ex-colleagues about whether we go out there. So jumping into this is an opportunity to really play a role in helping.”

Former military vehicles are being transformed into the specialist ambulances. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The exact number of ambulances they are making is remaining undisclosed for security reasons.

“When we got the call, we jumped into action immediately,” said Mr North. “As the UK’s oldest and largest ambulance builder, we truly feel that it is our duty to deliver on this project, with as much passion, precision, and speed as we possibly can.

“Andrew Percy has been an integral part of the project, and wholeheartedly shares our sense of obligation to drive the project for the inspirational people of Ukraine. Our team have been relentless and tireless in their efforts, knowing that each vehicle completion will play a part in saving lives. And as many of us are former military personnel, we feel like we’re operating in a very familiar arena.

“Although many of us are subsequently spending little or no time at home at the moment, we’re well aware that our sacrifices don’t even come close to those made by the Ukrainian people, so we’re genuinely humbled to be able to play our part.”

The team in Goole hard at work at creating an ambulance. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Mr Percy said: “Oliver and the team at Venari have gone far and above what I thought was possible.

“My role has been to connect all the parties and work to secure the funding for this project and that work continues as we want to send as many ambulances to Ukraine as possible. I am also so proud that Goole workers and our manufacturing base are once again helping to protect freedom and democracy just as we did in World War 2 when we helped construct the Mulberry Harbours for the liberation of Europe.

“I cannot praise Oliver and the workers at Venari enough for their incredible efforts, working through the night to get this project up and running. Their efforts have been amazing and they should all be very proud of what they are doing to keep medical professionals and patients in Ukraine safe. It is not even three weeks since I was asked to help put this project together and we already have these ambulances in production. Once again, Goole has proven itself!

“We have also been working with the UK Government to support this project and we all stand ready to do whatever else we can.”

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