Margaret Ada Box (1890-1986), my Great Aunt, daughter of John Box, volunteered as a Civilian Red Cross Nurse in 1918, with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. She has a record at Forces War Records (which needs Full Access Membership to see it), which shows that her Department was “Scot. Women”, her Rank was “N.S.” (whatever that is), her Service Number was “cert no. 17847 passport no. 202114”, her Duty Location was “Salonica“.
If that was all I had to go on, this would be a very short topic, however Great Aunt Margaret wrote a number of letters home, and collected some mementos, which I will scan and post, updating this post as I do so. She travelled to places most British women of her era would not see, and met interesting people.
The letters to her were sent in envelopes made from newspapers by disabled soldiers.
The Long, Long Trail website has a military overview of the Salonika Campaign – a little known part of the First World War. The Salonika Campaign Society website covers the campaign in more detail, even having a section on Medical Services. The British Army was in Greece as allies of Serbia (which had been invaded by Austria Hungary in 1915 , and as allies of the Greek Provisional Government of National Defence – a breakaway Greek Government, opposed to the neutral position of the Greek King Constantine I.
The Battle of Dobro Pole between 15th and 18th September was a major breakthrough in the Macedonian Front, leading to the Liberation of Serbia by the Allied forces. They pushed up through Serbia, establishing a hospitals at Bralos and Skopje, where Margaret Box worked before moving on to the hospital at Sarajevo.
Timeline of Margaret Box Journey to the Hospital Unit in Serbia, and return
- 19th November 1890 – Margaret Ada Box born in Croydon to John Robert Box and Ada (nee Webster).
- 31st March 1901 – At Boarding School in Bexhill (aged 10) (along with Amy Webster)
- 9th September 1918 – confirmation of receipt of her certificate of inoculation, from the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for the Foreign Service. Click here for the article about this letter and keep clicking the Next links to follow in sequence.
- 17th September 1918 (aged 27) – Waterloo, Southampton (letter)
- 18th September – she writes from somewhere in France
- Paris,Lyon,Modane,Turin, Genoa, Rome
- Week in Rome, from where she wrote a letter home on 24th September.
- 29th September – to Taranto, from where she writes a letter home on 30th September.
- 3rd October – Troopship to Gulf of Corinth – Iteon (first night in a tent) – Also the Scottish Women’s Hospitals secretary writes to John Box to say that his daughter is (probably) safe.
- 6th October – Train to Bralo – possibly the village or pass of Gravia (Location of the 49th Stationary Hospital) where Margaret started working. There is also a War Grave Cemetery for casualties who did not recover – Margaret writes to her parents from here, and again on the 11th October and again on the 14th October.
- 18th October – Train to Thessaly, Larissa
- 19th October – Salonica
- 20th October – Sends a telegram to say she is safe, and writes to her mother, before travelling Monastir to Prilip – in meat lorries. Stay to help at at Motor Transport Corps camp. (interestingly two other intrepid women, Anne Powell and Flora Sandes, seem to have made similar journeys)
- 24th October – writes from 708 M.T. to wish her sister, Norah, a happy birthday. She still nursing the sick men there, three of whom die that day.
- 25th October – On to join rest by car – Veles, Uskub, Skopije – join unit
- 28th October – Joins Dr. Chesney‘s unit near Skopje, where she writes to her mother on the 29th October.
- 6th November – Writes a birthday letter to wish her sister Rose a Happy Birthday. She writes to her dad from here on 7th November, a long letter to her parents on the 16th November, and one to her sister Norah on 18th November, when she hears her unit is to move on.
- 24th November – She writes to her brother Leonard – still from Dr Chesney’s unit, somewhere near Skopje although Dr Chesney has already moved on.
- 25th November – Train (cattle trucks) – Veles, Strumitze (bridge destroyed – by lorry to next station), rejoin train to Salonica.
- 27th November – Margaret writes to her mother telling her about the journey.
- 29th November – The Scottish Women’s Hospitals write to John Box to say that the Elsie Inglis Unit have been recalled. Margaret writes a letter to her mother which is carried home by a homebound nurse.
- 3rd December – embark SS Danube, writing to her dad before departure.
- 6th December – The London Office of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals write to Margaret’s mother to say that Margaret has already left Skopje for Sarajevo.
- 10th December – Gallipoli
- 11th December – Taranto
- 12th December – The Scottish Womens Hospitals write to Margaret’s father to explain that while she is in Serbia, her postal address is Salonica in Greece.
- 13th December – Bay of Vebova, Topli Bay, Cataro Bay
- 16th December – Trip to Castelnova, and Margaret writes to her dad
- 17th December – left SS Danube. Train to Zelinka, Ragusa, Hum, Mostar
- 18th December – To Sarajevo (where Germans were still running the hospital), and from where Margaret writes to her Mother to say she has arrived.
- 20th December – The Scottish Women’s Hospitals write to John Robert Box to say she will be returning soon, and that afternoon to say she will not.
- 28th December – Margaret writes to her mother to say that they had a very jolly Xmas.
- 30th December – Margaret writes a long letter describing her journey from Salonica to Sarajevo.
- 1st January 1919 – Margaret writes to her father to say that a parcel from home had arrived, and to send him a white felt cap.
- 13th January 1919 Margaret writes to her sister, Rose, to ask how her new job, which seems to involve Yabbing, is going.
- 16th January 1919 – Margaret is ready to move on from Sajajevo, and lets her parents know this.
- 28th January 1919 – Margaret hears that she will be going home.
- 4th February 1919 – Still in Sarajevo, Margaret writes about her rations and hospital life.
- 17th Febuary 1919, where Margaret describes the kitchen and bathroom at the Sarajevo hospital.
- 22nd March 1919 – Left Sarajevo to Ragusa
- 27th March – Boat to Spalato (Split)
- 29th March – arrive Fuime
- 30th March – another boat to Polla, Venice
- 3rd April – Train from Venice to Pisa
- 8th April – Genoa (night in station), Nice, Marseilles
- 9th April – Paris – St James Hotel (diary ends)
- 12th April – Telegram from Folkstone “Home tonight Margaret”