Hoveton Hall Auxiliary War Hospital
Mrs Susan Heard Beevor, was owner of Hoveton Hall, and Commandant when it opened as a Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital in February 1916. A call went out to the local parishes for volunteers.
There is a record of 16 ladies from the neighbouring parishes of Ashmanhaugh, Barton Turf, Beeston, Irstead and Neatishead who volunteered for nursing and general duties during the three years it was open.
One example was Miss Annie Easton, an infant teacher at Neatishead School. Having suffered the tragic loss of two of her four brothers killed in action, she must have felt compelled to assist with the war effort. So, in addition to her teaching responsibilities, she volunteered for nursing duties at Hoveton Hall. Annie worked 12 hours weekly as an unpaid volunteer from February 1916 to 22 January 1919. After the war she continued teaching and remained at Neatishead School until she retired in 1950.
Honor Elwes (1889-1959)
Honor Elwes was born in Congham, near Kings Lynn and lived all her life in Norfolk, of which she was passionately fond. Honor spent her childhood in a traditional country house and her dream was to be a traveller. In later life she did visit Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) and went hunting rare plants in the Pyrenees.
Overshadowed by her younger sister Win who left home in 1914 to drive ambulances for the Red Cross, Honor who had experiences muscular disorders from birth, remained at home with her widowed mother. From 1914-1918 she kept a daily diary, written in 12 volumes. This follows the events of the First World War on all fronts, events in nearby villages and the tales of her sister Win Elwes and aunt Violet Elwes recorded from letters they had sent home. The diary also reflects how friends, neighbours and relations were affected by the war.
During the wartime period Honor was also a member of the British Red Cross and helped her cousins at Westacre High House making hospital supplies. In April 1917, she visited her sister Win Elwes in London where Win was an ambulance driver for the Seaman’s Hospital, Greenwich. Win met the hospital ships and drove wounded soldiers to hospitals in London and on one occasion Honor accompanied her as a passenger. She wrote a poem in her diary about the experience called ‘An Average Day’.
Honor’s enthusiasm for living a life as full as she was able to was passed on to generations of her family and other Norfolk children. A great Girl Guider, she became a popular County Commissioner and encouraged country pursuits of every sort. Those who knew her loved her dearly.
Winifred Elwes MM (1892-1969)
Win Elwes, who lived at Congham near King’s Lynn, was 22 in 1914. Win could turn her hand to almost anything – particularly anything mechanical and had already learnt to drive her brother’s car and change a wheel. As a girl, she had also learnt rudimentary carpentry.
Win’s first job was as a scrubber at Cawston Park Hospital near Aylsham and she was later accepted as an ambulance driver based in London at the Seaman’s Hospital, Greenwich.
Later Win volunteered to go to Northern France as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) which were referred to affectionately in Army circles as ‘Very Adorable Darlings’. In January 1918, Win joined a convoy of First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANYs) and other VADs at a barely completed camp at St. Omer. Her knowledge of carpentry came in useful as Win constructed shelves and tables for her hut.
Win’s job at St. Omer – an important railway junction – involved collecting wounded men from Red Cross barges and driving them to hospitals in the area. In her letters home to her sister Honor, Win also describes having to do burial duty and driving vets to the horse hospital at St. Omer. On the night of 18 May 1918 there was a five hour bombing raid on St Omer. Win and 15 other drivers collected wounded men from a burning ammunition dump and all received the Military Medal (MM) for their bravery.
On that night, Win drove up alongside an ambulance from which the cab had been blown away, and the driver killed. Win transferred the patients to her vehicle and also rescued the spare wheel. It later became a convoy joke that Win won her MM for the theft of a spare wheel!
Towards the end of the war Princess Mary visited Win’s camp, which Win described in a letter home.
After the War was over, Win married Major Edgard Le Coq MM, CdeG, a French interpreter who had been working for the British Army.
Evelyn Brereton Cooke (1898-1993)
Evelyn Brereton Cooke was the daughter of John Ernest (Jack) Cooke, who was Master of the Norwich Stag Hounds, and Mary Brereton. She lived at Brooke Lodge Brooke.
During the First World War, Eve was a nurse at Kirstead VAD Auxiliary Hospital where she served from 29 August 1917 – 31 December 1918.
Eve kept a diary in which she recorded that upon hearing news of the Armistice she went to Kirstead VAD Auxiliary Hospital to pass on the news. She also reflected on her thoughts of the day and about those who would never return:
Alburgh North Farm Nov 12th
“I shall never forget to-day as long as I live… With what madly thankfully different feelings do I write tonight. Even now I can hardly realize that hostilities have ceased at last, that this war is lost & won. I got the news by telephone yesterday morning that the armistice was signed at five & at once dashed to Kirstead to tell wounded boys the news. Indeed I feel that I can never stop writing about it.”
Susannah (Susie) Long was born in Lowestoft in 1883. Her father, Robert, was a draper and gentlemen’s outfitter in Lowestoft.
Susie moved to Brundall with her parents in 1890 to live at The Lodge, a large house on The Street between Barn Row and Church Cottages.
Susie studied art at Norwich Art College and in the First World War became a Red Cross Nurse at Brundall Auxiliary War Hospital in Brundall House. Here she met Corporal Ernest Wood, a patient, who she married in Brunall Church in 1918. They had three children, Anthea, Louis, and Colin and lived in a wooden bungalow in Long’s Loke, called ‘Bankside’ which is still there today.