Roger Lines – Banks and Bicycles

Roger Lines, my father, went on to travel the world as a Research Forester, but this letter finds him in January 1953, right at the start of his career. The previous letter in my possession, written by him at the end of his first week in the office has him about to move into 27, Dalrymple Crescent, and this letter is written from there.

27, Dalrymple Crescent

29th Jan

Dear M&D,

I have been able to make enquiries in the Scottish Banks. They have no bank charges in the accepted sense, but charge 6d per cheque. With a current account you have to pay at least £2 per year, however few cheques you draw, but you can draw 40 per year without paying anything above £2. If I had £100 the bank charge would be less that £2. This has to be thought out however on a parallel with the Savings Certificate scheme whereby £100 means £3 per year interest. Thus the Lloyds system is fantastically expensive if you draw few cheques (as I would). According to your letter they first of all want to charge £2-7-0 per 50 cheques and then they expect you to have £100 in a credit account so that altogether they are getting £5-7-0 per year for doing practically nothing. Perhaps you would like to confront them with this.

I have today opened an account with the Edinburgh Trustee Savings bank so I won’t be short of ready money again. Whilst on financial matters, you wouldn’t care to be Dependents would you ? There is Civil Service scheme whereby aged parents can be helped out of a contributory pension scheme.

It isn’t one of these “something-for-nothing” schemes though. There is a more or less compulsory scheme for Widows and Children through which means a deduction of 1 1/2 % from salary which you pay even before you have a wife let alone a widow. I shall have to propose by saying “Will you join my Widows and Children’s scheme ?”

Can someone with great strength (Jennifer) and mechanical aptitude (Daddy) get my bike down from the attic and see what Tim has pinched from it and whether the tyres still hold up. I know the electrics don’t work but only I think there aren’t any lamp. It would certainly be very useful up here, especially at lunch time but I don’t know how much it would cost to send it up. Could you find out and let me have a report on its condition ? (This sounds like one of my Memos to foresters)

The glasses don’t fit very well so I am having them bent a bit by a local optician. When I’ve done this I’ll send this pair down to have the lenses changed.

Much love


p.s. What was in the Sunday Express ?

In the meantime will banks are sorted out I will get John Spears to pay a cheque that he owes me into your account.



As far as I am aware, my father did not use the Widows and Orphans scheme as part of his proposal to my mother, indeed I do not think they had met at that stage, although my mother was already friends with my Aunt, Jennifer, of the great strength – as they had met at Froebel College in about 1946.

I believe my parents first met at Dale Fort field study centre in Pembrokeshire, although I am not sure exactly when – it had to have been after this letter in January 1953 and November 1955, when my father announced his intention to propose. It was his work for the Forestry Commission which took him to Pembrokeshire to study wind blow, and being in the area he went to his sister, who was there, along with my mother on a field study trip. He and my mother went for a walk around the headland and discovered their common interests in nature. My father lured my mother to Scotland with a promise of ‘A buzzard on very telegraph pole’, which caused our car journeys round Scotland to be enlivened by shouts of ‘There it is’ when we spotted a buzzard on a telegraph pole.

Family Mysteries

My main incentive for posting about Family History is the collection of letters and other documents which I inherited am am attempting to curate. I am filling in the gaps by Internet research, but there are some things I have not been able to find. I am listing them on this page so I can find them easily to research at suitable opportunities.


General Webster

Reputed to have been ‘a friend and admirer of General John Burgoyne’ (1722-1792), he was reputed to have named his son William Burgoyne Webster, He was a military man who traveled around a lot.

Having William Lawrence Burgoyne Webster (1867-1869) in the family lends credence to this, but I can’t find the son,


Was the Harriet G. Wilson (niece) staying with Percival J Webster (1865-1904) in the 1901 Census related to Martha Ellenor Frances Enstone Wilson (abt 1873- ?) – who married Arthur Reuben Webster (1858-1936) on 17 Feb 1901 – his second marriage

When did Bessie Manning (1844- ?) (Arthur Reuben Websters first wife – married 14 May 1882), who had been married to Adolphus Hamilton (1846-1880), die – it must have been after 1891 (when she is in the Census with Arthur) and before 1901 (when he is a widower)


When did Joseph May (1837- ? ) die. It would be some time after 1891, when he is aged 65 and appears in the census. Also what is his exact, or even better approximation for birth date.

When did Emma May (Born 5 Jan 1852) die, and where was she in the 1871, 1881 and 1901 Censuses (she is with her parents, aged 9 in 1861, and at 4 Chipstead Street in 1911, and Fulham Hospital in 1939.


Is Jane Alexander Bryson who married Sir Arthur Hulin Gosling (Director General of the Forestry Commission and KBE in the 1955 Birthday Honours) in 1931 and died in 1969 related to the Brysons in the family tree ?

How many Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh were nominated by William Thompson

Research Electric Light in Leith (in relation to William Alexander Bryson)


Who was the William Langdon (and his son) who were owners of the Foundry at Marahamchurch. (John Brimmel married an Ann Langdon in 1852).

When did Mr Langdon (the son) sell the Foundry – was it 1856 ?

Who are the C and W Hillman (longstanding employees) who bought the Foundry in 1912.

Where are Henry and Edward Box (owners of the Foundry up to 1886) in the 1881 Census (and the 1891 Census)

Who was living at the Foundry from 1891 onwards ? (or even 1887 onwards).

The Box Family of Marhamchurch Foundry

This is a draft, and has quite a lot of editing to do, but I will keep editing and updating, to share information more easily with my siblings, who are finding useful pieces of information.

On my mothers side I am descended from the Box Family who owned an Iron Foundry at Marhamchurch – a village near Bude in north Cornwall.

The Foundry

The Foundry was built around ?? near the Bude Canal. It was known as the Northumberland Foundry

According to it manufactured kitchen ranges – and the Maramchurch entry for VisitBude tells us

There was also a foundry producing cooking stoves, all marked Box’s Foundry

There are still some of these stoves to be found in the area, for example at Primrose Cottage at Berry Park

Box’s Foundry Stove at Primrose Cottage

Probably during the late 1700’s, Primrose Cottage was “modernised” by the laying of Delabole slate flagstone floors and the installation of the latest model kitchen range forged by Thomas Box at Marhamchurch (just south of Bude) using materials brought to the forge by the famous wheeled barges used on the Bude canal. These features can still be seen in Primrose Cottage.

Note that this refers to the kitchen range being forged by Thomas Box, who I certainly have as an iron founder, at some point, but the stove can not have been installed in the late 1700’s using material brought in on the Canal as that was not completed until 1825.

From the Cornish and Devon Post 16th Jun 1888

The advertisement above refers to the Foundry as being established for over 60 years, which would put its establishment at before 1828,

There is a picture of the Foundry in 1999 at

Another picture of the Foundry in around 1935 can be found at

The Bude Canal

The location of the foundry near the Bude Canal must be co-incidental, as the canal was built in 1819 to 1825, whereas the foundry was build around ??1796, indeed the foundry supplied rails for the the Inclined Plane which was one of the notable features of the Canal. The Bude Canal and Harbour Society has a interesting history of the canal page at although it does not mention the rails, that information comes from which tells us

Marhamchurch’s one claim to historical fame was its ‘inclined plane’. From 1819 sea-sand and lime were brought from Bude by canal to be used as fertiliser by local farms. The canal used to run from Bude through Marhamchurch to Druxton near Launceston and to Holsworthy. At Helebridge in Marhamchurch the tugboats were winched up the inclined plane by a water wheel at the wharf, where there was an engineer’s house. The rails for this were made at Box’s Foundry. This lasted until 1888 when the railways took over the carriage of materials. The railway was finally closed in 1968. The towpath alongside the canal makes a very pleasant walk into Bude – about two miles.

Employees and Foundry Cottages

The foundry employed about 20 men, some members of the Box family, others from local families, and some who came to work there. Thomas Box built a row of six cottages to house some of the workers, I think this must be Thomas Box (1792-1849), and the Census records show a variety of people living in them, some clearly foundry workers, and others with a variety of occupations. Some of the names are interesting as they are names I recognise from Box marriages, so I hope to expand on this a little more to track down some of the connections.

The Box Families

John Box (1788-1849 ) – Iron Founder before Thomas Box – probably

He was an Iron Founder, possibly son of William Box (1750) and Sarah Pope – from my mother’s notes. He became a clock maker in Launceston. He built the original foundry at Ridgegrove, presubably at or near the Ridgegrove Mills

On his death it passed to his son, William Braund Box, who managed it for 3 years (from 1849 to 1852 ???) and then sold it to Mr Langdon, who removed from Ridgegrove to Marhamchurch. The original foundry became a bone mill.

Thomas Box (1792-1849) – Iron Founder from 1841 (or earlier) to 1849

Son of William Box (1759 to 1813) and Thomasine Heard (1764-1842), he married Elizabeth Burrow on 27th March 1817)

John Box (1827-1887) – Iron Founder from 1861 to 1887

I think he was the son of Thomas Box and Elizabeth Burrow. He married Elizabeth Hill. Presumably it then passed on to his sons Thomas (1852-1911) and Henry (1859-1935) – though Henry became a farmer.

According to the article from the Cornish and Devon Post below the ownership of the Foundry passed from Mr Langdon Junior to Henry and Edward Box. I think they are the younger siblings of John Box. Henry (1839 – 1908) and Edward (1842 – ?) may be the Henry (Aged 30, Pattern Maker) and Edward Box who are Boarders at the Foundry in the 1871 Census when John Box is Iron Founder, although their ages do not exactly match up. It looks as if Edward is married to a Sarah A Box, and I believe he does marry Sarah Ann Cowles.

A Thomas Box was Ironfounder in 1852 at the wedding of his son William Box (also an Ironfounder) to Jane Rogers (nee Painter)

The foundry was still working in 1911 when Alfred John Box (1855 – ) was Iron Foundry Manager living at the home of Charles Shepherd, Stove and Grate Fitter.

Henry (1839-1906) and Edward (1842-1902) Box

They were the Second Cousins to Mr A.W.Box, and, according to the CDP&WCA article brought the Foundry from Mr Langdon Junior and ran it as a partnership until about 1886, when they sold it to A.W.Box.

As second cousins they must have shared a Great Grandparent, and as Boxes that must be on their Fathers side. so their father, Thomas Box, must have been a cousin (sharing a grandparent) with William Braund Box, so William’s father, John Box(1788-1849) , must be the brother of Thomas Box’s father, William Box (1759-1813), both being children of Thomas Box (1721-1799)

Henry and Edward were the sons of Thomas Box and Elizabeth Burrow, living in the Foundry in 1841 (Henry, Edward was not born then); when Thomas Box was Iron Founder, 1851; when Elizabeth Box (nee Burrow) was Iron Founder and Miller); 1861 (when Henry is Iron Founder, Machinist and Miller employing 2 Smiths, 1 Puller, 1 Moulder, 5 Carpenters and 2 Labourers. Edward is a Machinist.

In the 1871 Census their elder brother, John (1827-1887), and married to Elizabeth Hill is the Iron Founder, while Henry is now living at the Foundry as a Boarder and Pattern Maker, and Edward is working as a Fitter and he and his wife Sarah Ann Box (nee Cowling) are also boarders.

In 1881 John is still Iron Founder, employing 19 men and living at the Foundry with Elizabeth.

In 1881 Henry is married (to Mary Ellen Edmunds) and living in Stratton, but still working as a Pattern Maker (Artisan) – presumably at the Foundry.

I don’t (yet) know where Edward was living or what he was doing,

I suspect the death of John Box in 1887 was the event which precipitated the move of Arthur Williams Box from London, as Henry and Edward seem to have moved away from management of the foundry by this time.

Arthur Williams Box (1853-1940) – Iron Founder from about 1886 to 1912.

He was living in Langport in the 1891 Census, but living in London, but still with his profession as Iron Founder in 1901 and 1911, so I suspect he had a house in Launceston, but London was his main residence. He presumably employed a manager to run the Foundry on a day to day basis.

An article from the “Cornish and Devon Post and Western Counties Advertiser, on Saturday, April 4, 1896” describes the foundry and a little of its history.

The Northumberland Foundry, Launceston

Launceston, unfortunately, does not possess many industries.

Times have altered; trade’s unfeeling train
Usurps the land and dispossess the swain.

Since the old woollen factories, which thrived here centuries ago, were transferred to the great centres of industry, where coal is to be found at the factory door, and where railway communication is so much better, Launceston has discontinued to be an industrial centre of any importance; though, for our own part, we fail to see why certain manufacturies might no still be carried on here with a fair degree of success. Undoubtedly, could a manufactory of any kind be established her, Launceston’s prospects would be even infinitely brighter than they are at present. It would give the place a commercial status that at present is lacking. Still it is useless mourning this absence, for there is very little likelihood of Launceston every progressing in the direction named, though as a country business town it will take a deal of beating. It is one consolation to know, however, that the few industries remaining are conducted on sound progressive principles and are in the hands of capable managers. We have already noticed in these columns several noted business establishments, and in continuation of the series we give a brief history and sketch of The Northumberland Foundry, (Named after the Duke of Northumberland, who one time owned Warrington Park), St. Thomas, the proprietor of which (Mr A. W. Box), as is well-known, is quite a genius in many ways. Our representative, on presenting himself at the office door, found that it was not exactly “put a penny in the slot and you get your photo”, but press the button, the door opens by some mysterious means, and you gain admission at once to the show room without anyone opening the door, and then you go up into the bright cosy office above, where the worthy head kindly receives you. This open sesame is done by Mr. Box as he sits in his chair above, by means of a lever which pulls back the catch of the door. To use an Americanism, Mr. Box is very keen on electrical appliances. Immediately behind his chair he has also a telephone connected with the dining room of the dwelling-house, the working of which he minutely explained to our representative. Then again an electric signal calls away any of the workmen up from the foundry. When quite a lad Mr. Box made an excellent telephone, so that he is no tyro in the manufacture of such a contraption. In fact he is often consulted by Launcestonians and others on this and kindred matters, and is always ready to give the most kindly assistance. In the conversation, he was also exceedingly interesting in his remarks on motors. When he undertook the management of the foundry the motive power was supplied by a steam engine, which had been a faithful servant for many years. On this one being past further use, he decided to be well up to the times, and after careful consideration secured one of Crossley’s oil engines, of 4 horse power nominal, capable of developing 10 horse power, he is one of the first purchasers of this new invention. After a fair test, he says the engine is decidedly a good one, and works the fan and machinery without the least trouble. Mr. Box contemplates erecting the electric light on his premises, this engine being well capable of supplying the power, and I have not the least doubt that he will do it, for his ingenious contrivances in all directions at once convinces you that he knows nothing of difficulties. Mr. Box has also been considering the practicality of a water motor, believing that he could thus obtain 15-horse power without any difficulty. No doubt, Mr Box’s inventive mind will develop the idea at some favourable opportunity. In fact a certain gentleman in the town, who at present uses an engine, has been considering with Mr. Box the advisability of trying the use of water for motive power, now that we have a plentiful supply available. Mr. Box is also an exceedingly good amateur photographer, and turns his knowledge and gifts to a practical use, photographing patterns and other things connected with the trade which it is advisable to have in possession. Such a mind naturally finds full scope in a foundry where all kinds of inventive work has to be carried out, and in the necessary “motive power” to make such an institution successful.

The Foundry was established several decades ago by the present proprietor’s grandfather (Mr. John Box), who had a business in Broad St. It was he who built the present bone mill at Ridgegrove for a foundry. After his death his son, Mr W.B. Box, father of the present proprietor, carried it on for three years, and then sole the business to Mr. Langdon, who removed from Ridgegrove to the present premises. On the latter’s demise, his son carried it on, the business eventually coming into the hands of Mssrs. Henry and Edward Box, second cousins to Mr. A.W. Box. They, about ten years ago, dissolved partnership and Mr. A.W. Box then came down from London and bought off the foundry established by his grandfather so many years before. It is worthy of mention that this Mr. John Box was also a clever clockmaker, and several clocks bearing his name are still to be seen in the district, while his son, Mr. W. Box, when a young man, constructed entirely by himself (it being a three years’ labour) a very fine model of a working steam engine which was exhibited in the Western Rooms some sixty years ago, the maker giving a lecture on steam power, then, of course, in its infancy. This brought him into communication with Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, who invented the Bude Light, and was at that time working on his steam carriages; and, noting on his advice, Mr. Box went to London where he was very successful as a watch and clock maker. On his arrival at Launceston, Mr A.W. Box soon set about making several beneficial alterations to the premises, including an enlargement of the foundry, all of which showed the design of a practical hand. Cornish foundries are handicapped in that the man are unable to work piecework on account of the great variety of articles to be made. In the larger foundries in the North the case is different. An order for stoves, for instance, is often sufficiently large to keep men at work for weeks together. Then the advantage of being able to put men on piecework is clearly proved, and the profits much more easily gauged. The men in this foundry are chiefly employed in making the castings used by agricultural implement makers and machinists, comprising the parts of water wheels, pulleys, pinions, gear-wheels, plough bodies,grutices, shoes, shares etc.,etc. In fact, on seeing the countless patterns piled on the shelves, one is convinced that next to gold, iron is the most useful metal. In the Northumberland Foundry kitchen ranges are the only articles made completely and stocked, and Mr. Box has given his particular attention to the manufacture, so that they should give a maximum of heat with a minimum of fuel, and as the parts are constructed of extra stout plates the stoves should last for many years. Mr. Box also supplies stove castings to several makers who are not iron founders themselves. On a recent visit, we noticed castings going off to St. Austell, ordered by a noted electrical engineer there. It is most interesting to see the huge blast furnace set to work, and the liquid iron run out into the numerous moulds on the foundry floor on a given day of the week. The day for casting is Fridays, and it about two hours the moulds that have taken all the week to prepare can be filled with the melted iron. The mould is made in sand and coal dust (the latter being ground down in a mill for the purpose) by means of what is called a pattern, made of either wood or metal. These patterns (some of considerable value) are always kept in stock, so that in case of breakages new pieces can be speedily cast. A visit to the pattern store gives one some idea of the capital that is needed to be put into a business of this kine, and the great part this foundry played in the more prosperous days of Cornish and Devon mining, huge patterns of cog wheels, cranks, eccentrics, gratings and all the adjuncts of water wheels and other machinery being packed away, the accumulation of scores of years, but ready for the quickest reproduction. In the centre of the foundry a huge crane is erected for use when heavy pieces of metal are required, such as the target, which Mr. Box supplied the Launceston Volunteer Corps. Mr. Box uses only the best pig iron to be obtained in Scotland. This on being melted is allowed to run out of the furnace in required quantities into a ladle with long arms extending on either side. This two men immediately carry round to the moulds and pour it into holes made for the purpose, until is is known they are full, the bubbling liquid that rises in certain places giving such signal. The castings are taken from the moulds the next day, and then go through a process of finishing with lathe, drill and other machinery, there being separate departments for this work, it being one of Mr. Box’s privileges to have plenty of room. From all I saw, I am convinced that there is a still more prosperous future for the Northumberland Foundry, and that it is one of the most valuable institutions Launceston possesses.

Having typed this from the original article, there is an article (including this newspaper article at This also includes the sale of the foundry by A, W, Box in 1912, to C & W Hillman, longstanding employees.

That site also has a picture of the Foundry from 1904 (which was certainly during the time of Arthur William Box.

It also has an item from May 17th. 1856.

TO MINERS : TO BE SOLD By Private Contract
1 WATER WHEEL, 17 feet high and 7 feet wide; do. Do. 12. Do. and 2 ft. Wide. Stamps, Axle, and Tongues; 18 Stamps heads, with Wood Lifters; Stamps Frame, and Guides, & c., & c. Also several Wind-bores, and Matching pieces.
Apply to Mr. Langdon,
Northumberland Foundry, St. Thomas, Launceston.

This fits the description of this picture of a Water Wheel from my family photo album

This could well be a 17 foot high water wheel, but I am not sure how to match it with an 1856 date, or an ownership by Mr. Landon. It does look as if it is either being constructed or removed, however as there is no machinery attached to it.

Roger Lines writing from the Atholl Hotel, after a week at work

My father, Roger Lines, had been interested in trees since he did his Scout Forester badge. He noted the trees he saw while serving in India, and after his return he took a degree in Forestry at Bangor.

He joined the Forestry Commission, based in Edinburgh, and wrote this letter home, a week after he started, which I think was in late 1952.

Atholl Hotel

Sat Evening

Dear M & D

Thank you for your letter with the ration book. Let me go through your letter. My office is now looking a little more lived in, with a cosy fire (much better coal up here) and my Alpine Calendar for 1940 on the wall. My IN tray is normally full and my OUT tray empty.

I have now formally started constructive work for the F.C. by having thrust onto me an expt (experiment) on the flushing of Spruce which has plants in a nursery at Tulliallan (just across the Forth from the Kincardine bridge). I have to get them planted out at Newcastleton Roxburgh in the spring. Unfortunately the labour for this comes from the hotel at Kielder which is closing at the end of the month, so it is possible that the expt will be shelved until next year. All the labour will be sacked and the Conservator has been to London to see if someone has just made a mistake. London told him there was no mistake so it means that the whole forest will just about have to close down. Its all mad as the cost of this would be terrific in terms of neglect, rabbits getting in, plants getting swamped with weeds etc. You cant get accountants to see this sort of thing though.

I have discovered after working here a week that office hours are 9 – 5.30 with 45 mins for lunch and 9 – 12.30 on Sat. Actually I thought they were 8.30 – 5.30 and have often worked til ten to six. Even so I dont feel exhausted at the end of a day as there is no-one to harry you and I get through more by doing it in my own time. I have spent quite a lot of time (office time, they are very good about that sort of thing) so far trying to find suitable digs.

I advertised in the local paper and got about twenty replies. Some were in Leith, too far away, others I visited and wasn’t impressed. The vast majority were in flats or tenements which are a great feature of Edin. These great grey granite blocks go up 4 or 5 floors and have a dimly lit main stair. Most are 100 yrs old but in reasonable condition. I went to see the Fergusons the evening I got your letter, but Nora had already gone down south. After they had gathered who I was (rather awkward) they were very hospitable and I have a standing invitation to go down and watch T.V. any evening when I am not busy. They also were very helpful in giving me advice about the digs letters I had received and finished up by giving me tea and shortbread. Having visited some more of the recommended ones I have finally got myself “bedded-down” with Mrs Harper 27, Dalrymple Crescent, Edinburgh 0. Phone Edin. 45574.

In contrast to the flats, this is a large single house set in its own garden, rather like some of the older houses in Sutton

Mrs Harper seems a reasonable person, well educated and with two chn. I am going to have a bed sitter about the size of the spare room. Large sitting room which I imagine I shall only use in summer. More later, I move in on Monday. £3-3. less lunch during week and reduction for time away. The point is that Dalrymple Crescent is a turning off Lauder Rd.

Weather so far hasn’t been to bad, not so much snow as fog and ice, but we have had nice days as well, and I seem to be getting on well with our Scots foresters (v. important). Office Staff is 13 including me but the chiefs are M.V. Edwards the boss, ex Burma, knows Darjeeling, highly intelligent little man. chn; John Zehetmayer English. Navy Lt & Oxford 5yrs in Research & one of the bright young men. 2 chn ; Faulkner, young ? 2yrs


This unfortunately is where the letter that I have ends – the final page has gone astray somewhere.

Better Coal – in those days Scotland was still a coal mining country.


A list of Forestry Commission Research staff in 1969 (about 17 years later) can be found at
Many of the names are familiar as colleagues and friends of my father

Michael Vincent Edwards

I have been able to find the start of an obituary (written by Roger Lines) at

with the next page at which mentions the welcome offered to my father, which started on his first day.
He was awarded an O.B.E. in 1967

John Zehetmayer

His obituary can be found on Wales Online here.

Roy Faulkner

I think he transferred down to Alice Holt and, as children we would go and see him and his family, and participate in “Nurdling” – where this YouTube clip seems a bit similar to what I remember – basically a kind of mad obstacle course.


Lauder Road

Although it seems unlikely, I think the early Headquarters of Forestry Research in Scotland may have been in Lauder Road, I know they did not move into the ‘new’ offices at Sighthill straight away.

Roger Lines, at the end of his first day at work.

My Father, Roger Lines, managed to land his dream job of working for the Forestry Commission in Edinburgh, after gaining a First Class Honours degree in Forestry from Bangor.

He wrote home after his first day at work (I will update this if I can work out when that was), to update his parents.

Atholl Hotel

Rothesay Place
Edinburgh 3.
Mon. Evening

Dear M&D,

Just a few more words to let you know how things progress.

Work. Seemingly should prove fascinating, I can pick my own field within limits, people I have to work with are most kind & helpful. They abhor red tape and no one has ever mentioned such a thing as working hours yet. They are approx 8.30 to 5.30 but no one worries. My pay should be about £635 p.a. and on my numerous trips I get 3 7/6d per day on top of my normal pay.

Car I shan’t need to buy one or use my motor bike as there is a brand new Hillman with glistening paint on tap, but I shall need to be able to drive it sometime.

I am going out tomorrow to a meeting of all the Conservators & some D.O.s of Scotland so I shall be in a unique position. Half my job at first is to get on the right side of these boss men as they can make life difficult if by annoying them you have to go through official channels.

Digs Mr Gray cannot have me, its all a big mistake as he has two chn. to look after as well. He has given me an invite to come up tho’

I shall definitely be coming down in July as we have a conference at Alice Holt then, but may possibly come down before. I don’t really know yet.

My boss M.V. Edwards has invited me to tea on Sunday. Another couple who are staying here have also invited me up their new house when they are settled in so the old charm is being brought to bear.

I have my own office with chair, table IN & OUT trays, telephone and blotter but nothing else.

Cheers Roger


Alice Holt is the Southern research institute of the Forestry Commission. My Grandparents would later move to Medstead, not far away.

There has clearly been a plan that my father would take lodgings with Mr Gray, but these seem to have fallen through, which is why he is staying at the Atholl Hotel for the time being. This hotel does not appear to be around any more, but I suspect was chosen as being available, and probably cheap.

I remember my father did ride his motor bike all round the country, visiting forests and meeting the local lairds, as Forestry was part of the governments plan to combat depopulation of the countryside by encouraging planting of forests.

Arrived Safely in Salonica in 1918

My Great Aunt Margaret volunteered as a Civilian Red Cross Nurse in 1918, traveling to Serbia via Salonica (Thessalonica) to work at the military hospital in Sarajevo.

The post ‘Margaret Box, nursing in Salonica and Serbia‘ acts as an index to the letters she wrote. On 20th October she sent a telegram to her father, John Box to let her parents know that she had arrived safely in Salonica.

Margaret Box, Somewhere in France in September 1918

Margaret Box, my Great Aunt, traveled to Serbia as a nurse in 1918. Following on from her previous letter, where she was leaving Southampton on the 17th September, she writes this one on the morning of the 18th, from ‘Somewhere in France’. She would have been a long way from the battle lines, where the Battle of Épehy was being fought.

The post ‘Margaret Box, Nursing in Serbia and Salonica‘ acts as an index and timeline to the letters she wrote and is updated as I transcribe them.

Somewhere in France

Wednesday morning

My dear Father,

We have had a good journey across – no mishaps of any description. We camped out on deck for the night as there were no bunks available (I would not have got in one if I could !) so my eiderdown & sleeping bag came in very useful – also the little air cushion Leonard gave me.

It was a fine night & the sunrise this morning as we came in was glorious. I shall not forget my first view of France & wish you could all have seen it too. At present we are having a jolly nice rest & awaiting lunch. This is such a nice old fashioned house with plenty of easy chairs & kind people to look after us.

We have been out this morning to have a look round – it was frightfully hot but very interesting.

I wonder if Norah has fixed up yet where to go & when.

Much love to all

Your loving daughter

Margaret Box

Have you had the photo’ proofs yet ? I hope they will be printable.


Norah was Margaret’s younger sister. She later became a nurse too, but would have been 19 at the time of this letter.

Margaret Box leaving from Southampton

My Great Aunt, Margaret Box, went nursing in Serbia 1918-19, towards the end of the First World War. This post is an index of the letters she wrote home and other documents related to her travels. On 17th September 1918 she set sail from Southampton, heading for France at the start of her journey.




My dear Mother

We had a very comfortable journey down in the train & had to come on board straight away. We start this evening & reach Paris some time tomorrow.

One of our party has got to stay the night in Southampton as her passport has not arrived, so the 4 of us are going on together – we expect she will join us in Paris the next day.

We have just had a good “supper tea” & are fixing up our night quarters.

Three of our party have been abroad a good deal & know all about it so we are getting on fine.

I hope you all got back all right – we did have a fine family gathering didn’t we !

The ‘S.W.H’ in Kahki is a transport driver going to Salonica – the tall girl is an Orderly going to ‘somewhere in France’ & the other 2 are Staff Nurses going to Salonica. Miss Danby has not turned up.

We are all very excited & enjoying ourselves fine, the others are all very nice.

I will write again the other side.

Very best love to all –

Your loving Daughter



I assume a picture should go with this, but I have not found it.

Miss Danby is probably

DANBY Miss Gertrude Elizabeth, Sanitary Orderly London 25-Sep-18 1-Sep-19

From S.W.H. names

Inoculations, Suffrage and People’s Votes

On Saturday I, along with many others, went to London to campaign for a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal. The whole Brexit issue is contentious and I feel it is important for politicians to know that they are being scrutinised. This is particularly since the right to vote is, in historical terms, quite a recent and precious thing.

A little over a hundred years ago my Great Aunt Margaret was preparing to travel, as a nurse, to Serbia – where the final acts of the First World War were still ongoing. The overview of her letters can be found here, and an early postcard from 9th September 1918 shows a confirmation of receipt of her her inoculation certificate (although against what is not specified).

The postcard is sent from the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service, but in a voting context the interesting part is the top heading of the postcard, which shows that this was part of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. (There is much information about these in the linked Wikipedia articles). Margaret Box appears in the List of SWH names.

Even after the 1918 Representation of the People Act, Margaret would not have had a vote, as she was only 27, and the franchise only extended to women who were over 30, and even then only if they were registered property owners.

Inoculations, Voting and Marching

I tend to think of some things in terms of Information, so from that viewpoint an Inoculation is a signal, being sent to your body that says ‘Watch out for stuff like this’. Signaling in your body is very important to keep you alive and well, and people where that signaling system breaks down do not usually survive long.

In the same way the flow of information, in both directions, between the people and politicians is essential for a healthy democracy. If – as they claim, and as I believe the majority of politicians do – Government exists to carry out the will of the people, then sending signals, by voting, referendums, writing letters, sending petitions and sometimes, by marching is important. Information should flow in the other direction also, and that information should be honest and trustworthy.

Sending distorted information to the public, as an untrustworthy signal, to invoke a particular response, will be exposed by the eye of history (or sometimes earlier by investigative journalists), but breakdown in this signaling process is as bad for the body politic as Leprosy (with its damage to the ability to feel pain) is for the human body.

Margaret Box – another letter from Bralo, October 1918

This is one of a series of letter written by my Great Aunt, Margaret Box while she was nursing in Salonica and Serbia in 1918/19 at the end of the First World War. This letter is written to her mother from the 49th Stationary Hospital, in Bralos, Greece on 11th October 1918, and follows on from her letters on the 5th to 7th October.

49th Stationary Hospital



My dear Mother

We are still here in the same place as when I wrote last, we have been working in the wards to help the Sisters as the work has been so frightfully heavy & they have not been off duty at all for a month. I hope we shall be going on soon for I begin to want to be settled in my own place !

The work is getting much lighter every day & they hope soon to get to normal conditions.

This morning we went for a lovely walk – we struck out across the fields in search of a wood – on the way we met herds of goats – most of them are black & wear bells round their necks – the goatherds are most extraordinary looking individuals – they are very swarthy with bushy beards & hair & little round caps on their heads. They usually wear kilts & tight breeches & their legs swathed up in something & bedroom slippers made of goatskin with the toes turned up & big black pompoms on each point. Then they have coats made of goatskin with sleeves & a monks hood. The whole ‘caboodle’ must be horribly dirty – they always salute & say something extraordinary – occasionally you meet one who says “hello Charlie” & thinks he has greeted you in polite high class English ! Well – we looked for the wood & came to about 1/2 dozen little oak trees – welcome shade in the boiling sun tho’ they were no taller than ourselves – then we turned off to the right & made tracks for the mountains – we came to a little river & met another crowd of goats coming across – they did not like getting their feet wet & it was so funny to see them hopping across – they were so long making up their minds before jumping. We got across by the help of a big stone in the middle & some long leaps. On the other side we met cows & Miss Sinclair was terrified of them – so we had to creep by stealthily while they were scraping in dried thistles (this is what the grass consists of) – we then got on to the road & across to the foot of a mountain. We only climbed up a little way & sat on a rock & ate chocolate & biscuits, I suddenly thought of the scorpions I heard so much about but could not see any – only a big tortoise – presently a Greek started shrieking at us & waving wildly at us & we saw he was holding in a dog – so we took to our heels and & ran – some of these dogs are horribly wild & he just saved us that time. We then walked along the road at the foot of the mountains & soon came to a village – the cottages are very picturesque tho’ all over the place & very dirty – they have bright blue shutters, are chiefly built of white stone & have brown tile roofs kept on (!) by large stones & rocks. We saw several old grannies walking about spinning as they went – in one hand they hold a stick with a bunch of flax on top & in the other hand a large bobbin & wind the cotton on to it. I don’t know how they do it but it looks very simple. The children ran after us & gave us sweet herbs from the gardens & said a lot of Greek – we saw a lot coming out of school with such gaudy school bags nearly all bright blue. Nearly everybody rides a donkey from old grannies down to little girls & nearly everyone goes sidesaddle even the men – they always have crowds of bundles hanging round the poor donkey.

There are lots of vineyards all round, very sweet raisin grapes & the boys & girls come crowding up & give up heaps of grapes – they are so generous. We got back in time for lunch – very late & dusty, but we had a fine walk – we picked some baby cyclamen growing in the bank, such pretty pink ones – they say the flowers will be coming out soon, at present everything is dried up with the summer heat.

Tonight we have had another awful thunderstorm & such rain.

I wish you could see these lovely mountains. Mt Parnassus is just beautiful – they say it is the home of the Muses. I admire their choice.

Tomorrow we are going for a most gorgeous motor ride – I hope the rain will have stopped by then – anyway it will have ‘laid the dust’

There are crowds of locusts about – they are like huge brown grasshoppers and hop first rate.

It is time to put the light out so I must say Goodnight.

Very best love to all

Your loving Daughter

Margaret Box.


The storm lasted nearly all night but this morning the weather is perfect – a few tents blew down but they were small ones – ours is a big one & quite secure. I like living in a tent, shall want to pitch one on the lawn when I come home ! There is no furniture to dust ! & you can make your front door whichever side you like, when it rains you shut it up all round, pick up everything off the floor & get into bed. Sometimes a little rain blows in underneath the tent but it does not come through the top.

There is no motor available this morning so we shall not get our ride, it is such a pity for it is a glorious day. We are going to try & fix up a picnic instead

Very much love to all



Spanish Flu

The reason the Sisters at the were so busy is almost certainly victims of Spanish Flu, rather than war casualties, as there was no fighting in this part of Greece during World War I. Spanish Flu killed 50 to 100 million people, as compared to around 40 million casualties of World War I, although some of those were killed by Spanish Flu.

Miss Sinclair

From the list of SWH Names, she was probably

SINCLAIR Miss Louise Esson, Nurse America Unit 17-Sep-18 1-Aug-19

as Great Aunt Margaret was

BOX Miss Margaret, Nurse London Unit 17-Sep-18 1-Mar-19

Here is a map to show where the camp was.