My Great Aunt, Magaret Ada Box, had four sisters, Rose, Dorothy, Edith and Norah, and a brother, Leonard – my Grandfather. In February 1919 Margaret was in Sarajevo, working as a nurse with the Elsie Inglis Unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. She wrote a letter to Norah, who was now living at a new address, with thanks for parcels, news walks and weather, and hope that Margaret will be home soon.
Rcvd. Morning Post 16 March 19
Elsie Inglis Unit
4th Surgical Field Hosp.
Headquarters Royal Serbian Army
Feb 26th 2. 19
Very many thanks for your most welcome letter written on Jan 24th & received by me yesterday. I meant to write to you last mail but we get very short notice – as a rule – when anyone is going & I never manage to get a stock of letters written in readiness like some of the others do. Also I did not know your address. I am very glad you have found a more comfortable perch to roost on – from your description it sounds a lovely old house.
Thank you very much for the lovely mauve handky you sent me. I like it ever so much & did you work out the letters too? Also many thanks for sending off the parcel which I received safely on Feb 20th (I think it was).
We are having glorious spring weather & very warm – though it was colder last night & a sharp frost this morning. The fields are covered with primroses & purple crocuses & lots of snowdrops in some places. I often manage to get a little extra time off & then some of us take our tea or lunch & go up the mountains. Today I have had a whole day off – I stayed in bed to breakfast, got up about 10 A.M. & had a bath, then about 11:30 Nathan, Watson & I set off for a lovely walk. When we had got clear of all the houses we sat on some rocks in a grassy dell with a little copse quite near & a mountain brook rushing down & the mountain going on up behind us. Below us we could see a glimpse of Sarajevo & beyond any amount of mountains. This is where we ate our lunch – bully, bread, an egg each, biscuits & cheese & some lovely tart (Nathan can make good tarts) followed by coffee.
When we had finished we burnt the old bits of paper – so as not to spoil the beauties of the spot & being refreshed body & mind we went on up. Ever so high up we went through a lovely fir wood & found a wooden coffee house in the middle. So we had some coffee & then started back by another road. We were nearly at the top of the mountain & the views were magnificent. Our descent was very steep & rocky as we scorned the winding road and took short cuts. We often sat down – suddenly – but we are used such trifles & no accidents happened.
We got back at 5.30 p.m. thoroughly tired out for we had walked nearly all the time.
I am getting so terribly fat that I’m sure you won’t recognise me when I come come. Nathan says I am ‘bursting’ – I know my clothes are! I hear that you are getting fat too – I always knew you would!
Powell-Jones – the chauffeuse you saw at Waterloo turned up the other day – her Transport party is in a place on the Danube further on than Belgrad & when they were coming here (2 others came as well) they made a mistake about changing trains & went on to Buda-Pest. She has gone back to Belgrad now.
The little boy on my ward – he is 13 – who has had his hand blown off by a bomb of some sort – is a real pickle & up to all sorts of monkey tricks. He is very keen to learn English & I have to write the English words in Serbian. It is so funny – this is ‘I am sorry’ = “αι εμ ςορυ”! it does not look much like it does it?
Today is soaking – such a pity for we are hoping to get some consecutive dry weather as it is so very muddy & we want to get a dry walk for a change. We have actually managed to get a little money – i.e. the penniless ones have each received £2. I was absolutely penniless & I have had to get some shoes mended which cost 40 kroner.
Do you remember my tin plate? It is very useful at present covered in moss with crocuses and primroses stuck in – it looks so pretty. The other day I found some daphnes in the woods – it does smell nice.
Should like to see you sitting on pigs – poor pig, did it look like a pancake afterwards? “when is a pig not a pig?” “when is satin”
I hear that letters are going to Belgrad tomorrow so I had better conclude this epistle.
Yesterday afternoon we had 14 new patients – none of them very bad.
Goodbye Ninny. I might see you next month!
Heaps of love
Your loving sister
Norah’s ‘comfortable perch to roost in’
Norah does indeed seem to have landed on her feet – Elm’s Hall is a Grade II Listed building in the Essex Countryside (OSM). It dates back to around 1600, and was probably the main farmhouse for the area, being on Elms Hall Road.
It sounds as if she was employed as an agricultural worker, looking after pigs.
He was mentioned in the letter of February 17th, and it is good to hear that he is still around to cause trouble.