The Freda Laycock Memorial Web Site

   

 

        This site is dedicated to the memory of Freda Laycock

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About Freda

The Early Years

Pontefract Infirmary

Shaftesbury Hospital

Oxford University

Sierra Leone

Catterick and D-Day

Sandbostel

Freda Served Here

Casualty Clearing Stn

The Post War Years

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FREDA'S DIARIES

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The Post War Years

Whilst in Germany after the war Freda is involved in a car crash which is unknowingly going to change her life in a most unexpected way.

Suffering from a broken leg, she is sent back to Aldershot and then returns to Hensall to recuperate.

She needs to have physiotherapy to help her leg heal and whilst having treatment meets blind physiotherapist Charles Blackburne and they fall in love, marry in 1950 and have two daughters - Kathryn (born in 1952) and Patricia (born in 1956).

Together Freda and Win Lacy return to the war battlefields and Win, who was Freda's constant companion in the war years, wrote the following account of their return. Freda is referred to as My Friend.

"My friend said to me 'we should go back to Normandy; after all we were in the first batch of Nursing Sisters to arrive after D Day.' So we did and it turned out to be a great trip. Our coach was full of veterans from all the services who took part in the landings on D Day or soon afterwards, a few wives, an interested traveller and one veteran with his grandson - all anxious to look at the place where they had landed 40 years ago. They all had interesting stories to tell. One man said: "I remember the sisters arriving. We were clearing the beaches of mines and you all looked like Betty Grable to us.

"I thought of our arrival in Normandy on June 16th, 40 years ago. We had all been issued with khaki battle dress and emergency rations. There was the feeling of apprehension and excitement as we went down the canvas chute onto the landing craft. We eventually arrived at 11.30 p.m at our 200 bedded tented hospital set up in the grounds of a convent. We slept on stretchers that night but later, because of falling shrapnel, our beds were dug-in with the head part covered in corrugated sheeting.

We were all on duty the next morning and casualties were continually arriving, some on foot with minor injuries but others severely wounded requiring blood transfusions, operations and sometimes amputations. Penicillin was new and had to be dissolved in water and injected three hourly. Some nights were very noisy, the drone of planes, the gunfire, the explosions and then the casualties would pour in. At other times it was relatively quiet and everyone was pleased to have a good night's sleep. Because the front was so near, all patients, except those with severe abdominal wounds, had to be sent home. Some men, who were wounded and sent home to recover, were eventually sent back to battle only to find themselves in hospital again with another injury within a matter of weeks.

My brother in the Infantry and brother-in-law in an armoured division were both able to visit me during those early weeks. We also had a visit from General Montgomery.

Then came the fall of Caen and we handed over to another hospital and moved forward. I can still remember the smell of dead animals and the sight of the German dead in the hedges. Our driver had a handkerchief tied over his mouth and nose. It was distressingly sad to see the devastation and destruction everywhere.

On our trip back this year, we saw the Pegasus Bridge scene of the Red Berets' daring assault by glider. We went on to Caen and saw the beaches where the landings took place. This was of great interest to our coach party. The countryside looked lovely with flowers growing, window boxes outside the houses looking colourful and beautifully restored buildings as we entered Bayeaux. My friend and I sat in a cafe there sharing our table with a young couple touring Normandy. They had lost relatives on D Day and the young man said: "It was all to no avail." I thought of Lord Jesus' death on the cross and I hope that all reading this have availed themselves of his offer of salvation."

We visited a number of museums and saw the war graves. It was so sad  to see the ages of so many very young men. Some of our party had brought wreathes to lay on the graves of their loved ones. I was amazed how quickly they were able to find their graves and everywhere was so beautifully tended.

We also visited Rouen and stayed at Lisieux, a pleasant provincial French town. We had an excellent driver and courier and everything was well throughout and most interesting to us. It was good to share our experiences of 40 years ago with each other. My friend remarked. "The greatest change I've noticed is the beautiful countryside after the rubble, desolation and barbed wire of 40 years ago. Then the people all seemed to wear dark clothes and looked weary and sad and without hope but now there is brightness and happiness everywhere."

Freda's References

Among Freda's possessions were two employment references which are reproduced below.

I have pleasure in recommending Sister F. Laycock, QAIMNSR for any nursing post for which she may apply.

She is very conscientious, tactful and kind to her patients, and an extremely good nurse.

She worked with me in West Africa for eighteen months.

E.M. Hall

Principal Matron Q.A.I.M.N.S

19th General Hospital

M.E.F

10.2.46

Miss Freda Laycock was one of the Nursing Sisters who served with No 10 (British) Casualty Clearing Station throughout the campaign in North West Europe, 1944-1945. In the most varied circumstances, her work was invariably of the highest professional standard, and even in the most trying and hazardous conditions her bearing had a quiet confidence and efficiency which reacted very satisfactorily not only on her patients, but also on her colleagues. After the conclusion of hostilities, Miss Laycock was one of a small band of British Nursing Sisters who did such magnificent work in the relief of the Sandbostel "Horror Camp". In this, Miss Laycock's contribution was beyond all praise.

Of a quiet and pleasant disposition, Miss Laycock was justifiably respected and admired by her fellow nurses and by the officers and other ranks of the Royal Army Medical Corps with whom she worked. She is a lady of great personal integrity, and I have every reason to think highly of her and to recommend her, which I do with the utmost confidence.

F.S.Fiddes OBE, MB, Ch.B

Lieut Col RAMC - Late OC  10 (Br) CCS

 

There was also a letter from Doris Hawkins who Freda had met in Freetown. Doris was the author of a pamphlet entitled "Atlantic Torpedo - The record of 27 days in an open boat following a U-boat sinking by the only woman survivor."  At the time of writing Miss Hawkins was Matron of the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies in Woolwich, London. The letter to Freda is dated December 18th, 1964 and includes the following words:

"I was really delighted to receive your letter as I have often thought about you and Winifred Lacy. You made such a difference to my arrival in the 51st General Hospital and I wonder if you remember that you gave me my Bible which I still have. It is a long time as you say since that day, I was standing literally on the doorstep with the only possessions I had (which had been given to me in Liberia) tied up in my Dutchman's dressing gown. I was so afraid that as I was not an Army Sister I should be turned away again, but I found only kindness and friendship and fellowship."

"If you ever come to London, please do let me know as I would drop everything to meet you, and please pass the same message to Winifred when you see her."