Nurse Dawson with casualties at Ampton Hall

The Great War of 1914 to 1918
Nurse Freda Dawson
A nurse at Ampton Hall Hospital
from 24th July, 1916 to 11th June, 1917


On February 8th, 2016, I was pleased to receive an email from Phil How, "I have attached a photo of my grandmother Freda F Dawson of Rushmere Mill at Ampton Hall Temporary Hospital when she was a Red Cross volunteer nurse. Just thought you might like it. I have been researching my family tree for just over 10 years, since Mum had a stroke in 2004 and went into a home. I had to sort through thousands of pictures, photos, and documents from all sides of the family, and this photo was amongst them. I found that Nan had served at Ampton Hall, so I Googled it and found your photos. Upon closer examination, it was apparent that the buildings in the background of Nana's photo were the same as the buildings in your photos!"

Please click on images to enlarge them

Freda Dawson's father (Alfred Dawson) was the miller at Rushmere St Andrews, which he inherited from his father William Dawson. From 1898 Alfred was also involved in a steam haulage business.

(William used to have two windmills, the second being at No 1 Foxhall Rd in Ipswich. The Dawsons owned farms and mills over a large part of Suffolk. William was born at Red House Farm near Bucklesham, which his father Joseph Dawson held. William's brother John Dawson was the tenant at Stratton Hall, another brother Joseph Mayhew Dawson had Dairy farm at Bucklesham.)

Being a miller the family were much better off than average, however the occupation had its own hazards. This later newspaper article, (post 1939 at least) tells how Alfred Dawson suffered a serious accident when the wind turned 180 degrees. This would make the mill tail-winded, a condition which could blow the sails out of the cap.

The accident seems to have happened in the years before January, 1928, as the mill sails were reported to be removed at that time, and the mill demolished by 1939. Alfred died in June, 1938.

Freda Florence Dawson was one of 7 children: 6 sisters and a baby brother Alfred Douglas Fayers Dawson, who was the last owner of Rushmere Mill.

"During WW1, Nan was a Volunteer Nurse and ambulance driver for the Red Cross. She told me this, and that was all I knew until I first saw the photo at the top of this page."

As a nurse required to be available at odd hours of the night, Freda had to have a special permit. This permit book was issued to personnel who might need to obtain documents allowing them to be out at night or for other reasons listed on the book.

This card was issued to VAD volunteers after the War in order to document and recognise their service. It gives her name, her home address at Rushmore Mill in Ipswich and the fact that her total service amounted to 4,224 hours.

The dates and places are recorded on this side of the record card. Nurse Dawson attended for her first day at Melton Red Cross Hospital in Woodbridge, from where she was immediately posted to Ampton Hall, in West Suffolk. She had a week to make the arrangements.

This picture of Nurse Dawson in her uniform was probably taken for the family. It is a studio portrait, which looks like it was taken by Boughton's of Ipswich.

This is RGE Mayo on his Zenith motorbike, possibly about 1913. "My grandpa (Nan's husband) was RGE Mayo from Malvern in Worcestershire. His father WH Mayo had a huge house in Malvern, where he used to play piano with Edward Elgar, who was a friend of his. WH's father was Edmund Mayo, co-founder of the Coventry Eagle Motorcycle Co, so the family were fairly wealthy, to put it mildly."

Despite the Coventry Eagle's reputation for reliability, the Zenith was attractive to a young soldier as a racing machine.

"Grandpa was Captain Reginald George Edmund Mayo, in the army in WW1, and a Squadron Leader in the RAF in WW2. He was awarded the MC in WW1, and was injured either at Passchendale or Ypres, and invalided back to blighty, where he met Nan. After seeing this photo, I long suspected that it was whilst convalescing that he met Nan as a nurse. He was a dashing 6'2" army Captain, from a wealthy family and she was the attractive daughter of a wealthy landowner and Gent, so it seems like a fairytale wartime romance."

Freda and Reginald were married in late 1918.

"Nana's headstone at Rushmere".

Go to Great War Gallery homepage Page created 9th February 2016
Last updated 20th March 2016
Go to Main Home Page