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. He married Ada Webster on 6th February 1884. Some of Margaret’s letters are addressed to him, as Father or Dad, and some to her – as Mother, even though I am sure they both read the letters from their daughter, but probably wrote individual letters to her.

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, Dorothy Elizabeth (1887-1894)

Margaret’s sister, who does not feature in these letters as she died, aged 6, before any of these letters were written

Box, Edith Mary (1894-1959)

Margaret’s younger sister, known in the letters as Mary. She is mentioned in several of the letters, for example in the letter of 16th January 1919 Margaret mentions receiving 2 letters and a postcard from her. Presumably Margaret wrote to her too, but I do not have any of those letters.

Box, Norah Constance (1898-1987)

Margaret’s youngest sister.

Margaret writes to her on

She was a housekeeper in San Francisco for the Leale family (at Leale House) from 1926 to 1932. The post Norah Box at Leale House tells more about this.

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)
  • 13 Jan 1910 – to ask how the job is going (which seems to involve Yabbing!)

Bullock, Maud Eleanor (1868-1945)

A nursing sister in the London unit.

Her Scarletfinders entry says:

BULLOCK Miss Maud Eleanor, Sister London Unit 2-Mar-18 1-Mar-19

Her Lives of the First World War entry shows that she died in Jerusalem in 1945.

She is mentioned in

  • The letter of 4th Feb 1919, where she shares a tin of Ox tongue with Margaret and another sister.

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.

Her Lives of the First World War record is here.

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
  • 28th Jan 1919 – where she is suffering badly from sciatica
  • 4th Feb 1919 – where she is still dreadfully ill, but crawling around.
  • 20th Feb 1919 – when she invites Margaret and other medical staff to her office for a party.

Crickett, Henry Hallingham

He was a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, as shown by Lives of the First World War. He probably attended Framlington College from 1875 to 1878, and the OldFramlinghamian site says


He qualified as a doctor and became a ship’s surgeon. During WW1 he was in the Royal Army Medical Corps serving in a wide range of locations from Egypt, East Africa coast to Serbia and Salonika. He saved the life of a man from drowning in Mikra Bay, Salonika. No other details available.

Mentioned in the letter of

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.

Drummond, Isabella Whyte

A nurse with the London Unit

Her Scarletfinders entry says

DRUMMOND Miss Isabella Whyte, Nurse London Unit 20-Feb-18 21-Jan-19

She is mentioned in the letters of

  • 30th December 1918 – when she is going home
  • 28th Jan 1919 – when she has departed

Emslie, Isabel (1887 – 1960)

The doctor in charge of one of the units of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. She has her own Wikipedia article.

In her letter of 30th December 1918 Margaret says that she has asked to be transferred to that unit, although by 28th January 1919 she thinks this unlikely to happen.

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 think 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 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 Box or Leonard Box, who were both solicitors.

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.
  • 30 Dec 1918 – where she goes off to Belgrade with Dr Chesney to see the War Minister and arrange passage for the nurses.
  • 17th Feb 1919 – where she is accompanying Dr McIlroy to Belgrade.
  • 5th March 1919 – where she is still not back from Belgrade

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.

She appears in the letters of

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. Her Lives of the First World War record is here.

Laurie, Jessie

The honourary treasurer of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, she lived at Red House, Greenock, which was probably 38, Ardgowan Street, Greenock (OSM). She was (probably) married to Dr James Laurie, who is shown at this address in the 1912 Scottish Post Office Directory.

She appears in the letter of 19th November 1918.

McIlroy, Anne Louise

She was in charge of one of the Units of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.

She is mentioned in the letters of

  • 27th November 1918 – Where Margaret is staying at her unit, 2 miles outside Salonica
  • 3rd December 1918 – where Margaret is staying in tents in pouring rain at her unit, presumably in Salonica.
  • 17th February 1919 – where she stayed for 2 days in Sarajevo no her way to Belgrade.

She has her own Wikipedia entry here.

Murdoch, Bessie Bannerman (1881 – 1958)

From Rootschat, “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

Nathan, Nellie (1887 – )

The cook in the hospital in Sarajevo.

Her Scarletfinders entry says

NATHAN Miss Nellie, Cook London Unit 7-Aug-18 1-Mar-19

She served with the Friends Ambulance Unit, and her fau record is here.

Her Lives of the First World War record is here, saying that the joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment in November 1914, and that she also served in France, before joining Scottish Women’s Hospitals

She is mentioned in the letter of

  • 16th January 1919 – where Margaret goes for a walk with her.
  • 17th February 1919 – which describes another walk and her kitchen.
  • 20th February 1919 – where she shares a pudding with Margaret and goes for a walk.
  • 26th February 1919 – where she goes for another walk.

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.

Her papers are held in the Imperial War Museum.

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

Sturt, Winifred

A Nurse with the London Unit

Her ScarletFinders entry reads

STURT Miss Winifred, Nurse London Unit 1-Jul-17 24-Nov-17 and 20-Feb-18 21-Jan-19

She is mentioned in the letters of

Watson, Margaret Jessie Melrose

Laundress London Unit 2-Mar-18 1-Mar-19

She is mentioned in the letters of

  • 5th March 1919 – where she washes the Surplice of Reverend Pobjoy.

Wright, Margaret

Orderly London Unit 21-Apr-17 24-Nov-17 and 2-Mar-18 1-Mar-19

She is mentioned in the letters of

  • 5th March 1919 – where she is part of the group Margaret would like to return home with

Willis, Dorothy

Secretary to the London Unit. She is the author or recipient of letters on

  • 1st and 3rd March 1919 – relating to the Winding up of the Hospital at Sarajevo

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *