My Great Aunt, Margaret Ada Box, was a nurse with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, tending patients in what was then Serbia. She recorded her activities in diaries, and a number of letters home which give some insight into the world of that time. She wrote this one on the 7th of November from a Field Hospital near Skopje, run by Dr. Lilian Chesney.
c/o Dr. Chesney, etc
Nov 7th 9.30 p.m.
My Dear Dad,
I have just received 2 more letters from you. The 2nd one, written Oct 7th.
Some more people arrived tonight & we were lucky to get another post in – just fancy – only 2 days since the last ! We nearly shouted the house down (what there is left of it).
No, we have not electric light. Candles are rationed out to us each week & we have an oil lamp in the mess room. I am sorry to hear Mother has had a cold & sincerely hope it was not the ‘flu’. I have seen enough of that disease coming out & I hope you have not been working too hard & got the rheumatism. I have got a most lovely wool cap for you to wear indoors but dont know how to get it home. You say you had no letter from me between Paris & Rome, well I don’t suppose I wrote one. We were in the train for 2 nights & days & changed trains at Modane waiting about an hour for a much needed meal & then we changed again at Turin where we did not have time for a meal. Mother’s biscsuits & chocolate came in useful in those days. When we did arrive in Rome we were rather dusty. I shall never forget the state of the bath after I got out of it ! The Italian trains are about the dirtiest I have ever come across. I can’t tell you what Salonica is like as I only stayed there one night, but I know it was very hot & we slept under mosquito nets in tents.
I am awfully sorry to hear about Uncle Arthur’s burglars. It is what you might call ‘tiresome’ to lose your belongings like that. I must try to write to some of the relatives for Xmas – but we have just heard that a post is going out tomorrow & I want to write so many letters.
The weather was bitterly cold here last week & the snow was right down the mountains – but now it is quite warm again & very hot out in the sun this afternoon. It is not usually very cold till after Xmas.
I hope you are sending me some of my photos. I wonder if they are any good.
Very best love to all
Your loving Daughter
A p.c. from Mary & Norah – jolly nice too. Many thanks to them.
Transit time for post
John Box wrote “Arrived 22 Nov” on the letter, so it took 15 days to get from (near) Skopje to Croydon – a distance of about 1935 miles, so the letter was travelling at slightly over 5 miles per hour – if it went on the direct route.
The journey from Rome
Margaret would have changed trains at Modane Station, and taken the Modane-Turin railway through the Fréjus Rail Tunnel. Yet another spectacular railway journey !
Uncle Arthur (who was burgled)
This would be Arthur Williams Box (1853-1940). He lived both in Brondesbury, London which was his address in the 1912 Census and in Launceston, where he owned the Iron Foundry. He did sell the Foundry in 1912, so the burglary was presumably in London.