My Great Aunt, Margaret Box, was a civilian Red Cross nurse, serving in Serbia, towards the end of the First World War. On the 20th of October 1918 she wrote to her Mother from Salonica. As this had been the first major city she had been in for a while she also sent a telegram to say she had arrived safely.
My Dear Mother
At last we have moved on & we had a comfy night here last night. We went to bed early & slept ‘double quick’ to make up for the night before – which we spent looking at the scenery. There was a lovely moon to light us on our way. We stopt at 9.30 p.m. & got out to have dinner, then went on again. I sent a cable off to you this morning from the place I promised & I hope you will get it soon. We are not staying here long & we are going much further than was intended when we started – the address you have holds good or course – where ever we go.
I say Goodbye to Miss Sinclair & Miss Murdoch today – they are both going to work here for the time being. Miss Powell-Jones, the chauffeur (Taffy – I will call her – she is Welsh) is going on with me – some of the way we go together – also 2 other chauffeurs & Miss Danby who caught us up at the last place. Miss Danby is going to the same place as I am.
Salonica is a very large place – it is awfully hot even now – so can’t imaging what it is like in summer.
When you are writing & it is convenient please will you send me a reel or two of grey cotton, I did not bring any & as you know my clothes are all grey & I have only black or white to sew them up.
My hair has grown about 2 inches since I left home. I was hoping to go to a barber while staying here, but today is Sunday so I have had no chance – however Taffy has kindly cut it for me & I am thankful to be feeling a little cooler in the upper regions.
Everybody is very nice & kind & we seem to have been feeding ever since we arrived. There is no one here that I know and am afraid I have forgotten all the people I was meant to look up. I ought to have put all their names down. But I have no time to visit anyone.
I must get a bath & pack my clothes before we move on so had better say Goodbye.
With much love to all
Your loving Daughter
Written on the letter is also says ‘3 copies typed’ and ‘sent to Norah’, and something else I can’t read.
As is happening during the lockdown people who are not professional hairdressers were extending their skill sets, as Taffy kindly cuts Margaret’s hair.
The journey from Bralos to Salonica was by a train on the Piraeus–Platy railway – which runs through spectacular scenery and, having been built between 1908 and 1916, would have been quite new when Margaret used it.
This video shows the type of scenery the train travelled through, no wonder Margaret spent the trip looking out of the window !
I think she is probably
Scottish Women’s Hospitals Names G-M
JONES Miss Gladys Margaret Powell, Chauffeur America Unit 19-Sep-18 1-Mar-19
Note that the American Unit, also known as the Ostrovo Unit was largely funded by money from America, although the women came from all over the world. Note that according to the Wikipedia article on ‘Scottish Women’s Hospitals‘
Only the medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and x-ray operators received a salary and expenses while non-medical staff such as orderlies, administrators, drivers, cooks and others received no pay at all (and were in fact expected to pay their way)
So as a chauffeur Taffy would not have been being paid, but would have been having an opportunity for experiences not generally available to women during those times.