Evelyn Marian Jackson – WW1 Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse
by Linda Ayres
Evelyn Marian Jackson was born on the 18th July 1892 at Pitt Street, Barnsley, Yorkshire. She was one of six children born to William and Frances Jackson. Her father was a Master Corn Miller and ran his own mill in partnership with his brother. Evelyn was six years old when her father died at the age of 51 years.
By 1901, Frances had moved to 2 Stanley Street, Bedford, with Evelyn and her other children, William Frank, Dorothy, George, Elsie, and Lizzie.
Evelyn and her sister Elsie went to the Girls’ Bedford Modern School. While Evelyn and her sister were at school, they were talented at sketching and drawing. On the 12th of December 1907, at the school’s annual concert held in the Bedford Corn Exchange, the Duchess of Bedford presented certificates to Evelyn and her sister for their drawings. In 1911, at the Bedford Evening Institution examination results, Evelyn received First Class for freehand drawings, brushwork, light, and shade
In 1916 Evelyn travelled to France to work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) Nurse in the 18th General Hospital Camiers, France. Before going out to France Evelyn received training from the Red Cross. Evelyn worked alongside military nurses providing the much-needed aid to the naval and military forces.
Evelyn had witnessed many sad sights for which would no doubt have been a lasting memory to her. During the time she was at Camiers she was just 24 years of age and many of the young men she nursed were her age or even younger. She gave a graphic detail of one man in T Ward with an amputated leg who was very ill. The same man had another operation on his other leg, which had gangrene. He died at 12.30. Whilst on relief in L Ward she washed a patient who was obviously very ill. The patient died the following morning.
While in Camiers Evelyn kept a diary, in which she wrote of her life, her thoughts, and events from May to December 1916. Her entries included:
Wednesday 24th May 1916, the first entrant. She had a busy morning, made beds and washed patients.
3rd August. The Colonel’s Ambulance picked her up to take her to a service in the Military Cemetery. Each grave had a wreath and thousands of Scottish, Australians, and English buried. Bands of the 4th Cameron’s played “Flowers of the Forest.”
20th August. Italy has declared war on Germany.
Wednesday 7th June. There is a rumour that Kitchener had drowned.
Thursday 8th June. It is all true that Lord Kitchener and his staff are drowned the ship was mined
31st May 1916. Fearful naval disaster. (Here she is referring to the Battle of Jutland). The Indefatigable, Invincible Queen Mary, Warrior, and others all sunk.
On one occasion, she writes that she cleaned out her locker which is shared with the mice. In the evening, she went down to see the large German prisoner camps. She saw many Germans walking about. They lived in bell tents, 10 men to a tent; officers have one each and they all have three blankets but our men have only two and live 13 to a tent
After the war, Evelyn returned to Bedford and lived at 2 Stanley Street then from 1923 she lived with her mother at 18 St Georges Road. Her mother died aged 85 years in 1941.
Mr. Richard Wildman bought Evelyn’s diary and sketches in a house clearance sale in 1978 and donated them to the Archive Service.
Yorkshire Evening Post Thursday 3 November 1898
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 11 July 1911
Bedford Records Office
Evelyn Jackson’s Diary
August 23, 2021
October 01, 2018
August 27, 2018