Margaret Box Nursing – Dramatis Personae

My Great Aunt, Margaret Box went, via France, Italy and Greece to what was then Serbia, in 1918/19 towards the end of the First World War. She was a nurse, working for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, and wrote a number of letters and diaries describing her her experiences, indexed here.

During her travels she encounters a number of people, some more more frequently than others, and this article is intended to help keep track of them, and also, in some cases, add some extra information, as many of them were women, and in 1918, during a war, it was only people of an adventurous spirit who would travel to a remote part of the world (as it was in those days) to help people close to where a war was being fought.

Bailey (Colonel)

Gave Margaret a ride in his car on 14th October 1918. I am not sure which of the various Colonel Baileys he might have been

He was not Frederick Marshman Bailey, who forged the documents of a Serbian Colonel in 1918, but was a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel, in Taskent at the time (as a British spy)

Box, John Robert

Margaret’s father, my Great Grandfather, he was a nurseryman, and has his own page here.

Box, Leonard Arthur (1886-1967)

My Grandfather, and Margaret’s brother. He was a solicitor, possibly working for his uncle – William Williams Box. During the First World War he was a soldier with the Westminster Dragoons, so might have fought in Egypt.

Box, Margaret Ada (1890-1986)

The central character and main letter writer, she had trained as a nurse. After the war she returned to nursing, apart from a brief marriage to Colonel Curtis. He was one of a group of people, including her brother, Leonard Box who bought land outside the village of Shamley Green. Leonard built Little Cucknells, the house where my mother lived until she left home, on that land, but Colonel Curtis seems to disappear from the story, and Margaret went back to being Box.

Box, Edith Mary (1894-1959)

Margarets younger sister

Box, Norah Constance (1898-1987)

Margaret’s youngest sister.

She was a housekeeper in San Francisco for the Leale family from 1926 to 1932.

Box, Rosina (Rose) (1884-1969)

Margaret’s eldest sister.

Margaret writes to her on

  • 6 Nov 1918 – to wish her a Happy Birthday (on 5th December)

Chesney, Lilian (1869-1935)

Dr Chesney was the head of the hospital Margaret was attached to, where she did most of her nursing in Serbia. As the hospital moved around many of the letters simply use the address “c/o Dr Chesney”

She studied Natural Sciences at Girton from 1890 to 1894, and went to study medicine in Newcastle, who mention her in their article on graduates who served in WW1.

She was awarded the Order of St Sava by the King of Yugoslavia, recorded in the Edinburgh Gazette in 1921.

She had served in the Serbia and London units of the SWH, and then moved to the Elsie Inglis Unit in early 1918. She was inspected with that unit by the King and Queen at Buckingham palace on 18th February 1918.

She is mentioned in the books

Apart from being the address where Margaret can be reached she appears in the letters of

  • 29th Oct 1918 – where (in the notes), she commends Margaret’s initiative in staying to nurse the M.T. unit on 21st October, and sends North in a car to fetch Margaret on 27th October.
  • 16th Nov 1918 – where she is away from the unit but due back soon. She had joked with Margaret about fur coats.
  • 24th Nov 1918 – where she has gone on ahead of her unit

Danby, Gertrude Elizabeth (1878 – 1960)

She was a Sanitary Orderly

Probably born in Ipwich, Suffolk on 8th October 1878, to Thomas William Danby and Gertrude Elizabeth Mary Tyler Smith (daughter of William Tyler Smith).

She joined as a VAD on 25h September 1918. Her VAD record is here.

She appears in the letters of

  • 18th Sep 1918 – where she does not catch the same boat as Margaret
  • 20th Oct 1918 – where she is going on to Skopje, as is Margaret
  • 29 Oct 1918 – where she is in Skopje when Margaret arrives there.
  • 6th Nov 1918 – where she goes for a walk round town with Margaret

From a comment by Lynn Lawson attached to the 29th October post referenced above, on her return she took an active part in life in Seaford, East Sussex, where she was awarded the British Empire Medal for her service with the WVS in WW2, and served as a councillor.

Emslie, Isabel (1887 – 1960)

Fooks, Idaberga Mabel. (1880 – )

Her father, Edward John Fooks, was born in Langton House, which was apparently the childhood home of Robert Baden-Powell. I thinks Idaberaga was also born there. Mr Fooks was a partner in the London law firm, Messrs Fooks, Chadwick, Arnold & Chadwick, and clearly spoke good French as he provided for the Courier newspaper the translation of an account of the experiences of one of the Belgian refugees from Herent, near Louvain. He was for 20 years Legal Adviser to the R.C. Diocese of Southwark. This is from https://belgiansrtw.wordpress.com/claytons-farmhouse/ which also says that “Their daughter Idaberga Mabel FOOKS  was a VAD nurse for the duration of the war, at Bidborough Court (Kent 74) and for two years on secondment to the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Russia and Serbia.”

She has two VAD records, here and here.

I suspect that Idaberga was known to the Box family through her father knowing William Williams or Leonard Box.

She is mentioned in the letters of

Gwynn, Margaret Katherine

Secretary to the unit. There is a reference to her in the letter of

  • 19 Nov 1918 – where the is helping Margaret sort out where her wages should be sent.

Howard, Lilian Maud

She is a chauffeur in the London Unit

She joined as a VAD on 20th February 1918. Her VAD record is here.

Jones, Gladys Margaret Powell

Known as ‘Taffy’ as she is Welsh, she is a chauffeur.

She appears in the letter of 20th October 1918, 29th October 1918

She joined as a VAD on 19th September 1918. Her VAD record is here.

McIlroy, Anne Louise

She has her own Wikipedia entry.

Murdoch, Bessie Bannerman (1881 – 1958)

From Rootschat https://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=725296.0, “she was born in 1881 at inverlochy farm Elgin. Father were John and Mary. She had a long ww1 service France, Serbia and more.”

She is mentioned in the letters of

  • 24th September 1918

North, Augusta Louisa (1878 – 1978)

I think she may be been Dr. Chesney’s driver.

Her Scarletfinders entry says

NORTH Miss Augusta Louisa, Chauffeur London Unit 20-Feb-18 2-Dec-18

SWH Names N-Y

She appears in the letter of

  • 29th October 1918 – where on 27th October she fetches Margaret from the M.T. Camp, where Margaret has, on her own initiative, been nursing flu patients.

She joined as a VAD on 20th February 1918. Her VAD record is here.

Rendel, Frances Elinor (1885-1942)

Her Scarletfinders entry says

RENDEL Miss Frances Elinor, Doctor London Unit 30-Aug-16 1-Oct-17 and 31-Aug-18 1-Mar-19

There are several pictures of her in the National Portrait Gallery here.

She is mentioned in the letter of

  • 27th November 1918 – when her bedding gets soaked as she is nearest the door of the railway cattle truck the are travelling in.

Sinclair, Louise Esson (1886-)

Born in Old Machar, Aberdeen, Scotland, on 6th December 1886, she later married Alex Anderson, and had one daughter.

She joined as a VAD on 17th September 1918. Her VAD record is here.

She is mentioned in the letters of


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