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  • Sue Robinson

Dorothea Mary Lynette Crewdson 1886 - 1919

Dorothea Crewdson was born in Clifton, Bristol in July 1886 but the family soon moved to Nottingham where her father was a solicitor. They were obviously a well to do family as their home was called Holme Dale and was in The Park, Nottingham, which today is still a well heeled area. They employed a governess for Dorothea, her sister Jean and brother, they also had three full time maids.

Dorothea trained at Nottingham General Hospital and Bagthorpe Hospital and in 1911 enlisted in the British Red Cross South Notts VAD.

On the outbreak of war in 1914 she joined the QAIMS (Queen Alexandra's Imperial Nursing Service) and enlisted as a trained nurse in the VAD.

Setting sail for France on 12th June 1915, Dorothea was first posted to Le Treport, not far from Rouen/Le Havre/Dieppe, which were all busy ports with hospitals. She enjoyed her 18 months there and made many friends among the other staff. She used to go walking along the cliffs and was a keen sketch artist, as her diaries show.

She wrote about eating strawberries, cream and freshly baked bread and creamy butter. “This is the greediest place I have ever been in, we always seem to be eating and gullaravishing."

On 1st October 1916 she was transferred to Wimereux, further north, to work in the British Hospitale. Here, she lodged in a house that the sea hit the back wall of thus making it a very damp and noisy billet. She said that she missed the "flappy tents" of Le Treport.

After Wimereux she was sent to the massive hospital at Etaples and there she stayed. She was, at some time, awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal for Competency and Hard Work (ARRC).

In May 1918 the hospital was bombed killing many nurses and patients along with other staff. Dorothea, although wounded, refused treatment and carried on working and helping to rescue her colleagues. For this she was awarded, and rightly so, the Military Medal (M.M).

In all she worked in 3 hospitals in 4 years, Le Treport. Wimereux and Etaples

1918 and the Armistice came and went as Dorothea stayed on to work in Etaples as there was still so much to do.

In January 1919 she and others were sent on a trip to the battlefields by Matron to see where the slaughter had taken place. They stayed in the chateau at Gezincourt for some of the trip. On reaching the town of Albert they couldnt believe the destruction, they moved on to La Boisselle and saw no buildings standing. On seeing what is now known as Lochnagar crater they were told that the Scottish Singer Harry Lauder had been there and stood in the bottom of the crater and had sung “Keep right on top the end of the road” for his son who was killed. Whether this is true or not I cannot say. They traveled all the way to St Omer then back to Boulogne and Etaples. It was the last trip that Dorothea made as she was busy nursing sick German soldiers for most of her time left.

On March 12th 1919 Dorothea died from Peritonitis, it was so quick that she was buried before her parents had the news that she had died.

She is in Grave XLV C.13 in Etaples Military Cemetery. We visit her on our trips over to France and never forget her sacrifice, her care and compassion.

On her brother’s death his son found 7 diaries that she had written. These are now published as a book and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting a first hand account of life as a VAD in WW1.

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