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
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
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.
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.