There are many stories about Freda, the mascot of the 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade, who were stationed at Brocton from September 1917 until the May 1919.
There are conflicting stories as to her origins:
- She came with the New Zealand troops from their camp at Tidworth Pennings on Salisbury Plain (stated in letters home) after September 1917.
- She came from a local family.
- She came from a local racehorse breeder connected to the King.
Whichever story is correct she may have been named after Freda Wright, the daughter of Mack Wright, a local teacher and author who helped to run the Soldiers’ Club in Station Street Hednesford, and there is evidence that a NZ Sergeant named Ashby did befriend the family. Sergeant Ashby was one of two named handlers of the Regimental Mascot.
One letter home to New Zealand states that Freda was around two years old when she was at Brocton and that she even had a litter of puppies, and the offspring are doing well.
Over the years the breed of Freda has been confusingly claimed to have been a Dalmation. The photograph above does show a spotted animal – but notice the tail (not Dalmation-like, which would stick out). Another letter home to New Zealand states she was a Great Dane (what we would now describe as a ‘Harlequin’). Great Danes at this time often had a more pointed head.
The King was a keen breeder of Great Danes and it is claimed he contributed greatly to the breed surviving the lean years of the Great War.
The main handler of Freda was a Captain Magnay, the 48-year-old Camp Adjutant who was originally from Scotland and had emigrated to New Zealand. Magnay remained in Stafford until the 1920’s, having a friendship with the landlady of the nearby Barley Mow public house. Freda survived the war, but she died in December 1918.
Her leather collar is on display in the National Army Museum a Waouiru in New Zealand
The ANZAC Puppy, a story based on the life of FREDA