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Welsh Ambulance Service stalwart who became paramedic after Aberfan disaster retires after 41 years

A WELSH Ambulance Service stalwart who decided to become a paramedic following his involvement in the Aberfan disaster rescue effort has retired after 41 years.

Dennis Moss, who lives in Thornhill, Cardiff, started his career as part of the Territorial Army 158 Field Ambulance division at the age of 17.

However, it was joining the rescue team following the collapse of a colliery spoil tip in the village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, a year later in October 1966 which set the 68-year-old on the path to taking up a job which he would carry out with dedication and love for so many years.

The disaster sadly resulted in the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults and Dennis said witnessing the aftermath triggered his desire to care for people.

He said: “I was in the TA and then of course my mother, being a nurse as well, tried to persuade me to join the ambulance service.

“But it was only after spending a few days at Aberfan and seeing the extent of the disaster where a number of children and adults lost their lives, that I knew I wanted to work in the medical profession helping others.

“I got involved in helping to dig the children out of the school because they were buried there, under the dust and everything else. We had to work out how to dig up the soil, using corrugated sheets to shift the coal dust through windows and out of the school.

“At times we would have to carry bodies on a canvas stretcher into a makeshift mortuary. The strange thing about it is that we had to cope and get on with it, as there was no such thing as counselling for post-traumatic stress.”

Dennis, who is a popular figure among his colleagues at the Blackwood Ambulance Station, joined the then South Glamorgan Ambulance Service in 1975 and is believed to have been the first Asian paramedic in Wales.

During his career he studied at the University of Glamorgan to boost his qualifications. He was also chair of the South Glamorgan staff association, and involved in forming the first emergency services staff association.

One of his proudest moments though came when he joined the National Ambulance Service BME (black and minority ethnic) Committee in 1999.

This led to him trailblazing the Trust’s first equality and diversity policy and delivering training on it to other members of staff.

Dennis is also well-known for his charity work and while visiting India with the Asian Fire Service Association in 2015, helped to install drinking water pumps in a number of villages and taught crucial first aid training after hearing about the death of a 15-year-old who choked on food.

Dennis said: “I’ve had quite an interesting career, a career in which I’ve had to face many challenges.

“This job is one of the greatest jobs you can have though. It’s given me a better understanding of the community and the people we serve and a way of dealing with people’s needs, illnesses and traumas.

“It has given me a lot of satisfaction and pleasure helping others. I’ve been married since 1973, and also married to the job just as long, and it feels like losing a loved one now I’m leaving.

“I’ve seen a number of changes and a number of people come and go. After all the years I can still say that this is one of the best services.”

Following his retirement, Dennis plans to spend time with his wife Pauline, as well as his son Kevin, daughter-in-law Madeleine and granddaughters Phoebe and Chloe.

However, he will still be keeping a foot in the door with all of his friends at the Welsh Ambulance Service by offering support on equality and diversity matters, and is planning another trip to India next year to teach first aid skills at a blind school near Delhi.

He will also keep up his involvement as president and chair of Thornhill AFC, a football club he set up more than 20 years ago to provide opportunities for local children.

A retirement party is being held to celebrate Dennis’s career on Saturday, where his colleagues will pay tribute to his years of commitment.

Tony Crandon, the Trust's Locality Manager for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area, said: “I would like to thank Dennis for giving more than 40 years of care and dedication to the service.

“I can't begin to imagine the changes he has seen and how the role of the paramedic has evolved.

“Something else that must be recognised is Dennis's work with the BME community, not just in Wales but UK wide, and helping the Trust to understand the many different cultures of the people we serve.”

Sean O’Connor, Clinical Team Leader for the Anuerin Bevan Health Board area, said: “Dennis is the living legend of the ambulance service, so reliable and committed.

“He’s been the father figure of Blackwood Station and he’s going to be missed by all his colleagues.”