Frederick Wilson

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 14 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e393
  1. David Wilson

The fourth child of John Alsop Wilson and Margaret Emily Wilson (née Tooley) Frederick Wilson (“Fred”) was born in Houghton-Le-Spring, County Durham, on 9 September 1918, in the last months of the first world war. His father was a shop owner who started selling haberdashery and hardware on a Durham market stall.

After matriculating at the age of 16 Fred worked for the Sanitary Inspector’s Office in Durham. He seemed destined for a career in architecture, but the second world war intervened.

Fred declared himself a conscientious objector to violence and volunteered for ambulance training with the Quaker Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU). He worked as an ambulance man in London during the blitz, based at Mile End Hospital. As the bombing reduced in 1942, he was posted to Ethiopia. He travelled in a convoy from Liverpool through the U-boat infested Atlantic, around the Cape, and then north to Aden. There seemed to be no means of reaching Ethiopia, so with his colleagues, Fred rented an Arab dhow and sailed across the Red Sea. They crossed the Danakil desert, famous as the hottest place in the world, narrowly avoiding ambushes from the Afar tribesmen.

The unit manned the hospital in Addis Ababa that was to become the Princes Tsahai Memorial Hospital in 1951 (its name was changed to the Army Hospital in 1974 after the revolution). Princess Tsahai was the daughter of the Emperor Haile Selassie; she died from complications of childbirth in 1942, having trained as a nurse at Great Ormond St Hospital in …

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