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Posted to Sierra Leone

Mum prepares to leave England. She knows she will be posted abroad and will not be able to tell her family where she is.

However, she also knows that she is being sent to either Egypt or Sierra Leone. So she tells the family she will send them a postcard saying either Aunt Elsie is well or Aunt Sarah is well, the initial of the name giving her destination.

Fortunately Win Lacy, who mum met up with during her training, is being posted with her. They go on to be life-long friends and myself and my sister spent many happy holidays in Wallasey and New Brighton when we stayed with Auntie Win.

The photograph below is of The Atlantis which we assume was the boat and convoy mum was attached to.

Below is another photograph of Freda taken at about this time. The photograph is taken by C and E Roe Ltd of Reading Road, Fleet.

From 1941 to 1943 Freda was stationed in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The photographs below show Freda and Win Lacy ready for work - both dressed in their sister's uniform. They also had "boys" to help them do their work. Karoma is the one in the pictures and the one we heard of the most.

   

Above left Freda and Win look resplendent in their uniforms. The other photographs depict Karome who helped the sisters

In December 1941 Freda wrote home to the family. Below is a copy of the front page of this letter along with a transcription.

Dear Dad, Mum and all

It seems ages since I wrote home. I was going to write last week, but sea sickness overtook me. It wasn't a bit like I expected. You know when you go to a fair, you feel dizzy after going on everything there is, but just go on once more and then you feel sick.

Well it felt just like that, only of course you couldn't get off the ship and the engine went on and on and on. It felt as though the engine had been specially fixed to my mattress. I thought you always wanted to die when you were sea sick, but I might tell you I didn't, or I don't think I can have had the real thing. I was only in bed two days altogether. There were two of us in our cabin sick. We were pleased the other two didn't go off as they looked after us quite well.

I am going down to all meals now and needless to say am never late for these. Sometimes when the ship is rolling, it takes you a long time to get your spoon to your mouth. Another time it comes up so quickly it nearly hits you in the eye.

The other sister (Crookie) has been off a week and is only just recovering. She had a medical officer to see her. He gave her some medicine and ordered a mustard poultice to her tummy.

We had such a laugh over this plaster, we spread the poultice on brown paper as we had nothing else. It was to stay on 20 minutes, but after 10 minutes old Crookie was feeling hot, so Davies had a peep to see if there was a blister. Well the paper came away without the mustard. You never saw anything like it, all four of us in the cabin just rolled with laughing. I am sure it cured Crookie laughing more than anything else.

I suggested scraping it off with a knife, but we managed without the knife and of course there was no blister.

One night it was very windy and the boat was rolling from side to side. No-one slept that night, you ought to have seen our cabin in the morning, everything was on the floor, the chair was upside down. Somehow I managed to cling to the sides of my bunk and didn't fall out, but I don't know why I didn't. I thought about the hymn we often sing "Eternal Father, strong to save" and how sorry I felt for the sailors, but I'll feel it much more after this.

Everything is calm now and it seems like a dream.

We have had a service this morning, but didn't have one at all last Sunday. It didn't last long but was lovely. There was a piano on the deck, we had hymn books given out, all types and kinds of people were there. The water was beating up the side of the ship as we were singing. I think everyone enjoyed it. The collection was taken by a waiter from the bar on a silver tray from which I should imagine drinks are usually served, very appropriate don't you think?

I heard of a ship signalling to our vessel as we were dragging behind. Read Song of Solomon last chapter, last verse. When they looked it up it was "make haste beloved." Don't you think that is good? I didn't believe it at first but it is quite true.

The weather is getting quite warm and have altered our watches a few times, but I still think of you at old times.

I am getting to know most of the people on board ship, some of whom it is difficult to avoid and some are quite nice to chat to. One young officer lets Lacy and I look through his binoculars occasionally - what a thrill! He is quite decent though. He was telling me about a Bible class he used to take when he was in civvy street. Lacy was thrilled to bits. Now she is engaged she thinks I ought to have someone and keeps casting her eye about for someone suitable. She says this fellow is ideal. She wasn't giving him much of a chance, he may even be married.

Did you know I was the youngest sister in our unit and do I know it. Quite a few of the sisters TRY to look after me, it does take some doing.

I aren't writing any more today, but will have some more to add another day. All my love - Freda

Another Day

Dear All

The weather is getting much better now. Today has been like a real summer's day in England. My face is burning already. I don't know what I shall be like in a few days time as I know it will get much hotter. I am pleased there is an electric fan in our room, we shouldn't be able to breathe otherwise.

Instead of carrying gas masks with us as we do at home, we carry our lifebelts wherever we go, to meals and on deck. We have lifeboat drill every day. We had some excitement at the beginning of the voyage, but am pleased to say everything is peaceful now.

What is the weather like at home? I can imagine you all wearing your big winter coats and I am just going to pack mine away. You will all be looking forward to Christmas now I guess, but it will be over by the time this arrives. It is just like a holiday at present, laying out on the decks in the sun. I suppose we shall wake up one morning and find we are at our destination and have some real work to do at last.

I have never had such an easy time in my life. I am being really spoilt. I aren't doing much letter writing and my diary is neglected. If we want a walk of course we have to go round the decks about a dozen times. I suppose when we do arrive on dry land we shall be walking in circles. We shan't possibly be able to walk straight.

We have had no PT and I am putting on weight already after my sea sickness. You're not to worry about me as I'm quite happy. I do hope you are all well and looking after yourselves. I am commencing another letter in a few days. My love to all and a Happy New Year.

Freda

 

Obviously the family kept up their correspondence as well, as her younger brother Samuel wrote to her mostly in Yorkshire dialect informing her of the work he had been undertaking cleaning out the cocks and hens. It includes such humorous news that he "threw a radish at our Teresa on Thursday when I was in't garden and missed her and broke a window pane. Tres observed it coming and when she saw it coming she ducked."

But after giving Freda the "fun news" Samuel has some important war information to impart.

"Did you know that one of our bombers crashed at Goole last Saturday when coming back from Germany? It crashed in the town. The crew were killed I believe, some say there was only one in, some say four. The rear gunner had been killed over Bolougne so they say.

Mum obviously does her job well and receives many letters of thanks, including some from the United States Army. Mum also receives a letter from Louis Cassel, who the second time he writes also composes a song for her! In his letter from Brazaville he apologises for the lack of music paper and says therefore he can only send the words of the song and not the music.

To read copies of the letters of thanks and other correspondence received by Freda click here

Amongst Freda's memorabilia of Sierra Leone were the following drawings

   

Mum and Aunty Win, who was a member of the Plymouth Brethren, kept up their Christian faith in Sierra Leone. They became friendly with some American missionaries and each week would meet them and others of a like mind for worship. Mum was encouraged to play the piano for these meetings. The Missionaries were Ione Driscoll (pictured opposite) and the Kennedy Family.

My sister and I are very familiar with these names as mum kept up correspondence with them long after her army days. In fact the Kennedy family came to visit us un Knottingley.

 

Two other pieces from Freda's Sierra Leone artefacts are a photograph below of a country road in Sierra Leone and menus from the breakfast and dinner on board the ship as mum returned from Sierra Leone in August 1943.

Other evidence that Freda kept in touch with home came in the shape of greetings she sent as in the two illustrations below. On the back of the first card are the words "Greetings from Sierra Leone December 22nd, 1941." In October 1942 she sent home the photograph below of the 51st General Hospital, West African Forces.

Freda's collection from Sierra Leone is extensive and further photographs can be viewed on a separate page which is available by clicking here.