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


Freda Served Here

Casualty Clearing Stn

The Post War Years

Letters of Thanks


Photograph Gallery

Charles Blackburne


About this site


Letters of Thanks

During her time serving in Sierra Leone, Freda received many letters of appreciation. Below are just some of them with transcripts beside the original scanned documents. A few liberties have been taken with the transcripts as some of the handwriting is a little difficult to understand but it is hoped that the majority of the message is faithful to the original.

December 17, 1942

Dear Sister

Just dropping you a few lines to say I survived my trip and am in good condition. I arrived here Tuesday the 16th at 5.30 in the morning, feeling fine, although to find about six inches of snow on the ground and four below zero.

They are going to start work on me this afternoon and I thought I better write while I was able. I am in New York Hospital and about two or more nurses looking me over but they are not as swell as those English sisters I knew before. Sister I did not get to tell you thanks for everything you done for me and so will do it now.

Will you please let Dr Ciezar know I made it OK. I will write to him after they do their work on me so I can tell them or him what they done. I got to meet some nice looking English girls, they work for Pan American.

Well Sis how is everything going in the ward? I sure hated to leave, but it will be a better ward since I am gone ha ha!

Sister I am mailing you a Christmas present. It might be a bit late but better late than never. Well the US still does not know the war is on so everything is fine. Will you please let me know if you receive this note and if you get tired reading these letters. Just let me know. Well sister will close for now. Love and Good Luck to all

Benny (J.J Bennett)

Benny writes a subsequent letter on New Year's day 1943 to inform Freda that he is recovering well and being transferred to his home town of Seattle, Washington.

"I am up now trying to walk on my leg although I am still in plaster. You can tell Dr Ciezar that he put on such a good plaster the last time that no-one in this hospital could do the same.

"I am being discharged from the navy soon I guess from the way they talk round here but you gotta take the bad with the good."

The type-written letter opposite was written to Colonel D. Murray of the 51st General Hospital in Freetown and signed by Lt Cmmdr Jack McFall the US Navy. It refers to "the persistent and sympathetic care" shown by Freda to one specific United States patient.

As mentioned in the section on Sierra Leone, Sister Laycock made a real hit with one patient who wrote a song for her. Sergeant Louis Cassel was so impressed by Freda that he penned the following words under the title Sierra Leone:

Now Sierra Leone is a blinking hot spot

It makes you feel bad and it kills quite a lot

But I shall be happy wherever I roam

When I'm thousands of miles from Sierra Leone.


Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone

Thousands of miles from Sierra Leone,

I shall be happy wherever I roam

When I'm thousands of miles from Sierra Leone.


Now it's all very well with the sun shining down

on scores of black families, that live in Freetown,

But if you take off your toupee you'll blinking soon own

Six feet of deep earth in Sierra Leone.


Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone

Thousands of miles from Sierra Leone,

I shall be happy wherever I roam

When I'm thousands of miles from Sierra Leone.


Now one year and a half I guess is enough

For without our own girls, boys it is blinking tough

For we have seen enough of the flappers and beads

And we long for the girls we can cuddle and squeeze


Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone

Thousands of miles from Sierra Leone,

I shall be happy wherever I roam

When I'm thousands of miles from Sierra Leone.


Now our time is ended, our ship is in port

When we get to Old England we'll have some fine sport

Fort there are girls there, who are full of good charm

Who are asking God to send us back to their arms.


Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone

Thousands of miles from Sierra Leone,

I shall be happy wherever I roam

When I'm thousands of miles from Sierra Leone.


Now roll on the time we reach Old England's fair shore

Back to the wives and girls we adore.

Away from the beetles, sandflies and snakes

Where young maidens dress for decency's sake


Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone

Thousands of miles from Sierra Leone,

I shall be happy wherever I roam

When I'm thousands of miles from Sierra Leone.


It may not appear from the words that this song was a tribute to Freda but the accompanying letter made this clear:


Dear Miss Laycock

I herewith have the pleasure of making you aware that it is my wish to dedicate my ????? which I wrote in Sierra Leone in your honour.

I hope you will gratefully accept this - shortage of music paper means it is impossible for me to send you a copy of the music.



Previously Sgt Cassel had expressed his appreciation of Freda's work in the following words.


Dear Sister

You will be rather surprised to receive a note from me, but I think it is only right on my part to show my gratitude for the agreeable atmosphere created by you around me whilst in hospital.


Below is another example of Fred's caring from Sgt Charles Blayney of Catterick Camp.

16th December, 1943

Dear Sister

I had intended writing before now but will hope that you will be your usual kind self and forgive me this once!

I am really writing to thank you most sincerely for your many kindnesses and attentions shown to me whilst in your care. You do, I am sure treat all your patients with equal sympathy and attention and I can only say that I was much impressed.

If times were normal I should have felt duty bound to send you some small token of appreciation - but being what they are can only say a very Happy Christmas with lots of happiness and good health in the New Year. If you should ever be so unfortunate as to suffer bad health I do hope you will receive such personal attention as you show to those entrusted to your care.

On this I will conclude for fear of offending you. Hoping to remain sincerely yours

Charles Blayney

The above are just a selection of the correspondence received from Freda from those she nursed.

Other Letters From the Helpers

There were also letters from Freda's native helpers such as the one below which shows how much she was appreciated. This note was accompanied by a box of bananas.

"I am greatly pleased to report to you that I have got a box of bananas from home. This is a present for you as you are so kind to me.

"Good morning sister I hope you are feeling well this morning. I close with great joy. I am


Another from the same person asked for help:


I have the honour with most respectfully to draw your kind attention to my present confusion.

Before going on my long silence I must first of all ask you a favour. Please sister will you keep my money with you. The sum of 10/-d because our place is very bad if I keep that sum with me some one will steal it from me. Until I want to go on leave, before I should like it from you. Respect me at any month your receive some amounts from me to be kept. Thanks.

I am your obediently orderly

Mamoh Sisay


A Letter from A Friend

Freda also received letters from a friend called Joyce Watson who trained with her at Pontefract General Infirmary and was also a Queen Alexandra Nurse. One of the letters included passages descriptive of the time which is likely to be 1944 and describes Watson as working from the 94th General Hospital.

Dear Laycock

We are living in tents, two in a tent and quite comfortable but I gather it's not so good when the rainy season gets going........ The mess and lunge are both large marquees and we have electric light in them, but in our tents we use old Hurricane Lamps. The hospital, 2,000 beds is partly under canvas, the main buildings are a French orphanage, all verandas, courtyards etc. The water supply and sanitation being particularly French. We come on duty 8 a.m to 8 p.m with three hours off duty and half a day a week and every other Sunday half a day.

We wear grey dresses on duty, no caps or stockings, on night duty we wear men's battle dress, not very elegant but quite warm. We were issued with khaki outfits instead of white much to our disgust, the skirts and Airtex shirts are not too bad but the bush tunics are awful, also the stockings, the shoes are heavy but will be useful this winter. No-one recognises us in the town as QAs and take us as ATS in the khaki.

The social life here is terrific, before coming on night duty I was absolutely tired out, I don't know how I shall ever settle down to life at home again. I have only been to two dances by general invitation so far, I seem to have far too many private invitations.

I am on two officers wards, one senior officers only 15 beds, private wards and the other 54 beds junior officers. I have one orderly who is very good so have not been too busy. Since coming here I have not stayed on any ward for much longer than one week as I have been relieving other sisters seven days leave. I have done surgical, medical, isolation and ENT.

We have a large POW camp here and have Italian orderlies on each ward and also in the mess. The food is not too bad. We chiefly live on tin food as all the fresh meat is now being sent to the front line. The fruit is grand and i am now making up for lost time on the tangerines and oranges.

I wonder how much this old war will last. I can't see it ending under another year.....We were supposed to take malaria tablets but I just can't do it. We should have four a week but one is enough to make me feel ill for the rest of the week. We are in a very healthy district so I don't think there is much danger of malaria. We have to wear slacks after dusk and take all the usual precautions, however.

We have been getting casualties direct from Italy and also get lots of patients transferred from the 103rd etc back to us at base. I only hope I don't go to India or China. I had two friends on the boat who had been in Iceland and who found when they arrived here that they were going to hospital under the same matron they had been in Iceland.

Our local town is very busy, all military traffic nearly, lots of cinemas French restaurants etc. We have an allied officers club where we can get a good meal, but it is terribly crowded, however. There is also a very good YMCA where we can take our male friends for tea. There is also an opera house quite modern. There are some nice shops but everything is just on coupons so we don't get much except of course the leather goods. I find the town very fascinating, there are so many different nationalities.